How a Technology Develops

The best way to predict how the commercialization and adoption of low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) could occur is to examine how other technologies were adopted in the past. Then to identify the patterns by which they were adopted it. In other words we need to take a look at history.

Thomas Edison an inventor who changed history.

History does not exactly repeat itself but it often operates in similar patterns. These patterns sometimes produce different results but they are similar. A pattern for technological development, commercialization and adoption based on past technological progress can be discerned. Here are the highlights of such a pattern:

  • First Stage: Discovery/Concept. The technology begins as a vague concept or discovery. The technology might exist in theory like hot fusion does or it might be based on a phenomenon in the real world for which there is no theoretical explanation. It might be an unproven theoretical concept such as Elon Musk’s hyperloop technology or a poorly understood discovery such as “cold fusion.” In some cases a natural phenomenon might exist but people do not understand it as appears to be the case with LENR. Those trying to understand the phenomenon stumble upon a technology. That was what happened with electricity people trying to understand how it worked discovered it could be harnessed as an energy source. Simply having a concept doesn’t automatically lead to a workable technology as “hot fusion” demonstrates. Nor does being able to replicate a phenomenon as “cold fusion” seems to demonstrate. Note: people can build technologies without understanding the theory or science behind them. People were building firearms, canons and explosives centuries before anybody understood either the chemistry or physics involved in those devices.

  • Second Stage: Working Prototype. This is usually a crude example of the device it might be of little or no practical value. For example the early computers were simply too big and cumbersome to be of use to anybody but the military. Early automobiles were so fragile that they were not practical transportation. Such prototypes are often dismissed as a curiosity or a toy.

  • Third Stage: Early Commercialization. Limited manufacture and use of the technology for a specific usually limited purpose begins. Computers were first used to crunch numbers in government agencies, banks, and large companies. As they proved their usefulness more were built and the technology became more widespread. Many become familiar with the technology and may start adapting it for other uses. At this point a technology might be confined to a specific environment. Aircraft were largely confined to military use, exploration and racing until the 1930s.  The first commercial use of aircraft was to carry the mail. This stage is important because it proves the technology’s practicality. This is usually the point at which the public becomes aware of a technology. Some technologies will skip this stage.

An enthusiasit in action Louis Renault takes a drive in an early car.

  • Fourth Stage: Enthusiasts. The technology develops loyal fans who adapt it for their own purposes. This includes garage inventors, entrepreneurs and hobbyists. The men who jump started the computer revolution in the 1970s and 80s such as Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Jobs were largely enthusiasts propelled by their own energy and vision. The automobile was largely commercialized by enthusiasts such as Henry Ford and Louis Renault. The enthusiasts often become the entrepreneurs who make the technology into a viable business. LENR appears to be in this stage right now, being pushed by garage inventors such as Rossi and Piantelli and the people at the Martin Fleischmann Memorial Project. During this stage the enthusiasts prove the technology is commercially viable and demonstrate that they can make money with it. This appears to be the most important stage for laying the groundwork for a viable technology.

  • Fifth Stage: Widespread Adoption/Disruption. This occurs when a large segment of the market or the population realizes the technology’s usefulness. One example of this occurred in the 1990s when average people realized how useful personal computers were. More recent examples include smartphones, the Internet, e-commerce and streaming video. This usually takes a lot longer than people assume and there are many false starts such as the bubble of the late 1990s. One hallmark of widespread adoption is that big money gets involved. Another is disruption of established industries or technologies. This often starts small and grows – only a few people used the internet at first, and the early online retail was limited to a few products such as books.

  • Sixth Stage: Acceptance. This is the stage when people cannot imagine living without the technology because it is part of their lives. This usually occurs a couple of decades after the widespread adoption and disruption. Television was only accepted as mainstream in the 1960s, nearly 40 years after its invention. Automobiles were invented in the 1880s but not part of average people’s lives until after World War I. Acceptance might be greater in some areas, television was not available in many countries until the late 1960s.

The main thing that we can learn from this pattern is patience. It takes a long time for technologies to be commercialized and adopted and contrary to some observers the process does not appear to be speeding up. Outside forces can disrupt the process such as politics, or the economy – the adoption of television was delayed by the Great Depression and World War II. World War II sped up the adoption of other technologies such as aircraft. Expect it to be a long time before you have an LENR device in your house or car.

6 Responses to How a Technology Develops

  • john M says:

    I don’t believe LENR “heaters” will take anywhere near as long to adopt and commercialize. With competitive cost and reliability they will quickly displace existing devices as soon as savings are demonstrated. These will replace/supplement a basic necessity and are little like early cars (no infrastructure and not competitive), personal computers (no widely useful software) or TVs (no infrastructure or content). I think other uses such as desalinization, transportation and electrical generation fit your ideas more accurately.

    • jennifer says:

      Hard to say which we don’t how well they work. Note early cars took decades to develop and were not nearly as reliable as competing technologies like Street Cars until the late 1930s. My guess it will take awhile for the market to figure out how to adapt LENR for commercial use.

  • Ian McCarthy says:

    If you plot the adoption rate of technology against the year of discovery, an interesting curve comes out. Which says that a new technology appear in 2013 will take 7 years to gain access to 90% of the commercial market for that technology.
    The inventions you mention form part of that curve
    here are some dates for the start points the end points are harder to define but the camera phone too about 9 years

    washing machine 1691 – 1935
    electric light 1860 – 1930
    vacuum cleaner 1869 – 1945
    radio 1894 – 1937
    mobile phone 1973 – 1994
    personal Computer 1980 – 1992
    camera phone 1997 – 2006
    LENR 2013 — ??

    For reason I don’t understand cleaners don’t work, but I believe the concept is correct.

    • jennifer says:

      The only problem is that your own figures disprove the seven year average. My guess is that it will take about twenty years to successfully commercialize LENR. It might go faster if it turns out to be a huge money maker which I suspect it will.

  • Jim Anderson says:

    I enjoyed this very good article.

    I have found 2 lines of books that deal with this area. The first is by Nassin Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan and a couple of other books by him deal with technology and buisiness development. These books were written in French and translated making for a somewhat hard read.

    The other line of books dealing with this area are written by Clayton Christensen who is a Professor at the Harvard Buisiness School.These books include The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Innovators Solution and Seeing What Is Next. The books I’ve read are case studies of what buisinesses did and failed to do when dealing with innovation. His writing style is very clear and concise and economical.

    Either of these lines of books are excellent sources of information on this interesting and current topic.

    • jennifer says:

      Great suggestion. Mr. Taleb’s book is a personal favorite of mine. I’ll definitely put Mr. Clayton Christensen work on my reading list. Thank You!!