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Timeline Events

Technological paradigms and technological trajectories – 1982

Giovanni Dosi – 1982

There is a recognised relationship between economic growth and technical progress; however the intimacies of the relationship includes technical development in relation to the market in which it serves together with the role of institutions ability to influence the rate and direction of technical change, the theories of technical change have been categorised as demand-pull and technology-push. Dosi argues that demand-pull categorises technical progress as the adoption of a given technology from a number of options while technology-push does not consider economic activity. Rather, technical progress results from technical and economic interactions with the resulting specific outcomes termed ‘technological paradigms’ moreover, the selection, promotion and establishment of a paradigm is directly influenced by both economic and institutional dynamics.

Dosi is unable to state that economic and institutional dynamics have a pre-determined outcome and is thus unable to offer a mathematical ‘model’ to either predict of engineer a specific technical paradigm. However, he makes a number of observations; technological paradigms can be considered as a cluster of potential technical solutions to a problem, they have a need for knowledge, skills and experience and they are not necessarily all conquering in their outcome or implementation. Dosi also acknowledges that similarities between science and technology used in his hypothesis may be tenuous and thus not entirely reliable.

Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach – July 1983

At a time when well-being was measured as either opulence (income) or utility (happiness, desire fulfilment), Amartya Sen introduced a more elaborate human development model that included social and psychological dimensions.

Developed in various documents from the early 1980s onwards, the Capability Approach (CA) evaluates well-being in terms of “capabilities”, the real opportunities available to individuals to do and be what they have reason to value. The selection and weighting of these capabilities depend on personal value judgments and constitute a choice between possible life-styles. The development process is hence seen as one of expanding capabilities.

The CA has since emerged as the leading alternative to standard economic frameworks for thinking about poverty, inequality and human development generally and it underpins the Human Development Index used in the UN Development Programme’s annual Human Development Reports.
The CA also constitutes a conceptual framework for sustainable development at a global scale: Sustainable development aims to ensure well-being of present and future generations and this is only possible if worldwide population has enough capabilities to satisfy its needs. In this sense the approach provides a framework to assess individual well-being, evaluate social arrangements and design policies and proposals about social change in society.

See Sen, A. (1983) Poor, relatively speaking. Oxford Economic Papers (New Series) 35(2), 153-169

Last Child in the Woods

Richard Louv’s book, ‘Last Child in the Woods’ illustrates the alarming impact that a growing divide between children and the outdoors has had on childhood development and environmental outlooks. He introduces the concept of ‘nature-deficit disorder’, which claims that as children spend less and less time in ‘unstructured’ natural environments they lose the necessary facet of childhood development; creative imagination and also become more prone to negative trends like attention deficit disorder, obesity and reduced empathy for the environment.

Since its publication in 2005, this book has inspired significant innovations, not in technological change, but instead in the development of advocacy programs for childhood development and environmental conservation. Spurring a national dialogue between teachers, physical and mental health professionals, parents and environmentalists, a number of organizations have now been created with the sole aim of reconnecting children with nature. Some examples include, the ‘Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative’, which aims at transporting kids to national wildlife parks where they can freely explore and learn about the ecosystems surrounding their cities or the ‘Green Hour Program’, which regularly outlines practical methods of reconnecting kids with nature. In defining and outlining the negative effects of a growing trend, this book has inspired innovation in advocacy programs that will hopefully lead to increased environmental awareness and sustainability.

First issue of the Whole Earth Catalog

“We are as gods, and might as well get good at it.”
— Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Catalog, 1968.

A self-published occasional ecology magazine, which ran from 1968-1974 (with various successors), The Whole Earth Catalog provided a rallying point for the US environmental movement, ‘where primitive wood stoves and survivalist supplies for counterculture neo-Luddites share the page with personal computers, geodesic domes, and oscilloscopes.’ (Kirk, 2001: 375)
Arguably the point at which the idea of ‘alternative technologies’ began to diffuse into the public consciousness, with the birth of a more nuanced and technologically-literate strain of green politics.

Joseph Schumpeter: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy 1942

The work within this book has been an important building block towards the understanding of innovation. In this seminal book, Schumpeter first identified the notion of creative destruction. Schumpeter used this term to describe the entry of innovative entrepreneurs within markets dominated by larger firms. It conveys the idea that new entrants would have to be radically different to enjoy success, and that this success would make current products or processes obsolete. With this idea of obsolescence looming, firms within the industries would be forced to remain competitive with continuous improvements.

The term is built on the earlier work by Karl Marx, and has helped somewhat describe the role of small and large firms within industries. It is important within innovation for sustainability as it promotes the idea that creating something new which makes the current process/idea/way of thinking redundant should not be feared, and that it is necessary for continuous innovative improvements.

“Scientific Research and Social Needs” by Julian Huxley, 1934

Julian Huxley’s book “Scientific Research and Social Needs“, which was published in 1934, deals with British science efforts, with particular reference to social needs. He sees science as a social activity which itself demands scientific study. The basis of the book are twelve talks and discussions that were broadcasted on the British Broadcasting Corporation. The book is the outcome of a broad survey of the whole field, examining the influence of science on such essential matters as food, clothing, building, health and communications. Huxley laid the foundation for formal taxonomy of research: he introduced definitions and new terms as well as created categories. His work became very influential for later work on science; it paved the way for systematic efforts to measure science.


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