‘Fountain Of Youth’ For Technology Sources Developed

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

The rumor mill for upcoming technology has been a hot topic for news sites and Google searches, and to have the ability to predict these upcoming products could be considered the technology industry’s “Fountain of Youth” for knowing what is up-and-coming. Now, researchers say they just may have something similar to that.

MIT and the Santa Fe Institute researchers say they have found a way to predict how rapidly technology will advance, offering up approximations of the pace of technological progress.

The team says the findings could help industries assess where to focus their research efforts, investors to pick high-growth sectors, and regulators to predict the economic impacts of policy changes.

They wrote in the journal PLOS ONE about how they amassed an extensive set of data on actual costs and production levels over time for 62 different industry sectors, ranging anywhere from beer to communication systems and aircraft.

“There are lots of proposals out there,” for predicting the rate of advances in technologies, says Jessika Trancik, an assistant professor of engineering systems at MIT. “But the data to test the hypotheses is hard to come by.”

The team looked through government reports, market-research publications, research reports and other published sources to compile a database. They just used sources that contained at least a decade’s worth of consistent data for the study and then analyzed the data using different formulas to assess which ones fit the actual pace of technological advances in past decades.

“We didn´t know what to expect when we looked at the performance of these equations relative to one another,” Trancik says, but “some of the proposals do markedly better than others.”

The team found the rates of change vary greatly among differing technologies, and that information technologies improve the fastest.

Jessika said one of the main interests for the researchers is to examine the data to gain insight into how they are able to accelerate the improvement of technology.

Moore’s Law is a popular formula developed by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 to describe the rate of improvement in the power of computer chips. According to the law, the number of components in integrated circuit chips will double every 18 months, and the rate of improvement will increase exponentially over time. However, researchers wrote in Marketing Science saying the law will no longer apply to most industries, including the PC industry.

Professors at the USC Marshall School of Business said the formulation of a new method would help to serve as a more appropriate indicator for technology analysts and venture capitalists, alike. They introduced a new model known as “Step and Wait” to help predict the path of evolution of competing technologies in their paper. They tested their method on 26 individual technologies in six markets, finding it worked in all six markets.

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