Hoisted from the 2007 Archives: Dilemmas of Economists in Government
Jonathan Spence on the Ming-Qing Transition

Rebecca Henderson: People

I got an email from the extremely smart and insightful Rebecca Henderson. It closed with: “hope to cross paths with you soon”; she had remarked at the conference we were at that she had not seen me in... it seemed like forever...

And I had thought: She is right. I have not seen her in... 20? years....

Yet she has been a very live intellectual presence to me—as one of my (regrettably few) go-to persons on intellectual property industrial organization and antitrust.

This is one rather peculiar thing about 21st-century academe in the age of the internet. The number and the range of people you run into and learn from in the virtual hallway outside your virtual office as you go to and fro to the virtual coffee machine is much larger than in any previous generation. Yet overwhelmingly this array of thinkers is composed—to a greater degree than ever before—of one-way information flows. There is no traceback from the recipient to the originator of the ideas. It is only if there is, eventually, a formal citation or an explicit response that influence is acknowledged.

That is too bad. It would have been much better had Tim Berners Lee figured out some way to push transclusion into the basic fundamental design of the web. At some deep level, I want to live in Ted Nelson’s Xanadu. I regret profoundly that I do not...

And, BTW, here are the five things from Rebecca Henderson is that I believe have had the greatest influence on me:

  1. Schumpeterian competition and diseconomies of scope: illustrations from the histories of Microsoft and IBM
  2. Of life cycles real and imaginary: The unexpectedly long old age of optical lithography
  3. Why do firms have "purpose"? The firm's role as a carrier of identity and reputation
  4. Universities as a source of commercial technology: a detailed analysis of university patenting, 1965–1988
  5. Architectural innovation: The reconfiguration of existing product technologies and the failure of established firms