…this site

It has been long since our ancestors first made stone tools. Since then there has been a slow increase in the pace of development of man-made things which we frequently refer to today as ‘products’. Children growing up today take for granted products that their parents witnessed emerging and their grandparents have a hard time using. Obviously the speed with which new types of products are introduced has increased tremendously and, over time, this has contributed to the introduction of an enormous diversity of increasingly complex man-made things. Yet we do not share a common understanding and language to describe how this happened. This site aims to contribute to such a shared perspective and language.

The evolutionary metaphor is often used beyond its original biological domain. It has provided an entirely new perspective, notably for languages and language trees have been used for decades to show how languages in a family relate to each other and share a common ancestor. Although the evolutionary metaphor is also used in relation to technological innovation, there are few publications that systematically analyse how products evolve. What is more, most academic literature on innovation focuses on technology rather than products. Using the maxim that products ‘are both the means and the ends of technology’ (Basalla, 1988, p.30), this site uses a product-centric perspective. Reflecting on the origin of (new types of) products and their subsequent development through time, the evolutionary metaphor will help provide an interesting new perspective alongside existing ones on patterns and mechanisms of innovation.

This website serves as a platform on which to post blogs on the evolutionary nature of technological innovation in general, and the evolution of products in particular. I would like to invite others to contribute to posts on this blog site. If you have interesting material that is suitable for being posted via this blog site, please feel free to contact me. Posts that I would find interesting for publication here should somehow reflect on the relationship between evolution in biology and innovation in man-made things.

To make it more easy for visitors to navigate, the posts have been organised into two categories. If relevant, I will add more (sub)categories in future. The first category of ‘product evolution’ will provide examples of products that undergo evolutionary change to such an extent that, in fact, a new ‘type of product’ starts to emerge. This is a gradual process similar to the process of speciation in biology. However, the time scale for new types of products to emerge has become much shorter, as is common for the similar process in biology. The second group of posts is dubbed ‘evolutionary metaphors’. Here I aim to collect posts that discuss examples of similarities between evolution in biology and technology, as published by other authors and or from private observations.

I hope you enjoy reading the posts!

…the author

Huub Ehlhardt (1971) holds a MSC in Industrial Design Engineering from Delft University, and a PhD from Twente University.

Immediately after finishing his Master’s project he first worked as a predevelopment engineer at Philips. Since then Huub has worked in various roles and has acquired extensive knowledge of the manufacturing industry at international level. His deep curiosity about the nature of technological innovation prompted him to start a PhD research project titled ‘Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process’ which was carried out under supervision of professor Arthur O. Eger. Among other things this website serves as a means to continue the journey started during the PhD project referred to and, last but not least, to meet and engage with others interested in exploring the same topic.

Further information on his professional life can be found on the LinkedIn page Huub Ehlhardt. An overview of publications is provided on huubehlhardt.nl.


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