Innovation Meets Institution, Invitation #11
The ancestors of pandas were actually carnivorous and so their true anatomical thumbs were committed to the limited motion suited for meat eating. When adaptation to a diet of bamboo required more flexibility in manipulation, pandas could not redesign their thumbs but had to make do with an enlarged radial sesamoid bone of the wrist. The panda’s false thumb is clumsy, but it works.
What do panda’s thumb and technological innovations have in common? After all, constraints of genealogy do not apply to technologies such as typewriter, car, and computer. The panda cannot shuck its digits, but designers can easily add or abandon features and functions for the technologies they develop. Yet, according to Stephen Jay Gould, both panda’s thumb and technology are subject to a general principle of change, which he called the “panda principle.”
On Monday, April 13, 2-3 pm, in Hornbake 2116, at the 11th meeting of the iSchool Innovation & Entrepreneurship Reading Group, we will unpack the “panda principle” and discuss (1) why apparently suboptimal designs come to spread widely and become “taken-for-granted” and (2) how such “path dependent” technologies interact with institutions such as library, archive, museum, corporation, K-12 schools, university, and government. Light, healthy refreshments will be provided.
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