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But behind all the hoo-ha is a really interesting question: how had an entire industry come up with this apparently huge – but hitherto unannounced – breakthrough? The answer can be found in The Nature of Technology, an extraordinarily insightful book by Belfast-born economist W Brian Arthur, first published in 2009. In it, Arthur explains that many of the biggest technological advances arise because there comes a moment when a number of necessary but unconnected developments suddenly come together to create entirely new possibilities. Instead of the legendary eureka moment, it’s a process of what one may call combinatorial innovation.

The much, much, better simile is “Steam engine time”. From the Science of Discworld series.

8 thoughts on “Tsk”

  1. The other one Pratchett used was “Shed Time”.

    Old men tinkering in their sheds with Stuff, unhindered by conventions or Managers, and showing off their ideas.
    Nobbses with…very single-minded interests.. taking things to the limits and figuring out how to go beyond them. And showing them off to fellow afficionados.
    Alchemists looking for one thing, and people figuring out other uses for their Failures. (If it falls from the sky it is free, after all…)

    Sooner or later someone picks up on some notions, puts them together, finds a dwarf mad enough to try, and before you know it the City Watch has to inspect either a new crater, or…
    You don’t need Leonard of Quirm for that..

  2. There was this TV show called “Connections” that went through this back in the ’70s.

    By the great James Burke (still with us at 86).

  3. There’s a chap doing similar type of show on the wireless.
    wow, that took some digging:
    Paul Sinha’s Perfect Pub Quiz

  4. @Chris Miller
    Glad to hear James Burke is still around. I binge watched both Connections series last fall. It has aged well; still a brilliant program.

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