W. Brian Arthur was recently on the a16z podcast talking technology and economics. If you’re not familiar with him or his work, hearing him talk to Sonal Chokshi and Mark Andreesen isn’t exactly a bad place to start.
Arthur explains for any technology to work, you’ll need both the principles and the components. Innovators are just building stuff like a kid makes stuff from a lego box that’s already out in the room.
If we take his view, we can look at the components that are available and the evolving principles that surround them. This mental model is what he’s used over the last several decades to study (and stay) on the cutting edge of innovation.