Macroinventions are the tail end of the impact power law distribution clashing with our intuition

In One Process - Post, Jerry Neumann notes that if The impact of innovations follow a power law distribution and Human intuition treats all distributions as lognormal there will be a set of innovations in the tail of the distribution that stand out. Our intuition says that these innovations basically shouldn’t exist.

In Lever of Riches, Joel Mokyr describes macro inventions as a radical new idea without clear precedent emerges more or less ab nihilo . There are many inventions that feel this way, but if you look closer there always is a clear precedent. Thoughts don’t spring fully formed out of heads. This apparent contradiction has led people to criticize macroinventions as a concept (Macroinvention vs. Microinvention?) and even Mokyr shifted his definition.

But it really does feel like there is a difference between inventions like The Telegraph! The Power Loom! and inventions like the see-through umbrella. How do you resolve a situation where there appears to be two categories but inspection shows no clear line? Continuous changes can lead to discrete differences! Here, the continuous process is just a power-law distribution of invention impacts and the threshold is where it crosses the human intuitive lognormal distribution.

The fact that you seem to be able to infinitely zoom in on macroinventions is one piece of evidence that The tech tree is fractal

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