While scale-free power-laws are frequently found in social and technological systems, their authenticity, origin, and gained insights are often questioned, and rightfully so. The article presents a newly found rank-frequency power-law that aligns the top-500 supercomputers according to their performance. Pursuing a cautious approach in a systematic way, we check for authenticity, evaluate several potential generative mechanisms, and ask the “so what” question. We evaluate and finally reject the applicability of well-known potential generative mechanisms such as preferential attachment, self-organized criticality, optimization, and random observation. Instead, the microdata suggest that an inverse relationship between exponential technological progress and exponential technology diffusion through social networks results in the identified fat-tail distribution. This newly identified generative mechanism suggests that the supply and demand of technology (“technology push” and “demand pull”) align in exponential synchronicity, providing predictive insights into the evolution of highly uncertain technology markets.
Scale-free power-laws as interaction between progress and diffusion