Technological Change and Risk-Taking Behavior

  • Donna J. Souza
Part of the The Plenum Series in Underwater Archaeology book series (SSUA)


Technology, the manufacture and use of artifacts, is an aspect of all human activity. Because countless numbers and types of artifacts are used every day in a myriad of activities, changes are always being made to fine tune their performance for a specific activity. Studies chronicling the development and evolution of household items such as the dinner fork or paper clip (Petroski, 1994) and tools such as the hammer (Basalla, 1993) are used to develop theories of technological change that may be applied to any artifact. According to Petroski, every artifact is somewhat inefficient in its use, and modifications are constantly being made, thereby driving its evolution. Whereas the shortcomings of a thing may be expressed in terms of a need for improvement, Petroski argues that it is really want rather than need that drives the process of technological evolution: “The form of made things is always subject to change in response to their real or perceived shortcomings, their failures to function properly” (Petroski, 1995). This somewhat simplistic view of technological evolution, however, falls short of explaining completely new inventions, radical innovations, or the development of entirely new technologies. Basalla offers a more intellectually satisfying model that is rooted in four broad concepts: diversity, continuity, novelty, and selection. The “diversity of made things can be explained as the result of technological evolution because artifactual continuity exists; novelty is an integral part of the made world; and a selection process operates to choose novel artifacts for replication and addition to the stock of made things” (Basalla, 1993).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donna J. Souza
    • 1
  1. 1.Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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