Technological change involves many economic, social and individual human factors that are interwoven in a complex pattern; thus, technological change serves as an exemplar for a complex socio-technical system. Moreover, some individual factors central to technological change are challenging areas with more unknown than understood: among these areas are individual creative invention, scientific interplay with technology, new business formation, human/product interactions and others. In this lecture, technological change and socio-technical system expert, Chris Magee, Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow and Professor at the Institute for Data, Systems and Society at MIT will share a perspective that can help all of us better understand this phenomenon despite the complexity.

His focus on a major regularity displayed by all technological domains - a constant yearly percentage improvement in performance - and study of how these performance improvement percentage/rate varies over different technologies (but not over time) is one important foundation for this perspective. A second foundation is the wide interconnection among ideas and knowledge that drive improvements in domains that nonetheless have independent and different rates of improvement. Technological change, the process underlying the profound changes in society over the past 200 years - especially economic growth - is surprisingly decoupled from many societal and economic details.

About the Speaker:

Professor Magee's research now focuses on theories of technological change including use of design and invention models to explain differences in rates of technological performance change. He also studies patents and scientific publications emphasizing the inter-relationship of scientific and technological fields and the interpenetration of patent and scientific paper networks. The prediction of overtaking of one technology by another in the future and prediction of important discontinuities in technological change are central objectives of his current research.

He has made important contributions to the understanding of the transformation, structure and strength of ferrous materials; to lightweight materials development and implementation; pioneered experimental work on high-rate structural collapse aimed at vehicle crashworthiness; and adapted systems engineering to the modern automotive design process. His recent research has emphasized innovation and technology development in complex systems. He has won 2 best paper awards in his early research career (1971,1972) and two in his recent research (2004 and 2006). He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to advanced vehicle development (1997), is a Ford Technical Fellow (1996), and is a fellow of ASM.

He has a B.S. and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Metallurgy and Materials Science, Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), and an M.B.A. from Michigan State University.