“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Evolution as a metaphor for technology & design relationship

First, let’s understand something. Evolution as Darwin and Wallace proposed it is not exactly as we understand it today. But using their model is as good as anything when you want to create a metaphor for something else. In this case that something else is a technological change & adoption.

A student of mine was showing me a progression of cellphones over time and the image set was striking with some properties. The first major property is that for decades forms only changed when the technology allowed–shrinkage; incremental, and functionality only changed when technology allowed–growth, divergent jumps. Form possibilities exploded with new functionality. In some cases the forms determined the success of technology acquisitions. In some cases the forms actually prevented or delayed the acquisition of even the most hopeful technological functional advances.

So in the midst of this confirmation and observation utilizing that above mentioned Darwinian framework as metaphor I posited the following analogy:

Technology : Mutation as
Design : Sexual Selection

This is to say that technology can cause differentiation but design is required for acquisition and more importantly acculturation.  Technology aids in advancement, but only by making it attractive enough so it can procreate repeatedly. Sometimes an advancement can even make something less attractive unless new plumage can cover it up.

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