Department of Computational Social Science Seminar Abstract

Friday, May 3 - 3:00 p.m.
Center for Social Complexity Suite
Research Hall, 3rd Floor

TITLE: Which Aspects of Technological Change are Predictable?

Christopher Magee
Professor of the Practice of Engineering Systems
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Co-Director, International Design Centre
Singapore University of Technology & Design

ABSTRACT: Technological change is a typical complex socio-technical phenomenon with belief by some that prediction is not a worthwhile goal. This talk will examine this belief and argue that at least some useful prediction is possible now and that further application of the scientific method to this field of study will improve our ability to make predictions. Some of the speaker’s and co-workers efforts in this regard will be presented. These efforts involve:

• Quantitative study of technical capability dynamics;
• Empirical examination of differences in technical capability dynamics among technologies using patents and other reliably observable aspects;
• Models for the process of technical capability improvement.

However, there are clear barriers to scientific understanding now and in the future involving co-evolution of the economic, technological and human behavior domains each affecting and being affected by the others in multiple dimensions. There are also further barriers to useful prediction based upon the open-ended nature of technological progress; all barriers will be discussed as part of the presentation.