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.