Jevons Paradox: why better technology leads to 'even more' technology

Better technology innovation and more intuitive software application development should lead to more efficiency and therefore less technology being needed, right?


Comments made by Ovum’s principal analyst for software Roy Illsley at his firm’s recent industry congress meeting point to the Jevons Paradox which states precisely the opposite truth to our opening statement.

The Jevons paradox was postulated by English economist William Stanley Jevons in his 1865 book The Coal Question.

Jevons suggested that as technological innovations progress, the rate of consumption of that resource actually increases.

This observation was based upon Britain’s use of coal after the introduction of James Watt’s coal-fired steam engine which, although more efficient than its predecessors, actually fueled an increase in the use of coal.

If then we look at the use of mobile technology (for example), then will better, faster more intuitive tech tools mean we still use more of them?

Ovum’s Illsley comments to say that for CIOs, the shift to a world where automation becomes intelligent (and UIs have become intuitive) is leading us towards a world where technology is just a tool that most business users are happy to interact with.

“IT department’s role will change and the skills needed will also change as the power of cognitive automation drives more efficient IT operations, increased service levels, and reduced IT costs. But just as Jevons paradox predicts this will see greater demand for IT services,” said Illsley.