Functional technical performance usually follows an exponential dependence on time but the rate of change (the exponent) varies greatly among technological domains. This paper presents a simple model that provides an explanatory foundation for these phenomena based upon the inventive design process. The model assumes that invention – novel and useful design – arises through probabilistic analogical transfers that combine existing knowledge by combining existing individual operational ideas to arrive at new individual operating ideas. The continuing production of individual operating ideas relies upon injection of new basic individual operating ideas that occurs through coupling of science and technology simulations. The individual operational ideas that result from this process are then modeled as being assimilated in components of artifacts characteristic of a technological domain. According to the model, two effects (differences in interactions among components for different domains and differences in scaling laws for different domains) account for the differences found in improvement rates among domains whereas the analogical transfer process is the source of the exponential behavior. The model is supported by a number of known empirical facts: further empirical research is suggested to independently assess further predictions made by the model.
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