Playing with N-grams

innovation buzzwords-1

I have been spending a little time playing with Google Books Ngram Viewer (great tool, btw), and although I am not intending to formulate any hypothesis, it is just curious what you see when you plot a few of today’s innovation-related “buzzwords.”

Science has been gaining relevance in a linearly consistent way over more than 300 years, while technology surged in the last 50. Invention, discovery and science may have a distant relation, but they started to diverge after 1780—curiously about the starting date of the industrial revolution. Invention has been losing ground since then—more than inventor, and more than discovery—and today, it is completely overshadowed by innovation, also a rising star of late 20th century. Very interestingly creativity is also a new thing, which we have now started to associate to invention—but only since as late as 1990.

innovation buzzwords-2

It is also nice to see that, although technology is on the rise (if you forget the last 10 years), engineer (as well as engineering) seems to be démodé. In fact, engineer was a much more popular term during late 19th and most of 20th century, when nobody was talking about technology. Curiously, technology seems to go side by side with scientists, while the trajectory of engineer is more similar to that of scientific.

Finally, entrepreneurs—yes, in plural more than singular, like scientists, and unlike engineer or inventor—is of course a schumpeterian post-1920 thing, still below founder, but above inventor.

I repeat, I am not hypothesizing here, just provoking. (And if you wonder why I added complexity to the second chart, sorry but it is this blog’s grand topic!)

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