post

Technological evolution in the Cambrian age

Another comment left in the wild, this time in response to the deeply wonderful Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s post about The Data Center in the Cambrian Age. I strongly recommend it. In the meantime, here’s what I had to say:

Great post! Reminds me of Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life, which discusses the explosion of fauna of the Burgess Shale. That book transformed my understanding not just of biology, but of creativity and human development. Since then I’ve observed this effect in other areas.

For example, movies of the ’20s and ’30s used techniques set aside in later decades, as the industry determined what they thought most appealed to the market. Ironically, some of these were then called innovative when re-used by more modern directors. Typography has gone through a similar pattern of evolution as well.

The interesting thing about an explosion of human technological innovation is that unlike competing animal species, whose success is just as largely due to chance as well as adaptation, humans can at least partly evaluate the value of a new idea. But in the marketplace, established companies using older approaches can crush new ideas and better approaches. Humans have to leverage the internet, governments, and their purchasing power to make sure we know *all* our options, and can choose the best one for our needs, not an abstract corporate entity’s profit line.