Fact of the Week: The 20 Fastest-Improving Technologies Between 1976 and 2015 All Were Software-Related

Caleb Foote May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020

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Source: Anuraag Singh, Giorgio Triulzi and Christopher L. Magee, “Technological improvement rate estimates for all technologies: Use of patent data and an extended domain description,” March 2020.

Commentary: The changing rate of technological advancement is a large source of controversy, with fears of both acceleration and stagnation. A new paper has sought to examine more granularly where this growth is occurring, identifying 1,757 technology domains and assessing the importance of new patents in those domains from 1976 to 2015. It estimates that improvement rates range from 1.9 percent for “Mechanical Skin treatment—Hair Removal and wrinkles,” to 288.8 percent for “Network management—client-server applications,” with more than 60 percent of technologies improving less than 12.5 percent annually. Further, the 20 fastest improving domains are all software related, growing at least 142 percent per year, including technologies such as network defense systems and business process automation.