Technology progression transforms society, enabling us to get our job done better at less cost while offering us increasing comfort. This is the underpinning of our continued prosperity. But such a transformation is often mired of uncertainty and painful change. It also poses a threat to growing inequality and insecurity. Such a reality demands the necessity of shaping the transformation for maximizing gain for both consumers and producers alike, lowering the risk for entrepreneurs, increasing predictability, and enhancing net benefits for society.
Most importantly, we would like to figure out the opportunity for developing countries to add value to the technology-led transformation of the global society through ideas. We want to educate them to succeed in trading such ideas in the competitive market. Consequentially, we would like to empower them to open the endless frontier of growth through ideas. As a result, they will overcome growth barriers due to relying on only labor, raw materials, and capital.
Technological Progression Examples
Some of the notable examples are as follows:
Light bulb evolution
Producing light from electricity emerged as a better alternative to candles, oil lamps, and hurricane lamps. Of course, producing light from electricity offered us a better means of dealing with darkness and creating Wealth. However, this technological progress led to a loss of jobs and firms making oil lamps and hurricane lamps. More importantly, light source evolution did not stop there. Subsequent reinvention as LED light bulbs has expanded wealth creation further through higher efficiency and better quality. Like in the past, subsequent light-producing technology progression has been unleashing transformation on jobs, firms, and industries. Besides, it has also been migrating the light bulb Innovation epicenters. For example, due to Edison’s incandescent light bulbs, light source innovation epicenter migration from Europe to America. Due to further technology progression leading to reinvention from heating filaments to energizing semiconductor junctions, it has migrated to Japan.
Evolution of Camera
In 1888, George Eastman invented the box camera out of imaging on film technology core. Over the 100 years, due to film technology progression, the human race kept getting means to capture images. Along the way, Kodak succeeded in creating numerous jobs in the USA and the rest of the world. However, further imaging technology progression led to the prevention of film cameras, giving birth to digital cameras. Consequently, along with offering getting means of imaging, digital cameras destroyed jobs and pushed Kodak toward bankruptcy. However, Canon not only survived, it flurished further. Besides, the camera innovation epicenter migrated from the USA to Japan.
Invention and evolution of Automobiles
In 1886, automobiles emerged as a potential better alternative to horse wagons. Its rise led to the loss of jobs for horses. Of course, upskilling empowered Coachmen to switch jobs to driving automobiles. Besides, due to the scope of advancement, automobile technology created high-paying R&D jobs. Furthermore, the rapid adoption of automobiles it created far more jobs in automobile manufacturing than those lost for horse carriage making.
However, its reinvention as an electric vehicle (EV) will likely have net negative implications on jobs. Besides, due to the rise of EVs, automobile innovation epicenters will likely migrate from Europe and America to Japan, South Korea, and China. Hence, technology progression does not keep repeating the history of job market transformation and means to cope with it.
Furthermore, the emergence of autonomous vehicles will likely have a high negative impact on automobile driving jobs. However, autonomous vehicles will likely create far more high-paying R&D jobs than previous automobile progressions. It appears that continued progression has been creating increasingly high-paying jobs.
Technology progression phases
Despite the remarkable implications of technology, it does not happen all of a sudden. Typically, technology has an S-curve-like life cycle. Technology progression takes place through four distinct phases. It begins as a faint signal caught in high-level noise. However, additional knowledge makes the possibility clear, leading to the adoption of the critical mass. Eventually, technology progression reaches creating new normal state.
Technology progression creates implications on jobs, firms, and industries. Along with the creation, it also unleashes destruction on existing products, jobs, and businesses, creating a new normal.
Job creation and destruction due to technology progression
Of course, technology progression creates jobs–for conducting R&D, manufacturing, and operating. As progression diffuses innovations deeper, more jobs are created for making additional copies. However, due to growing automation, jobs in manufacturing keep falling. For example, in the 1920s, human workers used to perform 85 percent of automobile-making tasks, which has shrunk to 15 percent. Furthermore, the rise of reinvention waves led to migrating jobs from one area to another. For example, the rise of EV will migrate jobs from making internal combustion engines to batteries, electrical motors, and electronics. Besides, technological progression keeps delegating more roles to ideas or machines from humans. Notably, the rise of machine intelligence or AI likely have a dramatic negative impact on the role of the human in operation. For example, autonomous vehicles will likely have a sharp negative impact on driving jobs.
Transforming the economy and migrating epicenters
In the pre industrial age, productive activities were organized as cottage industries. Inventions and innovations were not scalable. Thus, Economies of Scale, scope, and externalities were very limited. As a result, economic growth was slow, and there was very little income gap. However, due to the progression of the steam engine and mechanization, the UK led Europe to experience high economic growth during the first Industrial Revolution. Consequently, disparity grew, and the production epicenter migrated to the UK and Europe.
Further progression of technology led to changing of mechanical with electrical technology core in products and production processes, America rose, and the UK suffered from slow down. Due to the rise of ICE and automobiles, the Middle Eastern economy grew. Besides, due to superior performance in semiconductor technology, Japan, followed by South Korea and Taiwan, has risen to high-income status. Along the way, innovation epicenters of notable products like Radio, Television, cameras, light bulbs, displays, and many more have migrated.
Getting clarity about technology transformation as reoccurring patterns
The breadth, depth, and direction of transformation are influenced by technology progression. Of course, policies, rational decisions, and competition highly matter to leverage it. Acquiring the capability in the midst of uncertainty and the ability to manage risk and culture are vital to benefit and prevent loss. Moreover, there is no natural correlation between well-accepted indicators like R&D investments, publications, patents, STEM graduates, creativity, and profitable exploitation of intellectual assets. Oftentimes, we perceive technological innovation driving the transformation as a random phenomenon. We term it as the magical acts of creative genius. Surprisingly, there appear to be certain reoccurring patterns. Detection of these patterns gives better clarity about relations among underlying factors. Consequentially, we succeed in interpreting the past, comprehending the present, and predicting the likely future.
The mission of The WAVES has been to provide an in-depth analysis of the past and present dynamics of technology innovation to develop the foundation for predicting the unfolding future, so that we can respond appropriately to cope with as well as leverage unfolding opportunities and challenges–making the technology-led transformation of the society more predictable and less painful, offering more secured, inclusive and equitable sustainable growth opportunities.