Limitations to the diffusion of technology innovation
Conventional scenarios of the spread of new technologies usually rely on econometric analysis and on straightforward extrapolations of trends in industrialized countries. The implicit assumption is that developing countries will always, to the extent they are able, mimic earlier patterns of development in more industrialized countries -- that if Chileans ever become as wealthy as American, each of them will buy about the same number of refrigerators and air conditioners and travel as much. The assumption does not match the historical record. Technologies advance in clusters, and latecomers do not mimic the countries that adopted a technology first. Often the spread is faster, but ultimately not as far. For example, the adoption rate for motor vehicles was slowest in the USA and Canada, somewhat faster in Europe, faster in Japan, and even faster more recently in developing countries. But the total levels of car ownership remain highest in North America, where the oil era began, and are unlikely to be emulated in other countries.