w_brian_arthur's picture
External Professor, Santa Fe Institute; Visiting Researcher, Intelligent Systems Lab, PARC; Inaugural Recipient, Lagrange Prize; Author, The Nature of Technology
Arthur's Law

Arthur's First Law

High-tech markets are dominated 70-80% by a single player—product, company, or country.

The reason: Such markets are subject to increasing returns or self-reinforcing mechanisms. Therefore an initial advantage—often bestowed by chance—leads to increasing advantage and eventually heavy market domination. (Absent government intervention, of course).

Arthur's Second Law

As technology advances it becomes ever more biological.

We are leaving an age of mechanistic, fixed-design technologies, and entering an age of metabolic, self-reorganizing technologies. In this sense, as technology becomes more advanced it becomes more organic—therefore more "biological." Further, as biological mechanisms at the cellular and DNA levels become better understood, they become harnessed and co-opted as technologies. In this century, biology and technology will therefore intertwine.

Arthur's Third Law

The modularization of technologies increases with the extent of the market.

Just as it pays to create a specialized worker if there is sufficient volume of throughput to occupy that specialty, it pays to create a standard prefabricated assembly, or module, if its function recurs in many instances. Modularity therefore is to a technological economy what the division of labor is to a manufacturing one—it increases as the economy expands.