Limit to Improvement: Myth or Reality? Empirical Analysis of Historical Improvement on Three Technologies Influential in the Evolution of Civilization

Techonological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 77, Issue 5, pp. 712-729, 2010

KDI School of Public Policy & Management Paper Series No. 09-06

42 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 31 Jan 2018

See all articles by Yu Sang Chang

Yu Sang Chang

Gachon University - College of Business and Economics

Seung Jin Baek

United Nations

Date Written: July 1, 2009

Abstract

The evolution of civilization appears to have primarily resulted from continuous improvement made possible by technological advances. A group of social evolutionists and economists have identified, among others, energy, transport, as well as information and communication to be the three most influential technologies. On the other hand, a number of eminent scholars have cited several forces, natural, physiological, technological, as well as environmental which can place a limit on on-going improvement.

The purpose of this paper is to empirically explore the continuous improvement process as well as the limit placed on these three technologies. Using the framework of both connected and disconnected multiple technology S-curves and X-factor, historical improvement data on these three elements have been analyzed. The results of our analysis indicate that improvement in general has continued without limit mainly due to a series of emerging new technologies. These emerging technologies can be either connected or disconnected from the existing mature technologies. Our preliminary analysis shows that much of the past improvement comes from new technologies that on first serious application appear to be substantially superior from earlier technologies. In addition, enormous continuous improvement, which has accompanied both connected and disconnected new technologies appear to have played the critical role in sustaining the evolution of civilization. The paper discusses a number of policy implications and suggests topics for future research.

Keywords: Technology S-Curve, X-Factor Analysis, Continuous Improvement, Disconnected Technology, Performance Difference, Lighting, Transport, Information and Communication

JEL Classification: O11, O32

Suggested Citation

Chang, Yu Sang and Baek, Seung Jin, Limit to Improvement: Myth or Reality? Empirical Analysis of Historical Improvement on Three Technologies Influential in the Evolution of Civilization (July 1, 2009). Techonological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 77, Issue 5, pp. 712-729, 2010, KDI School of Public Policy & Management Paper Series No. 09-06, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1444165 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1444165

Yu Sang Chang (Contact Author)

Gachon University - College of Business and Economics ( email )

Korea

Seung Jin Baek

United Nations ( email )

Kuwait

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