When looking at the history of technology, we can see that all inventions are not of equal importance. Only a few technologies have the potential to start a new branching series (specifically, by increasing diversity), have a lasting impact in human life, and ultimately become turning points. Technological transitions correspond to times and places in the past when a large number of novel artifact forms or behaviours appeared together or in rapid succession. Why does that happen? Is technological change continuous and gradual, or does it occur in sudden leaps and bounds? The evolution of information technology (IT) allows for a quantitative and theoretical approach to study technological transitions. Coexistence of episodes of gradual improvements and discontinuous technological change is a consequence of the asymmetric relationship between complexity and hardware and software. Using a cultural evolution approach, we suggest that sudden changes in the organisation of information technology systems depend on the high costs of maintaining and transmitting reliable information.
About the speaker
Dr Sergi Valverde is a Complex Systems Scientist and currently head of the Evolution of Technology Lab at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC). Born in Barcelona, he studied computer science to become a professional video game developer (1997-2002). His perception of the world and science was radically transformed by Prof Ricard Sole's course "Introduction to Complex Systems" at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (1993). He has shared many adventures with Sole and members of the Complex Systems Lab and the Santa Fe Institute since then, becoming full-time researcher in 2016.
Sergi's published research has focused on complex networks and collective intelligence, and the modeling and simulation of evolutionary and ecological processes. Since 2008 he has taught "Complexity Science" and "Evolutionary Algorithms" at the University Pompeu Fabra. His current focus is on comparing technology and biology to define an evolutionary theory of innovation.
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