“The Science of Technovation: A Call for a New Era of Change” by William Lazonick is a thorough and intriguing look at the history and present state of technological innovation. With a strong argument against intellectual property rights, this book is much more than an techno-optimist’s forecast. Lazonick does present some good analysis and offers up several must haves for creating a new economy based on technologies. However, he sometimes seems to go too far in his advocating for protection of IP rights – as if being able to protect inventions would make life better for all of society. Overall, I found the book to be interesting and thought provoking, but with the advice given in the third or fourth chapter missing, I think future researchers should have something more to illustrate.
The basic theme of the book is called “The Techno-Savvy Society.” This is basically what Lazonick is saying; that we are not just as intellectual as previous generations were, and we need to keep up with advances in technology in order to compete and succeed. In a way, I think he nails the point with this call for technovation. With many of the examples he uses from history, like the telephone or electric motor, we have seen major innovations that we would not otherwise have had.
We also see a need to adapt to change and develop new ways to work, whether it is economic, social, or political. This is one of the basic arguments made in the book, and he makes a very convincing argument. There have been some major high-profile failures of innovation, such as the steamboat and electric light bulb. However, the key success stories all demonstrate how people adapted and changed to achieve progress, creating something new and better.
The book does spend a lot of time talking about the philosophical underpinnings of technovation. For me, it was a little slow to get into the meat of the book, but overall I really enjoyed the discussion. It would be interesting to see this debate examined more in detail by another philosopher of science such as Oxford Professors Hilary Rose or Philip Tetlock. The beauty of this book is its clear point and emphasis on why it is important to embrace the forward thinking that technologists need to fuel the economy.
The book does present some recommendations for how to go about incorporating the forward thinking. I found that many of the recommendations are more suited for government intervention rather than technological innovation. Still, overall the book is quite useful in showing how technologists can contribute to society and help drive the future. The introduction is a fine example of using the past to explain why it is worth pursuing such forward looking ideas. I liked that he included some historical examples to justify his arguments.
Following the call for technovation, there are seven chapters that explain the theoretical foundation of the idea, as well as what has actually happened with some real world examples. I think this would be a very interesting topic to write an essay on with a philosophy degree. I would imagine that future historians would use many of the same theories to analyze the historical record and determine when and where technological advancements actually occurred. In addition, I am interested in reading more of this type of book since the idea of progress seems to motivate so much of what we do in the modern day.