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Diversity and Technological Progress

In: The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited

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  • Daron Acemoglu

Abstract

This paper proposes a tractable model to study the equilibrium diversity of technological progress and shows that equilibrium technological progress may exhibit too little diversity (too much conformity), in particular, foregoing socially beneficial investments in “alternative” technologies that will be used at some point in the future. The presence of future innovations that will replace current innovations imply that social benefits from innovation are not fully internalized. As a consequence, the market favors technologies that generate current gains relative to those that will bear fruit in the future; current innovations in research lines that will be profitable in the future are discouraged because current innovations are typically followed by further innovations before they can be profitably marketed. A social planner would choose a more diverse research portfolio and would induce a higher growth rate than the equilibrium allocation. The diversity of researchers is a partial (imperfect) remedy against the misallocation induced by the market. Researchers with different interests, competences or ideas may choose non-profit maximizing and thus more diverse research portfolios, indirectly contributing to economic growth.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Josh Lerner & Scott Stern, 2012. "The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity Revisited," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lern11-1, octubre-d.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12358.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12358

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    1. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1986. "Technology Adoption in the Presence of Network Externalities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 822-41, August.
    2. Jean-Michel Dalle, 1997. "Heterogeneity vs. externalities in technological competition: A tale of possible technological landscapes," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 7(4), pages 395-413.
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    Cited by:
    1. Rob Aalbers & Victoria Shestalova & Viktoria Kocsis, 2012. "Innovation policy for directing technical change in the power sector," CPB Discussion Paper 223, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    2. Aalbers, Rob & Shestalova, Victoria & Kocsis, Viktória, 2013. "Innovation policy for directing technical change in the power sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1240-1250.

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