Technological Change And Future Growth- Issues And Opportunities

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Journal Article: Technological Change And Future Growth- Issues And Opportunities

Over the next three decades we may anticipate major technological advances and changes in American society in the area of electronics, automation, information handling, food, and biological manipulations, as well as in the more commonplace areas of industry, commerce, and domestic devices. Dominant elements driving these changes are fundamental shifts in the availability of energy and materials, which will stimulate major innovation in substitutions, extended service life, and easier maintainability; and the increasing role of science as a well-spring of new technologies. Furthermore, the movement of U.S. society into a post-industrial society with its emphasis on knowledge based industries will stimulate major shifts in the nature and location of work, land use, and information-associated technologies. This will be accompanied by a flourishing of social, institutional, and psychological technologies. Market forces will play a dominant role in the realization of these new technological developments. In addition to these forces, technological needs and opportunities will arise which lie outside the market system, such as developments with regard to geophysical manipulation, earthquake control, and weather modification. The principal role of government in assuring continuing benefits from technology is guiding the socially effective interplay of the basic variables: land, labor, capital, resource availability and knowledge. To be socially useful, the interplay must be future-oriented, flexible, and information driven. One specific role for government is setting reliable boundary conditions on private and public endeavors with some clarity and incisiveness to permit market and non-market forces to operate. Put differently, a principal role for government is the more effective management of uncertainties with regard to future potential opportunities and risks in order to encourage new and needed developments and innovations. A principal limitation on technological and scientific decision-making is the inadequacy of knowledge gathered and organized for the purpose of illuminating public policy. Meeting these information needs is a second specific role for government. Since most information is collected for other purposes, modifications which explicity generate and collect policy-related information would effect a major improvement in public and private decisionmaking. The wider practice of the concept of technology assessment as a means to better understand options, alternatives, and consequences for technology should be encouraged in and out of government. Many major regulatory agencies of government reflect needs and problems decades old which are no longer of primary importance. A third specific role for government in guiding technology, the reform of the regulatory agencies through their restructing, offers major opportunities for more effective management of technology. Primary candidates for this specific role of government include agencies regulating communications, drugs, banking, securities, energy, health care, transportation, and marine and oceanographic affairs. The fourth major role for government, research and development, should be driven by several convergent factors. There are opportunities for new and expanded technological developments with regard to: (a)The wiring of metropolitan and rural areas for fuller telecommunications; (b)the introduction of major new energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and ocean technologies; (c)the reformulation of education technologies, welfare, and health delivery systems; and (d) the reconstruction of cities and other habitats. Furthermore, the economically mature society implies not less but different technology emphasizing: social and biological as well as physical technology; personal improvement and fulfillment, and accomplishing more with less. There also are numerous problems of a high-growth society such as the propensity to maximize bureaucratic efficiency at the expense of social effectiveness; alienation of workers; adverse effects of excessive size and integration; societal needs not accommodated by market forces, and the negative side effects of technology. Each of these clusters of problems and opportunities could be profoundly influenced by research and experimentation.

Joseph F. Coates

Published Journal 
Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 1977



Joseph F. Coates. 1977. Technological Change And Future Growth- Issues And Opportunities. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. (!) .