ICJS Special Talk: Last man standing - "The importance of failure in technology"

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
7:00 p.m. (talk starts at 7:30 p.m.)
TUJ Azabu Hall 207 (Access)
Open to general public.
You can purchase a bento and drinks at the convenience store next to the university.
Registration closed

About the Event

Failure is an integral and normal part of a technology’s evolution, yet rarely discussed. Companies and people that promote new technologies do not expect to fail, but many, if not most do. The understandable tendency to focus on what worked instead on what did not has resulted in a misleadingly optimistic appreciation of technological development. A complete history demands study and analysis of not only the roads taken, but also the roads not taken and the roads unsuccessfully taken as part of the tortuous, demanding, and uncertain path that technologies follow to move from an idea to a reality.

There are three basic types of failure: the failure of a new technology, the failure of an existing technology in a new environment, and the failure of an old technology against a new technology. To succeed, a new technology must overcome five basic challenges: technological, material, competitive, operational, and environmental. Will the technology work? Do its promoters have sufficient resources to develop the technology so it is ready for use? How does it compare with its competitors? Will users actually want to use it? What happens if the environment (defined broadly to encompass the economic, political and social as well as the physical) changes?

About Jonathan Coopersmith

Jonathan Coopersmith is a historian of technology at Texas A&M University with degrees from Princeton and Oxford University. In 2008-09, he is a Fulbright lecturer/researcher at Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he is researching the rise and fall of the fax machine in Japan and the United States.

About ICJS
The Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies (ICJS) is an organization dedicated to fostering study and research on various topics related to contemporary Japan and Asia.