Technology as a Complex Adaptive System: Evidence from Patent Data
Posted: 5 Sep 2000
This paper develops a theory of invention by drawing on complex adaptive systems theory. We see invention as a process of recombinant search over technology landscapes. This framing suggests that inventors might face a "complexity catastrophe" when they attempt to combine highly interdependent technologies. Our empirical analysis of patent citation rates supports this expectation. Our results also suggest, however, that the process of invention differs in important ways from biological evolution. We discuss the implications of these findings for research on technological evolution, industrial change, and technology strategy.
JEL Classification: O31, O32, O34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation