Thursday, July 23, 2009

Technology and Progress

First posted July 2003

Via Business Pundit, i found this article by Brad DeLong.

Still, there is a strong sense that computers are less of an asset to the economy than they might be if we truly knew what they were good for and how to use them.

DeLong also notes that:

New general-purpose technologies work well only if they are the base of a system, or form a cluster of reinforcing and self-sustaining changes in the way work is organized.

New technology does not automatically produce immediate progress. The best example of that i know is World War One. The combination of new weapons (tanks, machine guns, planes, quick-firing artillery, etc.) and old ways of thinking produced the stalemate and slaughter of 1914-1918. The German victories of 1939-41 owed little to superior technology and a great deal to superior training and doctrine. (See here)

Note as well, that the inventors of a technology are not always the ones who figure out how best to use it. The British invented the tank, the Germans developed the blitzkrieg.

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