Technology forecasting, Science

Technology forecasting:

With such power of science in relation to technology, and consequently to satisfy social need, the question arises, can technologies of the future be forecast? Can one say what kind of devices, machines, weapons etc. will be available ten years from now? This has become a relevant question from  the point of general planning, let us  say in a country like India. But equally, the answer  to the question of future  technologies is of  interest to private manafacturers  because their profits would depend on it. The question is more complex than it appears at first sight. The path from science to technology and then to useful devices and goods in society is not straight forward. Scientific discoveries sometimes  took several decades before society made use of  them as devices, and, thus, produced the need to improve such devices, and add to technology and science. It was Faraday who discovered the laws of electric  induction in  1831,  on which all electric  ' generators and motors are based, but the generators or motors were'not needed. People were doing without them. You may  think why they did not use electricity for lighting homes and street. The answer is simple. The bulb had not yet been invented. When  the first hot filament lamp was invented, it could not bum for many hours because good vacuum pumps were not available. The greater hurdle was, however, the ability to sell electricity and make profit. 

This was cleared only in 1881 when Edison developed the electric power station from where electricity could be distributed, like water, to homes and factories. Its first extensive use was in factory lighting so that workers could work for longer hours after sunset. So, the idea or discovery made by Faraday had to wait for almost fifty years before other technologies and devices were developed, and business could make profits from sale of electricity and longer hours of factory work. Although waiting periods between discovery and application have shortened now, in some technologies they are  just a few years, the model described in  the previous paragraph is still valid. There is scientific research in various branches; some of it is abstract or theoretical, some applied or practical and it makes certain technologies possible. But other  technologies from other areas of research and development may be needed to convert the possible into likely to be successful technology.

The society must also be ready to utilise it, or the market must be there to make profit (or it must be created by advertising!), before the likely becomes an actually available technology. Of course,  this is a highly simplified picture. For example, time delays have not been shown, but they are involved at each stage, and the connections  could be many more than shown here. You also know, at this stage of the Foundation Course,  that today's great multinational corporations use advertising in a big way  to create a market, to make people buy things which they could do without. They may be made ready to buy a thing simply because it is made to appear as a status symbol, or  just because the neighbour has it.  

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Posted Date: 9/29/2012 2:36:43 AM | Location : United States

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