No Technology Dies
Kevin Kelly’s “What Technology Wants” is one of the most important books I’ve read in the past decade. If you’re at all involved in technology innovation, it’s required reading. I use several of the ideas originating from this book on a weekly basis.
One of the ideas that I often revisit is the concept that no technology ever dies, it just fades into obscurity. Here’s an excerpt:
In my own travels around the world I was struck by how resilient ancient technologies were, how they were often first choices where power and modern resources were scarce.
It seemed to me as if no technologies ever disappeared.I was able to find every single item listed on a page of a century-old catalog. Each old tool was available in a new incarnation and sold on the web. Nothing was dead.
Teased out, this concept is a fascinating one. Most innovators tend to think that humans migrate from innovation to innovation, when in reality we never fully cast a technology aside.
After new innovations gain steam, older technology is sometimes relegated to niche communities (ex. the Horse and Buggy is still actively used in Amish communities) and sometimes it disappears into the foundation that more innovations build upon.
Realizing this helps innovators to work with the past, rather than against it.