Summary of Innovation and Its Enemies

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This compelling overview retells the history of innovation and highlights why people resist new technologies. Calestous Juma, founding director of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi, recounts case studies of opposition to innovation that touch on electricity, margarine, the introduction of coffee and mechanical refrigeration. Juma writes with great compassion about resistance to innovation as he explains different viewpoints stemming from various aspects of religion, culture and economic self-interest. getAbstract recommends his treatise to anyone interested in history, technology and culture, and to anyone responsible for making policy.

About the Author

Calestous Juma is the founding director of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi and foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.



How People Respond to Innovation

Economist Joseph Schumpeter argued that innovation transforms economies. Most analysts who apply Schumpeter’s thinking focus on how innovation generates “economic evolution” and on the role entrepreneurs play in that evolution. As Schumpeter noted, people can oppose technological innovation, sometimes stubbornly. People worry about inequality in income and about how technology is distributed. Such worries increase as people lose faith in institutions.

Innovation clashes with certain values, like the wish for stability, an ordered society and continuity. People are more likely to oppose innovations with short-term risks but long-term benefits or outcomes that challenge “cultural identities.” The way societies adapt to innovation changes as people seek more engagement in decision making.


The world faces many different challenges, including dilemmas in security, health, sustainability as well as “life enrichment.” People increasingly apply technology to resolve longstanding problems.

This lets some developing nations skip stages other regions went through, but it also threatens to disrupt...

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    B. E. 4 years ago
    "As the world population increases, so does the demand for protein." This is a common misconception. We produce more than enough protein for every human on this planet by growing legumes, but we loose 95% by feeding them to the livestock...
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      Jim Coles 4 years ago
      Where is the misconception? As the world population increases, so does the demand for protein. That is true.

      Producing legumes is the supply side.