The role of innovations in progression of technology is obvious. But are they synonymous ? Does technology always advance through innovations ? I started doubting it while studying computational mathematics at university. Specifically I was fascinated with the method of solving equations of the type x = A•x by iterations: xn+1 = A•xn. It starts with a very coarse approximation to a solution, which gradually improves due to the feedback. What if parameters of technology also improve through iterative feedbacks without innovations ? - I thought.
Later I found confirmation to my hypothesis in the history of technology. Parts of first metalworking lathes were very coarse because were produced by other coarse tools. But these first lathes produced finer parts for other machines than could be produced before. As a result other machines improved just due to the higher precision of their parts. As a result these improved machines started producing better parts for other machines, etc. Eventually machines that were used to produce lathes' parts improved too. As a result lathes' parts became less coarse, and the cycle repeated itself several times over several decades, having given rise to the very high precision machinery of the late XIX and the early XX century.
It appears that the role of innovations in progression of technology is exagerated. Technology also progresses due to the iterative parameters improvement due to feedbacks. It would be challenging and beneficial to trace all such feedbacks to better understand how technology could be further improved and direct such innovationless technological evolution.