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From the primordial soup to self-driving cars: standards and their role in natural and technological innovation


Wagner, Andreas; Ortman, Scott; Maxfield, Robert (2016). From the primordial soup to self-driving cars: standards and their role in natural and technological innovation. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 13(115):20151086.

Abstract

Standards are specifications to which the elements of a technology must conform. Here, we apply this notion to the biochemical 'technologies' of nature, where objects like DNA and proteins, as well as processes like the regulation of gene activity are highly standardized. We introduce the concept of standards with multiple examples, ranging from the ancient genetic material RNA, to Palaeolithic stone axes, and digital electronics, and we discuss common ways in which standards emerge in nature and technology. We then focus on the question of how standards can facilitate technological and biological innovation. Innovation-enhancing standards include those of proteins and digital electronics. They share common features, such as that few standardized building blocks can be combined through standard interfaces to create myriad useful objects or processes. We argue that such features will also characterize the most innovation-enhancing standards of future technologies.

Abstract

Standards are specifications to which the elements of a technology must conform. Here, we apply this notion to the biochemical 'technologies' of nature, where objects like DNA and proteins, as well as processes like the regulation of gene activity are highly standardized. We introduce the concept of standards with multiple examples, ranging from the ancient genetic material RNA, to Palaeolithic stone axes, and digital electronics, and we discuss common ways in which standards emerge in nature and technology. We then focus on the question of how standards can facilitate technological and biological innovation. Innovation-enhancing standards include those of proteins and digital electronics. They share common features, such as that few standardized building blocks can be combined through standard interfaces to create myriad useful objects or processes. We argue that such features will also characterize the most innovation-enhancing standards of future technologies.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:12 Jan 2017 11:40
Last Modified:02 Feb 2018 11:29
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:1742-5662
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2015.1086
PubMed ID:26864893

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