This event is also the Society’s Presidential Address & is both an in-person and on-line event. To reserve a spot for either option, please visit the lecture’s Eventbrite page.
Technical development often follows an evolutionary path. There may be a variety of solutions to a technical problem. A preferred approach often emerges. In turn, this may become a “dominant design”. Sometimes technology gets locked-in to a preferred solution which may not be the best outcome, but satisfactory for the time being. Evolution need not produce optimal outcomes.
This lecture gives examples of the evolution of technical knowledge, showing practical engineering solutions adopted by a range of twentieth century technologies. Evolution of technology is “Lamarckian” rather than “Darwinian” as solutions are directly incorporated into successive generations of a technology.
The central problem of an evolutionary approach is the elimination of human agents from the story – those who create the technology and those who guide its adoption. But evolution does have much to teach us, for example about selection of new technologies for a low carbon future.
Dr Jonathan Aylen is immediate past President of the Newcomen Society who has researched a range of twentieth century technologies including missile guidance systems, nuclear weapons, rolling mill design and computer use in steel production and on the railways. Currently Dr Aylen is a visiting senior research fellow at the University of Manchester. For more info please visit his Newcomen profile Dr. Jonathan Aylen