Innovation and its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies

ISBN : 9780190467036

Calestous Juma
432 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Aug 2016
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Joint winner of 2017 Breakthrough Paradigm Award  

  • Explains the roots of resistance to new technologies - and why such resistance is not always futile
  • Draws on nearly 600 years of economic history to show how the balance of winners and losers shapes technological controversies
  • Outlines policy strategies for inclusive innovation to reduce the risks and maximize the benefits of new technologies

The rise of artificial intelligence has rekindled a long-standing debate regarding the impact of technology on employment. This is just one of many areas where exponential advances in technology signal both hope and fear, leading to public controversy. This book shows that many debates over new technologies are framed in the context of risks to moral values, human health, and environmental safety. But it argues that behind these legitimate concerns often lie deeper, but unacknowledged, socioeconomic considerations. Technological tensions are often heightened by perceptions that the benefits of new technologies will accrue only to small sections of society while the risks will be more widely distributed. Similarly, innovations that threaten to alter cultural identities tend to generate intense social concern. As such, societies that exhibit great economic and political inequities are likely to experience heightened technological controversies.
Drawing from nearly 600 years of technology history, Innovation and Its Enemies identifies the tension between the need for innovation and the pressure to maintain continuity, social order, and stability as one of today's biggest policy challenges. It reveals the extent to which modern technological controversies grow out of distrust in public and private institutions. Using detailed case studies of coffee, the printing press, margarine, farm mechanization, electricity, mechanical refrigeration, recorded music, transgenic crops, and transgenic animals, it shows how new technologies emerge, take root, and create new institutional ecologies that favor their establishment in the marketplace. The book uses these lessons from history to contextualize contemporary debates surrounding technologies such as artificial intelligence, online learning, 3D printing, gene editing, robotics, drones, and renewable energy. It ultimately makes the case for shifting greater responsibility to public leaders to work with scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to manage technological change, make associated institutional adjustments, and expand public engagement on scientific and technological matters.



1. Gales of Creative Destruction
2. Brewing Trouble: Coffee
3. Stop the Presses: Printing the Koran
4. Smear Campaigns: Margarine
5. Gaining Traction: Farm Mechanization
6. Charged Arguments: Electricity
7. Cool Reception: Mechanical Refrigeration
8. Facing the Music: Recorded Sound
9. Taking Root: Transgenic Crops
10. Swimming against the Current: AquAdvantage Salmon
11. Oiling the Wheels of Novelty

About the author: 

Calestous Juma, a national of Kenya, is an internationally-recognized authority on the role of science, technology and innovation in economic development. He is Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at Harvard Kennedy School. He directs the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and serves as Faculty Chair of Harvard's Innovation for Economic Development executive program. Juma is a former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and Founding Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi. He was Chancellor of the University of Guyana and has been elected to several scientific academies including the Royal Society of London, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and the African Academy of Sciences.

"A leading scholar of innovation, Juma looks at the past 600 years of economic history to explain how and why incumbents, and society more broadly, resist technological disruption The book enriches an often one-sided debate in which innovation is seen as the ultimate source of prosperity: something to promote and accept no matter what." -- Foreign Affairs

"Not many academic books could credibly be called good nightstand reading. Harvard professor Calestous Juma's Innovation and Its Enemies can, in part because of its use of entertaining stories and anecdotes to illustrate ideas concerning innovation. These stories will prompt many readers to reflect on what they think they know about how innovation occurs and how the resulting advances are accepted." -- Regulation Magazine

"Fittingly titled Innovation and Its Enemies, the book charts a fascinating new history of emerging technologies and the social opposition they ignite." -- Issues in Science and Technology

"Timely and insightful." -- Joel Mokyr, EH.Net
"It takes one of the leading lights on innovation - Calestous Juma - to truly understand the forces that oppose it. Just as technologic change is reaching peak velocity, this extraordinary work provides a systematic, scholarly, and surgical dissection of what can hold us back." -- Eric Topol, author of The Patient Will See You Now

"An insightful book that addresses one of the paradoxes of our time, namely why generations that have benefited so much from innovation are so resistant to it. Drawing on a fascinating diversity of historical examples - coffee, electricity, refrigeration, farm mechanization, genetic modification - Professor Juma discusses how innovation occurs, the role of experts and why skepticism and confusion are often inevitable. A must-read for everyone involved in technology development and policy." -- Louise O. Fresco, President of Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands
"An outstanding treatise on how new technologies are created and why they are so often not initially accepted by society. lInnovation and Its Enemies is filled with wonderful stories that go through innovations ranging from cell phones to coffee to the light bulb. I loved reading it." -- Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Calestous Juma's book provides a very enjoyable insight into the attitudes of society and individuals to innovation over the centuries. Its highly accessible style provides the reader with great historical nuggets arising from the introduction of coffee and printing through to reactions invoked when margarine and transgenic crops were launched. The conclusions are supported by amazing facts and details-I didn't want to put the book down because there were so many instances when I thought I knew the full story only to find new twists and turns." -- Sir Christopher Snowden, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Southampton
"We all know how difficult it can be to accept truly revolutionary innovations. Professor Juma illustrates the difficulties faced by the innovators with a few case histories and provides some guidelines for avoiding many of the difficulties. One strong lesson is that engaging with the consumers, usually the general public, at an early stage is a very good idea. Another clear lesson is that different stakeholders react very differently to innovation, especially when it seems it might seriously disrupt existing businesses or traditional social structures. A must read for anyone who wishes to engage in such disruption themselves." -- Richard J. Roberts, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs
"We live among so many innovations that we tend to forget that before their acceptance, there tends to be resistance among the public, or by people whose livelihoods are threatened by them. Coffee, printing and refrigeration are among the innovations which have become so widespread that we may be amazed to read about their troubled histories. Other newer innovations, including genetic modification of plants and animals are still in the midst of public scrutiny. Professor Juma's book is a very well-researched account of innovation and its enemies, not to be missed by scholars and the public, both for historical perspectives and readiness for future innovations." -- Professor Yongyuth Yuthavong, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Science and Technology, Thailand
"Knowledge is a continuum; thus Mendelian genetics has now given way to molecular genetics. Innovation and Its Enemies gives an excellent account of the continuity of innovation and the impediments faced in getting new ideas accepted. The author has given excellent examples of the conflict between the old and the new in scientific progress. A recent example is genetic modification. This book is a timely one since scientific knowledge is progressing at such a rate that often the new technologies are viewed with suspicion. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. Calestous Juma for his labor of love for the progress of human wellbeing through scientific innovations." -- M S Swaminathan, Founder Chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation
"This is a good read and an invaluable reference work for those working on new technologies, especially those needed to meet the grand challenges of the 21st century. Calestous Juma's detailed analysis of how innovations have been accepted or resisted is complete and fascinating. Many view resistance to advances such as GM foods and mobile phones as a modern phenomenon related to recent advances in science. Calestous explains that innovations have in fact been resisted for centuries but goes on to explain how this resistance can, and has been, overcome." -- Lord Alec Broers, British House of Lords and Former Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University
"This stimulating history of innovation looks beyond just the obvious successes and failures. Between the high and lows lies a large territory where adoption might go either way and Juma's insight is to see how the appropriate deployment of political capital and a deeper understanding of how the average citizen can confuse hazard and risk can make crucial differences to outcomes. Scientific and political leaders need this book." -- Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group
"Innovation and Its Enemies is the best book on technology policy of the past decade. Amazing work." -- Adam Thierer, Georgetown University, and author of Permissionless Innovation

"Superb! Magnificent! A must-read to anyone holding public office. Having overcome obstacles as president of the Dominican Republic in building the metro system of Santo Domingo, I found in Professor Calestous Juma's book useful theoretical insights into the understanding of why resistance occurs when introducing innovation in the public sphere." -- Leonel Fernández, Former President of the Dominican Republic

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