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<b>Complex Systems</b><br><i>Understanding How Technologies Evolve Can Help Change the World</i>

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
12:00 AM
340 West Hall

Speaker: Michael Gordon (Ross Business School)

The world produces an enormous number and variety of goods and services while leaving critical societal problems unattended. In historical terms, we are in the midst of a very recent explosion of material wealth, which can be explained from the perspective of the evolution of technology. Central to this explosion is developing new principles for old problems by identifying existing elements, seizing on new scientific observations, or otherwise appropriating ideas or theories from the outside which can be combined in novel ways. Together, these activities can be viewed as a form evolution – not only in a metaphorical sense, but in a mechanistic (algorithmic) way that we can be applied for advantage. Such evolution differs from Darwinian evolution by including humans in making decisions about when and how to create novelty.

We can already see examples of how the same forces that propel technology forward – differentiation, selection, amplification, and combination – are benefiting social entrepreneurship. By understanding the interrelationship of these forces in a broader, evolutionary context, we may achieve an explosion in societal wellbeing that parallels the explosion the world has experienced in material wealth.