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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Technology and Its Discontents

A lot of people talk about the need for a new kind of business model and the spinout from universities and the small firm and the entrepreneurial small firm. That’s been the talk of the last 20 or 30 years, has it not? And yet, here we have IBM, which is a terrifically old company and has gone through many generations of technologies, but it is obviously the same corporate entity, the same high-level innovator. There are lots of different kinds of successful innovating firms.

One way of putting it is that the danger is not just in believing that there has been one model in the past and there should be one model in the future. It’s believing that we actually understand the history of technology, of processes of discovery, of what was in use and of invention, as well.

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Edward Baker ([email protected]), former editor of CIO Insight magazine, is a contributing editor to strategy+business.
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  1. “American Competitiveness Initiative,” Domestic Policy Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, February 2006: The U.S. government’s most recent statement of the country’s technology policy. PDF download.
  2. David Edgerton, The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (Oxford University Press, 2006): A contrarian history of technology in the 20th century. Click here.
  3. Barry Jaruzelski, Kevin Dehoff, and Rakesh Bordia, “Smart Spenders: The Global Innovation 1000,” s+b, Winter 2006: Booz Allen Hamilton’s most recent take on the relationship between corporate R&D spending and growth. Click here.
  4. Art Kleiner, “Carlota Perez: The Thought Leader Interview,” s+b, Winter 2005: A long-wave theory of technological change, explaining how “use” gets translated into 50-year cycles of growth. Click here.
  5. Society for the History of Technology Web site: Includes a very good page of links to information on technology and society. Click here.
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