John Jewkes, David Sawers, and Richard Stillerman: The Sources of Innovation Reading Summary

This article, written back in 1969, starts off by making the important point that technological progress, even if it is well known among people, cannot entirely be statistically valued. Professor Jewkes of Oxford University also poses the question as to whether or not the technological advances of the 19th century were any more important than those made in the 20th century up until that point. There will never be a mathematical way of measuring the importance and influence of different technologies, especially considering some went through many more stages than others. However, there are ways to practically value the impact different technologies have had economically on businesses and even the everyday social lives of people in many cases.

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The technological advances of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries had different impacts on the people of the times and sometimes did not occur as frequently as many people think, says Jewkes. He discusses how in many cases, an entire community of individuals would set out to push the boundaries of innovations and come up with inventions as a collective group. The only issue was that the public, not the inventors, was mostly likely to decide whether or not said inventions were more “important” than others. Professor Jewkes brings up a very important point of discussion in that these technologies from the past few centuries did not necessarily come out of advances in the areas of “pure science”. Instead, he proposes that the opposite occurs where many advances in the modern technology of an age can lead to innovations in science as well.

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If you would like to read up on some of the arguably most important/influential technologies of the 20th century or how different types of modern technology have impacted humanity over time, please check out the links down below.


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