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From Hand to HandleThe First Industrial Revolution$
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Lawrence Barham

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199604715

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199604715.001.0001

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What Is Combinatorial Evolution?

What Is Combinatorial Evolution?

Chapter:
(p.15) 1 What Is Combinatorial Evolution?
Source:
From Hand to Handle
Author(s):

Lawrence Barham

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199604715.003.0002

This chapter discusses the concept of ‘combinatorial evolution’ as the underlying principle of tool-making. Developed by the economist and complexity theorist W. Brian Arthur, combinatorial evolution implies that inventions are the result of intentional combinations of existing technologies through a process that involves interplay between experience and knowledge — and driven by need. The chapter examines combinatorial evolution in relation to Charles Darwin’s model of biological evolution and places Arthur’s contribution in its broader historical context. It also analyses behavioural models that draw their source material from the social sciences to explain long-term processes of innovation and technological change. Finally, it considers the sociology of invention within the context of combinatorial evolution.

Keywords:   combinatorial evolution, tool-making, W. Brian Arthur, inventions, biological evolution, behavioural models, social sciences, technological change, innovation, sociology

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