Thursday, August 25, 2011

Disruptive technologies and long term impacts III

As I discussed yesterday, disruptive technology's impact can be mitigated by extensive networks. So how do these networks form? Well, they can be formed by movement of employees, which can lead to an exchange of tacit knowledge as well as increasing the likelihood for a collaboration. For instance, my roommate's employer has asked if his former professor would like to collaborate with them. This would lead to a direct knowledge flow from a large university in the US to a public-private research organization in the NL which would then diffuse to that organization's partners. These networks can help reduce uncertainty through an ability to acquire additional skills sets which are not currently possessed within an organization.

The networks can be built through previous collaborations, suggests of a previous intermediary organization, such as a publisher in the video game sense. Or there could be other forms of collaboration such as licensing technologies like the Quake/Unreal engines in video games. This allows for a full knowledge transfer of technology from one organization to another through formal methods. However, the reason for adopting one technology over the other could come down to a single employee which used to use one or the other technology at a previous job.

Now, how do these impact long term innovations and economic growth? I haven't talked about that at all. It's not exactly straight forward. In some ways, as you can see from the network diagrams yesterday, these disruptive technologies have clearly lead to an explosion of growth within the video game industry. This is most likely why it's over a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Extensive networking and collaboration at the beginning of a new generation of technology is good for the console maker and the consumer as it leads to a faster ramp of video games. See the graph below:

So, these networks help expand the options for consumers and lead to growth in the industry. Disruptive technologies are really good for the economy. Otherwise, we'd see a steady decline in prices and demand for products as people will already have them. In the example of video games, there are other drivers forcing the continued evolution of console technology, such as competition with the PC gaming platform, as well as continued expectations of better graphics and better game play. While there are a lot of people that scoff at the consoles, they do drive expectations for better graphics. People get tired of the same visual representation of their football teams. They want to see the graphics improve, the physics engines improve. Basically they need a continued improvement of technology to meet these expectations. These in turn help push the boundaries of PC games as well.

This is a fairly rosy picture of this march forward. There's no concern for intellectual property, any licensing that is being done is obvious. I don't expect this to continue. Which brings us back to the software patenting issue. We all know it's a horrible thing.

Vaan, Mathijs de, "Interfirm Networks and firm performance in the face of technological discontinuities" 2010 Druid conference

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