Diffusion of innovations

Epidemiology of widgets


Models such as the Bass diffusion model impose an epidemiological structure on the contagion of products, with a survival analysis flavour. Or, if you’d like, memetics but for technical ideas rather than beliefs.


  • Getting The Word Out—by Steven Johnson

    I wrote about the disappointing—though I suppose not surprising—lack of coverage of the death of Dilip Mahalanabis, the Bangladeshi doctor who played a critical role in popularizing Oral Rehydration Therapy, the amazingly simply medical intervention that has saved millions of lives around the world over the past fifty years. I noted that as far as I could tell, no mainstream news organization outside of India had run so much as a brief obituary of Mahalanabis, despite the heroic nature of his initial adoption of ORT in the middle of a refugee crisis in the early 1970s, and the long-term legacy of his work. (The Lancet once called ORT “potentially the most important medical advance of the 20th century”.) …when we talk about the history of innovation, we often over-index on the inventors and underplay the critical role of popularizers, the people who are unusually gifted at making the case for adopting a new innovation, or who have a platform that gives them an unusual amount of influence.


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