I tend to read a few different books at a time, usually something fiction, something non-fiction, and something way over my head and mind-blowing. Currently, the latter is The Future of the Mind: the Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind by Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physics professor. I did not expect to come across anything relating to my dissertation in his book, but I did.
Dr. Kaku, describing limitations to EEG scans:
The EEG machine, however, is… passive… it analyzes the tiny electromagnetic signals the brain naturally emits. The EEG excels at recording the broad electromagnetic signals that surge across the entire brain, which allows scientists to measure the overall activity of the brain as it sleeps, concentrates, relaxes, dreams, etc… However, the main drawback to the EEG, which has held up its development for decades, is its very poor spatial resolution. The EEG picks up electrical signals that have already been diffused after passing through the skull, making it difficult to detect abnormal activity when it originates deep in the brain. Looking at the output of the muddled EEG signals, it is almost impossible to say for sure which part of the brain created it (Kindle, 553-561).
Similarly, as I argue in my dissertation, the diffusion of innovations literature primarily consists of studies that look retrospectively at an innovation (whether it’s the Internet, or cell phones, or wind turbines) years—or decades—after widespread diffusion. Like EEG scans, these studies miss out on the details. We can speak very generally about how innovations diffuse, but we know very little about how diffusion occurs person-to-person.
This, I argue, is critical for understanding how future innovations will (or won’t) succeed, and whether they will (or won’t) diffuse across a market, or the entire world.