One aspect of technology evolution, according to W. Brian Arthur’s excellent The Nature of Technology, is structural deepening: How basic technology adds features over time. Structural deepening is actually one factor which often means we underestimate technology evolution – for instance, a car today costs about as much, in relative terms, as a car did 30 years ago. What you get for your money, however, is something completely different.
A couple of months ago I was walking through the parking garage at the Norwegian School of Management – and I spotted a case of structural deepening in practice. I just had to take a picture or two with my cell phone (which has a camera – an0ther instance of structural deepening, right?):
The Fiat 500 on the left is from sometime in the 60s, has an engine of about half a liter and a weight of around half a ton. The Fiat Nuova 500 on the right has 2-3 times as much engine, double the weight, is (as can be seen) a lot bigger and also a lot faster. It also has lots more technology – not only headrests, but safety belts, 7 air bags (!), air conditioning, better stereo, steel bars, crumble zones, etc. etc.) It is, supposedly, still considered a small car…
(More pictures after the break)