The Rising Speed of Technological Adoption
Technological progress is not the only thing rising at an exponential rate.
The rate at which newly commercialized technologies get adopted by consumers is also getting faster, too.
In the modern world, through increased connectivity, instant communication, and established infrastructure systems, new ideas and products can spread at speeds never seen before – and this enables a new product to get in the hands of consumers in the blink of an eye.
Visualizing Technological Adoption
Today’s dynamic chart comes to us from Our World in Data, and it allows you to compare the adoption rates of new technologies over the period of more than a century.
In addition to the technologies you’ll find embedded on the initial chart above, you can also use the “Add technology” tab of the chart (bottom left) to list up to 40 tech data series on the chart in total. This allows you to gauge adoption rates for everything from color televisions to washing machines, while giving you an idea of the trajectory of many common technologies today.
A Blast From the Past
To get the full impact of the chart, it’s worth removing more modern technologies like smartphones, social media, tablets, cellular phones, and the internet from the list.
Here’s a look at adoption rates for the household appliances and products today that we would consider pretty essential, over a period of more than 120 years:
The telephone was invented in 1876, but it wasn’t until a century later that landlines reached a saturation point in households.
For this to happen, massive amounts of infrastructure had to be built and network effects also needed to accumulate to make the product worthwhile for consumers. Further, the telephone suffered from the “last-mile problem”, in which the logistics get tougher and more expensive as end-users get hooked up to a network.
As a result, it wasn’t until the 1960s that 80% of U.S. households had landlines in them.
New Adoption Speeds
Now, here’s a chart with many older technologies removed – keep in mind that the x axis has changed to a much shorter timespan (~65 years):
Microwaves, cell phones, smartphones, social media, tablets, and other inventions from the modern era all show fast-rising adoption rates. Standing out most on the chart is the tablet computer, which went from nearly 0% to 50% adoption in five years or so.
Why do newer technologies get adopted so quickly? It seems partly because modern tech needs less infrastructure in contrast with the water pipes, cable lines, electricity grids, and telephone wires that had to be installed throughout the 20th century.
However, it also says something else about today’s consumers – which is that they are connected, fast-acting, and not afraid to adopt the new technologies that can quickly impact their lives for the better.
Ranked: The World’s Top 10 Electronics Exporters (2000-2021)
Here are the largest electronics exporters by country, highlighting how electronics trade has increasingly shifted to Asia over 20 years.
Top 10 Electronics Exporters in the World (2000-2021)
From personal computers to memory chips, the electronics trade plays a vital role in the world economy. In 2021, global electronics exports reached $4.1 trillion according to McKinsey Global Institute.
This graphic shows the 10 largest electronics exporters in the world, based on data from McKinsey, and how they’ve changed since 2000.
Ranked: The Top 10 Exporters of Electronics
Which countries are the leading exporters of electronics, and how has this shifted over the last two decades?
|Rank||Country||Share of Total 2021||Share of Total 2000|
|3||🇰🇷 South Korea||7%||5%|
|7||🇺🇸 United States||4%||16%|
We can see in the above table how global electronics trade has become more concentrated in Asia, specifically China and Taiwan. As an electronics powerhouse, 34% of the world’s electronic goods in 2021 came from China, representing $1.4 trillion in value.
Home to leading firms like TSMC, Taiwan also plays a major role due to its prowess in semiconductor manufacturing—highlighting the island’s global importance.
But not all of Asia has been thriving. In 2000, Japan was a global electronics powerhouse responsible for 13% of the industry’s exports, but has seen its share shrink to 4% in 2021. The U.S. has also sheen its electronics lead shrink, with exports down from 16% of the global total in 2000 to just 4% in 2021.
Several factors have driven this shift. Instead of manufacturing electronics domestically, the U.S. has outsourced technology to countries where manufacturing, production, and labor costs are lower. However, recently, the U.S. is focusing on reshoring semiconductor production specifically given its role in national security, as seen through the $52.7 billion CHIPS Act.
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