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Analysing the theoretical roots of technology emergence: an evolutionary perspective

Abstract

There has been much research concerning emergence in technology, ever since knowledge has been accepted as a prime engine of economic growth. However, even though there are a growing number of publications, the concept remains ambiguous. In this study, we aim to trace emergence discussions to find the evolution of related concepts, in order to explore usage in the technological context. To achieve this, the philosophy of science, complexity, and economic literatures are reviewed in accordance with the emergence concept qualitatively. Then, a bibliometrics study is performed to strengthen the qualitative argument and find evidence of emergence in technology studies for comparison. Based on the findings, we can assert that the definition of technology emergence needs to be revised with consideration of its theoretical foundations. Moreover, after discussion, research questions are posed for future research.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Vitalism is a thought that living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things (Bechtel and Richardson 1998).

  2. 2.

    Dualism is the view that mental phenomena are, in some respect, nonphysical (Rosenthal 1998).

  3. 3.

    ‘Reduction’ is a term of natural language, and, building upon its common metaphoric meaning philosophers use it to designate relations of particular philosophical importance in a number of closely related fields, especially in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and metaphysics (for more please check https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-reduction/Accessed at 15.08.2018).

  4. 4.

    Generally one speaks of “qualitative novelty” when new kinds of properties arise out of the interactions of pre-existing properties (e.g. the property of water being liquid arising from the synthesis of oxygen and hydrogen being gaseous), while “quantitative novelty” is usually meant to refer to the coming into being of a new numerical value of a pre-existing property (e.g. the property of water of having a mass of (x + y) grams arising from the synthesis of x grams of oxygen with y grams of hydrogen). For detailed discussion on this distinction and its connection to evolution and emergence, see Blitz (1992).

  5. 5.

    Based on Sawyer (2001), aggregative properties meet four criteria, and most social properties do not satisfy them. These criteria are; (1) the parts of the system is intersubstitutable, (2) an aggregative property should remain qualitatively similar under addition or removal of a part from the system, (3) The composition function for the property remains invariant under operations of decomposition and re-aggregation of parts, (4) there are no cooperative or inhibitory interactions among the parts and relations between whole and parts are linear. Therefore he asserted that most social properties are not aggregative and thus are emergent.

  6. 6.

    Decomposable systems are modular, with each component acting primarily according to its own intrinsic principles. Sawyer (2001) asserted that systems that are not nearly decomposable are likely to have emergents system properties.

  7. 7.

    The expert was defined in Munier and Ronde (2001)’s study by citing Paradiso as an individual with his/her qualitative and practical knowledge. They emphasized that it was his recognized knowledge that guided his behavior and his choice between various possible orientations for a given subject.

  8. 8.

    Yang and Meho (2006) compared Google Scholar, Scopus, and Web of Science based on their citation analysis performance in their study. Based on their findings Web of Science coverage goes back to 1945 for Science Citation Index, 1956 for Social Science Citation Index, and 1975 for Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Therefore, 1923 to 1956 period may not be covered in Web of Science effectively and it may be accepted as a limitation for our study.

  9. 9.

    We consider that Rotolo et al. (2015)’s study covers the descriptive part. Therefore, future studies might well focus on predictive aspects of TE.

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Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (Grant No. 1759960), TUBITAK (Grant No. 2219/2) and Izmir Katip Celebi Universitesi BAP (Grant No. 2018-ODL-IIBF-0015). Olivier Sartenaer gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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Correspondence to Serhat Burmaoglu.

Appendix

Appendix

Set Results Boolean expression
# 3 816 #2 AND #1
Indexes = SCI-EXPANDED, SSCI, A&HCI, CPCI-S, CPCI-SSH, BKCI-S, BKCI-SSH, ESCI, CCR-EXPANDED, IC Timespan = All years
# 2 206,968 TI = (emerg*)
Indexes = SCI-EXPANDED, SSCI, A&HCI, CPCI-S, CPCI-SSH, BKCI-S, BKCI-SSH, ESCI, CCR-EXPANDED, IC Timespan = All years
# 1 55,762 SO = (TECHNOLOGICAL FORECASTING “AND” SOCIAL CHANGE OR RESEARCH POLICY OR SCIENTOMETRICS OR TECHNOLOGY ANALYSIS STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT OR JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR ORGANIZATION OR ACADEMY OF MANAGEMENT JOURNAL OR FUTURES OR TECHNOVATION OR STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT JOURNAL OR INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT OR MINERVA OR INDUSTRIAL “AND” CORPORATE CHANGE OR JOURNAL OF BUSINESS RESEARCH OR SCIENCE “AND” PUBLIC POLICY OR TECHNOLOGY IN SOCIETY OR LONG RANGE PLANNING OR POLICY STUDIES JOURNAL OR JOURNAL OF PRODUCT INNOVATION MANAGEMENT OR JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES)
Indexes = SCI-EXPANDED, SSCI, A&HCI, CPCI-S, CPCI-SSH, BKCI-S, BKCI-SSH, ESCI, CCR-EXPANDED, IC Timespan = All years

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Burmaoglu, S., Sartenaer, O., Porter, A. et al. Analysing the theoretical roots of technology emergence: an evolutionary perspective. Scientometrics 119, 97–118 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-019-03033-y

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Keywords

  • Emergence
  • Technology emergence
  • Emerging technology
  • Evolution
  • Conceptual evolution