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Intellect, Limited
Global Technological Change: From Hard Technology to Soft Technology - Second Edition / Edition 2

Global Technological Change: From Hard Technology to Soft Technology - Second Edition / Edition 2

by Zhouying Jin


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This updated second edition of Global Technological Change reconsiders how we make and use technology in the twenty-first century. With human-centered "soft technology" driving machine-based "hard technology" in ever more complex ways, Zhouying Jin provides an understanding of the human dimension of technological advancement. Through a theoretical framework that incorporates elements of both Eastern and Western philosophy, she offers insight into the dynamic between the two as it relates to a variety of technological innovation. More relevant than ever, Global Technological Change continues to challenge assumptions about technology and the gap between the developed and developing countries in the twenty-first century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781841503769
Publisher: Intellect, Limited
Publication date: 02/15/2011
Edition description: 2
Pages: 366
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Zhouying Jin is a senior researcher and professor at the Institute of Quanti-Economics and Techno-Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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Global Technological Change

From Hard Technology to Soft Technology

By Zhouying Jin, Kelvin W. Willoughby, Ying Bai

Intellect Ltd

Copyright © 2011 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84150-376-9


What is Technology?

Technology has advanced greatly in recent years. The dream of people reaching the Moon has become a reality. It is now even possible to clone human beings. Knowledge and technology have had such a great impact upon social and economic development that we now routinely speak of the knowledge society.

In the meantime, the ruthless pursuit of economic profits and the unethical application of technology by immoral people, with the many tragedies that have ensued, are increasingly generating criticisms against the further development of technology. John Naisbitt, a renowned futurist and author of High Tech and High Touch, calls the public's attention to the meaning of humanity and suggests that the development of science and technology should be based on human needs and should positively benefit humanity. Bill Joy, co-founder and chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, has written an article in Wired magazine suggesting that '[o]ur most powerful twenty-first century technologies – robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech – are threatening to make humans an endangered species' (Joy 2000). This statement warns people against the dangers brought upon the human race by unplanned and uncontrolled technological innovations. As a solution, he suggests developing a system of efficient control over the development of some technologies. Some domestic and foreign forums and monographs have also carried out discussion focused on the negative impact of high-tech. However, the development of technology as the engine of human society and its economic development appears to be irresistible. Its significance, including its position in the national competitiveness of each country, can never be over emphasized.

Then how should technologies be controlled and developed? Are there actually any 'good' or 'evil' technologies? Have we a comprehensive understanding of technology? What should be noted here is whether the high-tech that Naisbitt talked about or those powerful technologies that Joy mentioned refers to technology as traditionally understood, i.e. the 'hard' technology that is derived from natural science-based knowledge.

In the twenty-first century, with the rapid development of high technology and information, economic and technological globalization, human concepts of country, enterprise, government functions, knowledge, work and even science are undergoing change. Should we re-understand technology? For instance, could the knowledge derived from non-natural science, such as social sciences and the like, form technologies? If so, we will have to rethink the essence of technological competitiveness, rethink the meanings of technological innovation and may even need to adjust the national strategic systems.

In fact, following the experience of the Industrial Revolution, technology has also evolved. The concept of technology is shifting from technology in a narrow sense to that in a broad sense and from hard technology to soft technology. We have reached the era where the development of soft sciences and soft technology needs to be accelerated.

A. The Evaluation of Technology

From the Ancient Greek era until today human beings have studied what technology is and have investigated the essence of technology from a variety of perspectives. For example, it is now widely recognized that primitive men differed from anthropoid apes in at least the following four ways: they were able to walk on two legs; make, use and ameliorate tools; utilize fire; and communicate via language. In retrospect, the making and use of tools and the utilization of fire and language are technologies. It is obvious that technology existed in the primitive period. At that time, the so-called tools were produced with the intended purpose and played the role as extending or assisting parts of the human body (Gan & Hiromasa 1986).

During the past two thousand years human understanding of technology has varied a great deal. In Ancient Greece, the scope of technology in general was very wide. It included everything from farming techniques and ancient medical practices involving leeches, to political techniques, gymnastics and arts. The most representative view of technology in Ancient Greece is contained in the theoretical work of Plato, one the three great philosophers of ancient Greece. In his Apology and Other Dialogues, Plato points out that technology includes the technology of acquisition, as well as the technology of manufacture.

The technology of acquisition included the technologies of learning, acquiring knowledge, making profits, Agon technique and hunting; while the technology of manufacture consists of practical manufacturing technology and image manufacturing technology, i.e. the technology (in a narrow sense) and art. Practical manufacturing technology included farming techniques, ancient medical practices involving leeches, construction techniques and tool technology, while the image manufacturing technology included the technology of imitation and idolization. Plato considered the creation of art to be a manufacturing activity, so he included the activities of art and tool creation in the technology of manufacture (Honda 1975).

The Ten Books of Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius, an architect of Ancient Rome (first century BC) is considered the technological encyclopaedia of Roman times (ibid.). In the first chapter, the author describes the qualities of an architect. Some of these qualities are as follows: fluent writing skills; drawing skill; knowledge of geometry, optics, mathematics, history, philosophy, music, ancient medical practices, law and astronomy, etc. Vitruvius regarded these abilities as organisms of the human body that must be integrated into an entire indivisible organic system.

China has a long tradition of thought about the nature of technology. The Chinese notion of technology, stemming from the ancient age, emphasizes technique, skill, feat and methodology (Etymological Dictionary of Chinese Characters 1998: 658).

Francis Bacon (1561–1626), the British philosopher famous for his aphorism 'knowledge is power', believed that if knowledge of the Greek period was used to seek kindness and beauty, and the knowledge of the medieval period was used to pursue beliefs, then the third period of knowledge is one which could ensure humans the power of domination over nature. Bacon thought:

Human mastery over things depends upon science and technology. Only through submission to nature could a human being control it. That is to say, in the purpose of controlling nature, we should learn from nature and need to submit to and control it; the technological knowledge of modern human beings is how to deal with, understand and manipulate nature. (quoted in Honda 1975)

It is evident that Bacon's theory embraces the idea that 'technology enables mastery over nature'.

In the late eighteenth century, Denis Diderot (1713–1784), French philosopher and chief editor of The Encyclopaedia, stated that technology is the system of various tools and regulations organized for a common purpose (in Song 1984).

Friedrich Dassauer (1881–1963) of Germany identified three essential features of technology. He said that it should conform to natural laws, operate with a common purpose and also operate with a creative purpose (ibid.).

In the early twentieth century, the Japanese academic community began arguing over the concept of technology. Tosaka Jun, the leader of the Japanese Materialism Research Association, which was founded in 1932, classified technology as notional technology and material technology. The former includes the means that constitute the subjective existence of technology, such as skill and intelligence; the latter includes means that constitute the objective existence of technology, such as machines and instruments. However, Jun also thought that notional technology was only the means for the subjective existence of material technology and not true technology in itself. Affected by the view that 'technology is embodied by the machine as the important means of labor [sic], or that of production, etc. in large industries; technology is infiltrated into the labor [sic] process', the majority of researchers in the Japanese Materialism Research Association think that technology is the means of production or even the system of the means of labour.

Many scholars at that time who opposed the theoretical notion of technology as the means of production believed that even Karl Marx himself did not define technology in such a manner, and it was actually very similar to that of people such as Bukharin who supported the notion of technology as mechanism. For example, Haruki Aikawa pointed out that the concept of technology should be divided into three categories: the concept derived from natural science; social sciences; and philosophy. From the perspective of social sciences, 'technology is the existing means of labor [sic] during the process of production' (Aikawa 1941: 131). Another Japanese scholar in this group, Mitsuo Takeya, saw technology in this way: 'technology is the conscious application of the objective laws during the production practice' (Takeya 1968: 139). Since then, many people of the Japanese philosophical community have begun serious research about technological philosophy under the general umbrella of this school of thought.

In the 1960s, an advisor to the OECD, Erich Jantsch, who was working in the general field of technology forecasting, made some important contributions to the ongoing debate about the definition of technology. Jantsch pointed out that technology included the conscious application of materials, life science and behavioural science, so that technology also included all the means of ancient medical practices, agriculture, business and other fields, including hardware and software (Jantsch [1967] 1968: 15).

F. R. Bradbury pointed out in his Economics of Technology Development, that 'technology is the way of doing' and 'the values of technological development are dependent upon the improvement of the ways we use resources to satisfy human needs' (in Williams 1979).

The Japanese Yuhikaku Economic Dictionary, published in 1979, defined technology as the following: 'a process of supplying better means of utilizing nature for the purpose of developing and improving human lives. There are roughly two explanations of technology: the conscious application of the objective laws and the system of labor [sic] means' (Yuhikaku Economic Dictionary: 88).

In the 1985 Chinese version of the Concise Encyclopaedia Britannica, technology is defined as 'the means or activities employed by human beings to change or operate the external environment' (CEB 1985c: 233).

In 1990, the Nomura Research Institute in Japan published an important document, The Strategy for Technology in 2000. This drew attention to 'the technological stream of human sciences' (Japan Nomura Research Institute 1990), and pointed out that the changes of the definition and coverage of technology was due to the orientation of technological developments in the 1990s. If hard technology was based and focused on natural sciences such as physics and chemistry, etc., then the trend of the twenty-first century should be directed towards soft technology based on human sciences. Hard technology, aimed at turning natural objects into artefacts, is the technology of controlling the 'object'. The high technology of the future will be the technology of controlling and commanding the 'human mind' and the management technology for group or organization, which is based on psychology.

British historian of science and technology Charles Joseph Singer defined technology in his monumental work, A History of Technology, as the following: 'technology is the sum of skill, art, craft, means and knowledge by which humans can take advantage of the large number of raw materials and energy stored in nature in accordance with the direction of their own desire' (quoted in Williams [1979] 1989).

The author of Building a Win-Win World and the founder of Ethical Markets Media, Hazel Henderson, used a broad definition of technology: 'Human knowledge applied to Human purposes' (Henderson 2002). She included design of political and economic systems, software and social security, etc. as technology.

From the preceding review of ideas about technology, covering an array of time periods and a diversity of cultures, we may draw the following conclusions:

• The concept of technology has been evolving.

• Throughout the long history of formal discussions of the concept of technology almost all serious commentators and analysts have included soft dimensions of technology (e.g. regulatory systems such as techniques, approaches, programmes and processes of activities, arts and the like) as part of the definition of 'technology' – in addition to the hard dimensions of technology (e.g. tools, machines and equipment and other means of labour). Plato's technology of acquisition is an example of 'soft' technology and so is the dimension of technology classified by Erich Jantsch as the application of behavioural science. As has been pointed out by the Nomura Research Institute, hard technology is technology for controlling material substance, while future high-tech will be technology for controlling and dominating the human mind based on psychology, etc., and management technology for groups or organizations.

• Nevertheless, since the Industrial Revolution, the concept of technology extant in the literature has gradually evolved to include such notions as 'the means of dominating and controlling nature', 'the initiative relation with nature', 'the system of labour means' and 'the means of changing or controlling the external environment' and so on. Hundreds of works on the history of technology have now been published in East and West and in a multiplicity of languages – with titles such as Chronology of Science and Technology, History of Modern Technologies, History of Technology and Technological History, etc. I have observed that almost all of these works tend to focus exclusively on research in the natural sciences and upon what I have labelled 'hard technology'.

• This focus has come about because, during the age of industrialism, material production played a vital role in the economy, and natural science and technology, taking substance as its carrier, made outstanding contributions to the improvement of material productivity. Especially in the past two centuries, the invention and extensive application of new technologies such as the steam engine, electrical technology, steel technology, chemical engineering, the telephone, wireless communications, the transmitter, the computer, large- scale integrated circuits and so on, have generated technology revolutions that, in turn, have promoted the development of productivity and changed human survival conditions and lifestyles. Human understanding of knowledge has therefore leaned towards the natural science-based knowledge; the rules, approaches and means, which were created during the process of problem solving in the material production by applying the knowledge of natural sciences, are usually called 'technology'; the focus of technological development has also leaned towards the use and transformation of nature.

• Contemporary dictionary definitions of technology typically define and connote technology in a manner that emphasizes utilizing and altering nature. For example, The Modern Chinese Dictionary defines the term 'technology' as, 'experience and knowledge in the process of utilizing and remaking nature', the term 'technology revolution' as 'thorough revolution of production technology' and the term 'technology innovation' as 'improvements in production technology, e.g. improvements in the process of machine components' (Modern Chinese Dictionary [MCD] 1991: 553). The Economics Dictionary, published by the Japanese Yuhikaku Press, defines technology as 'the means supplied to utilize nature' (Yuhikaku Dictionary of Economics [YDE] 1979: 88).


Excerpted from Global Technological Change by Zhouying Jin, Kelvin W. Willoughby, Ying Bai. Copyright © 2011 Intellect Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Intellect Ltd.
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Table of Contents

Preface to the English Edition by Theodore Gordon

Chapter 1: What is Technology?
Chapter 2: Historical Antecedents of Soft Technology
Chapter 3: Soft Technology and Technological Competitiveness
Chapter 4: Soft Technology and Innovation
Chapter 5: Soft Industries
Chapter 6: Soft Technology and the Fourth Generation of Technology Foresight
Postscript: The Principles for Development in the Twenty-first Century—Harmony, Balance, and Coexistence

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