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Similarities and Differences in the Adoption of General Purpose Technologies

Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb

No 30976, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: Economic models provide little insight into when the next big idea and its associated productivity dividend will come along. Once a general purpose technology (GPT) is identified, the economist’s toolkit does provide an understanding when firms will adopt a new technology and for what purpose. The focus of the literature has been on commonalities across each type of GPT. This focus is natural, given that the goal of the literature has been to identify generalizable insights across technologies. Broadly, this literature emphasizes heterogeneity in co-invention costs across firms. Each GPT, however, provides a distinct benefit. Steam provided a new power source. The internet facilitated communication. The differences between GPTs are important for understanding adoption patterns. Using the examples of the internet and artificial intelligence, we discuss how both co-invention costs and distinct benefits determine the adoption of technology. For both technologies, we demonstrate that discussions of the impact of a GPT on productivity and growth need to emphasize the benefits as well as the costs. The goal of this paper is therefore to link the literature on co-invention costs with an understanding of the distinct benefits of each GPT.

JEL-codes: O33 O4 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-gro, nep-ict, nep-ino, nep-pay and nep-tid
Note: PR
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (1)

Forthcoming: Similarities and Differences in the Adoption of General Purpose Technologies , Ajay Agrawal, Joshua S. Gans, Avi Goldfarb. in Technology, Productivity, and Economic Growth , Basu, Eldridge, Haltiwanger, and Strassner. 2024

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