Book - Oxford University Press

Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies

| July 2016

Innovation and Its Enemies:

  • Explains the roots of resistance to new technologies - and why such resistance is not always futile
  • Draws on nearly 600 years of economic history to show how the balance of winners and losers shapes technological controversies
  • Outlines policy strategies for inclusive innovation to reduce the risks and maximize the benefits of new technologies

The rise of artificial intelligence has rekindled a long-standing debate on the impact of technology on employment. This is just one of many areas where exponential advances in technology signal both hope and fear, leading to public controversy. This book shows that many debates over new technologies are framed in the context of risks to moral values, human health, and environmental safety. But it argues that behind these legitimate concerns often lie deeper, but unacknowledged, socioeconomic considerations. Technological tensions are often heightened by perceptions that the benefits of new technologies will accrue only to small sections of society while the risks will be more widely distributed. Similarly, innovations that threaten to alter cultural identities tend to generate intense social concern. As such, societies that exhibit great economic and political inequities are likely to experience heightened technological controversies.

Drawing from nearly 600 years of technology history, Innovation and Its Enemies identifies the tension between the need for innovation and the pressure to maintain continuity, social order, and stability as one of today's biggest policy challenges. It reveals the extent to which modern technological controversies grow out of distrust in public and private institutions. Using detailed case studies of coffee, the printing press, margarine, farm mechanization, electricity, mechanical refrigeration, recorded music, transgenic crops, and transgenic animals, it shows how new technologies emerge, take root, and create new institutional ecologies that favor their establishment in the marketplace. The book uses these lessons from history to contextualize contemporary debates surrounding technologies such as artificial intelligence, online learning, 3D printing, gene editing, robotics, drones, and renewable energy. It ultimately makes the case for shifting greater responsibility to public leaders to work with scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to manage technological change, make associated institutional adjustments, and expand public engagement on scientific and technological matters.

Innovation and Its Enemies was launched on July 6, 2016, at the 16th International Joseph Schumpeter Society conference in Montreal, Canada. It can be ordered here through Oxford University Press.

Table of Contents:



1. Gales of Creative Destruction
2. Brewing Trouble: Coffee
3. Stop the Presses: Printing the Koran
4. Smear Campaigns: Margarine
5. Gaining Traction: Farm Mechanization
6. Charged Arguments: Electricity
7. Cool Reception: Mechanical Refrigeration
8. Facing the Music: Recorded Sound
9. Taking Root: Transgenic Crops
10. Swimming against the Current: AquAdvantage Salmon
11. Oiling the Wheels of Novelty




Press Coverage:

Innovation and Its Enemies has been covered extensively around the globe. Some highlights include:

Washington Post


El Pais

BBC Brasil

Die Welt

The Conversation

El Confidencial

Project Syndicate

Technology Liberation Front

UN Dispatch

The Sun



"Innovation and Its Enemies is the best book on technology policy of the past decade. Amazing work."

—Adam Thierry, Professor, Georgetown University, and author of Permissionless Innovation

"It takes one of the leading lights on innovation—Calestous Juma—to truly understand the forces that oppose it. Just as technologic change is reaching peak velocity, this extraordinary work provides a systematic, scholarly, and surgical dissection of what can hold us back."

—Eric Topol, MD, Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, La Jolla, California, and author of The Patient Will See You Now


"An insightful book that addresses one of the paradoxes of our time, namely why generations that have benefited so much from innovation are so resistant to it. Drawing on a fascinating diversity of historical examples—coffee, electricity, refrigeration, farm mechanization, genetic modification—Professor Juma discusses how innovation occurs, the role of experts and why skepticism and confusion are often inevitable. A must-read for everyone involved in technology development and policy."

—Louise O. Fresco, President of Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands


"An outstanding treatise on how new technologies are created and why they are so often not initially accepted by society. Innovation and Its Enemies is filled with wonderful stories that go through innovations ranging from cell phones to coffee to the light bulb. I loved reading it."

—Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


"Calestous Juma's book provides a very enjoyable insight into the attitudes of society and individuals to innovation over the centuries. Its highly accessible style provides the reader with great historical nuggets arising from the introduction of coffee and printing through to reactions invoked when margarine and transgenic crops were launched. The conclusions are supported by amazing facts and details—I didn’t want to put the book down because there were so many instances when I thought I knew the full story only to find new twists and turns."

Sir Christopher Snowden, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Southampton


"We all know how difficult it can be to accept truly revolutionary innovations. Professor Juma illustrates the difficulties faced by the innovators with a few case histories and provides some guidelines for avoiding many of the difficulties. One strong lesson is that engaging with the consumers, usually the general public, at an early stage is a very good idea. Another clear lesson is that different stakeholders react very differently to innovation, especially when it seems it might seriously disrupt existing businesses or traditional social structures. A must read for anyone who wishes to engage in such disruption themselves."

—Richard J. Roberts, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs


"We live among so many innovations that we tend to forget that before their acceptance, there tends to be resistance among the public, or by people whose livelihoods are threatened by them. Coffee, printing and refrigeration are among the innovations which have become so widespread that we may be amazed to read about their troubled histories. Other newer innovations, including genetic modification of plants and animals are still in the midst of public scrutiny. Professor Juma’s book is a very well-researched account of innovation and its enemies, not to be missed by scholars and the public, both for historical perspectives and readiness for future innovations."

—Professor Yongyuth Yuthavong, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Science and Technology, Thailand

"Knowledge is a continuum; thus Mendelian genetics has now given way to molecular genetics. Innovation and Its Enemies gives an excellent account of the continuity of innovation and the impediments faced in getting new ideas accepted. The author has given excellent examples of the conflict between the old and the new in scientific progress. A recent example is genetic modification. This book is a timely one since scientific knowledge is progressing at such a rate that often the new technologies are viewed with suspicion. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. Calestous Juma for his labor of love for the progress of human wellbeing through scientific innovations."

—M S Swaminathan, Founder Chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation


"This is a good read and an invaluable reference work for those working on new technologies, especially those needed to meet the grand challenges of the 21stcentury. Calestous Juma’s detailed analysis of how innovations have been accepted or resisted is complete and fascinating. Many view resistance to advances such as GM foods and mobile phones as a modern phenomenon related to recent advances in science. Calestous explains that innovations have in fact been resisted for centuries but goes on to explain how this resistance can, and has been, overcome."

—Lord Alec Broers, British House of Lords and Former Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University


"Drawing from an insightful study of over 600 years of technological history,Innovation and Its Enemies is an excellent analysis of forces that oppose new innovative products and services like incumbent industries, fear of change and risk, and socioeconomic uncertainties resulting from the perception of benefiting only a few and costing the majority. A must read for entrepreneurs, policy framers and academicians."

—N. R. Narayana Murthy, Founder, Infosys


"This stimulating history of innovation looks beyond just the obvious successes and failures. Between the high and lows lies a large territory where adoption might go either way and Juma’s insight is to see how the appropriate deployment of political capital and a deeper understanding of how the average citizen can confuse hazard and risk can make crucial differences to outcomes. Scientific and political leaders need this book."

—Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group


"This book vividly illustrates, in an 'anthropological' manner, nine stories of innovation and how each impacted human behavior and overcame its ‘enemies,’ or incumbent socio-economic, cultural and political values, through the lens of Coffee in the 15th-17th centuries, Printing of Bible and Koran in the 15th-16th centuries, and recently, genetically engineered crops and salmon. As the world of globalization becomes more fragmented and fragile, new forms of innovation have sprung up to the challenges of climate change, biodiversity, energy, aging society, to name a few. Further, innovation is entering a new stage, with faster, lower-cost and more democratic approaches, e.g., Whatsapp, Uber, Airbnb. This book also gives direction for ways innovators and scientists can face 'enemies' in the future."

—Kiyoshi Kurokawa, MD, Adjunct Professor, Graduate Research Institute for Studies, Tokyo


"Calestous Juma's Innovations and Its Enemies is a great read that uniquely outlines the history of society resisting new technologies and innovative ideas that caused social and economic distribution. We have dwindling resources on our planet and continue to do irrevocable harm to our climate. Add the ever growing population demanding the benefits of wealth including health and food excess and it is clear we are heading for disaster. Rapidly evolving scientific advances are labeled as disruptive because they might radically alter the production of food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fuel, into much more sustainable processes which will clearly require social change. Appling new genomic science can shift medicine to a preventative life and cost saving enterprise and computer-based knowledge can lead to democratization but not without social disruptions. Juma discusses how laws, business and social institutions and scientific communication need to adapt as 'the risk of doing nothing may outweigh the risks of innovating.'"

—Dr. J. Craig Venter, President, J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla, California

"Innovation and its Enemies is a wonderful read. The style is lucid. The tone is lively. Professor Juma examines why people resist innovation, and argues that controversies result from the tension between the need to innovate and the pressure to maintain order. Although he discusses a profound socio-historical issue, his titles are very creative and eye-catching, and his use of case studies from history brings the information closer to the general reader. This is truly a great book and a fascinating read!"

—Ismail Serageldin, Librarian of Alexandria, Director of the New Library of Alexandria, Egypt


"Superb! Magnificent! A must read to anyone holding public office. Having overcome obstacles as president of the Dominican Republic in building the metro system of Santo Domingo, I found in Professor Calestous Juma’s book useful theoretical insights into the understanding of why resistance occurs when introducing innovation in the public sphere."

—Dr. Leonel Fernández, Former President of the Dominican Republic


About This Book

Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies

Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies
For more information on this publication: Please contact Science, Technology, and Globalization
For Academic Citation: Juma, Calestous. Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, July 2016.

The Author

Calestous Juma