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The Early Development of the Steam Engine: An Evolutionary Interpretation using Complexity Theory

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  • Frenken, K.

    (URU, Utrecht University)

  • Nuvolari, A.

    (ECIS, Eindhoven University of Technology)

Abstract

In this paper we analyse the early development of the steam engine as a search process in a multidimensional design space. This perspective allows us to make use of recent insights coming from complex systems theory, in particular, of a generalized version of Kauffman's NK-model. We analyse yearly distributions of steam engine designs and their sectors of application for the period 1760--1800. We interpret the patterns of variety and differentiation characterizing the behaviour of these distributions as emerging properties of underlying search processes unfolding in the design space. We conclude that the early development of steam power technology can be understood as a process of 'technological speciation' of various engine designs in distinct users' niches. Copyright 2004, Oxford University Press.
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Suggested Citation

  • Frenken, K. & Nuvolari, A., 2003. "The Early Development of the Steam Engine: An Evolutionary Interpretation using Complexity Theory," Working Papers 03.15, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ein:tuecis:0315
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marengo, Luigi, et al, 2000. "The Structure of Problem-Solving Knowledge and the Structure of Organizations," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(4), pages 757-788, December.
    2. Giovanni Dosi & Daniel A. Levinthal & Luigi Marengo, 2003. "Bridging contested terrain: linking incentive-based and learning perspectives on organizational evolution," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 413-436, April.
    3. Koen Frenken & Luigi Marengo & Marco Valente, 1999. "Interdependencies, nearly-decomposability and adaption," CEEL Working Papers 9903, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
    4. Herbert A. Simon, 2002. "Near decomposability and the speed of evolution," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(3), pages 587-599, June.
    5. Auerswald, Philip & Kauffman, Stuart & Lobo, Jose & Shell, Karl, 2000. "The production recipes approach to modeling technological innovation: An application to learning by doing," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 389-450, March.
    6. Saviotti, P. P. & Metcalfe, J. S., 1984. "A theoretical approach to the construction of technological output indicators," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 141-151, June.
    7. Koen Frenken & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "Entropy statistics as a framework to analyse technological evolution," Chapters,in: Applied Evolutionary Economics and Complex Systems, chapter 5 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Kauffman, Stuart & Lobo, Jose & Macready, William G., 2000. "Optimal search on a technology landscape," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 141-166, October.
    9. Halsey, Harlan I., 1981. "The Choice Between High-Pressure and Low-Pressure Steam Power in America in the Early Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(04), pages 723-744, December.
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    Keywords

    complexity theory; development; steam engine;

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