Thomas Goetz on How Technology Spreads

"This arc of innovation is something that has played out many times since Robert Koch. The definitive example of our day is the personal computer, which was invented in the 1940s, and which IBM founder Thomas Watson apocryphally believed wouldn’t amount to much more than a marginal technology. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” he supposedly said.

When we think of technology, we think in terms of Macbooks and TVs and apps. It's easy to forget that every discovery, every invention, was at one point considered new technology.

But how did that technology take off? How did it spread so far and wide that our future society would take it for granted? That's the question Thomas Goetz explores through what he calls the "arc of innovation," or the process by which new technology spreads to the masses, first from the early adopters, then to society at large.

In other words, corn, germs, and Google Glass have much more in common than you may think.

The Arc of Innovation ➝