Technology has become a core component of the economy, politics, culture, and daily life. It has completely reshaped social relationships, and raised expectations regarding the world's most pressing problems, including energy, poverty, and disease. Technology has fundamentally altered competition in virtually every branch of the economy, disrupting industries, displacing established firms, and creating new business models. Technology, and the knowledge that creates it, has become an instrument of power as well as human advancement. Its many applications to war have raised moral and political issues, especially after Hiroshima, biological warfare, and, more recently, drone attacks.
Technological breakthroughs have occurred at discrete points of time over human history: the control of fire, the agricultural revolution, the wheel, writing, the arch as in architecture, gunpowder, the movable type printing press, the various navigation technologies of the age of discovery, the steam engine, the railroad, the electric motor, refrigeration, artificial fibers, the incandescent lamp, radio communication, and the internal combustion engine, among many others. These inventions all took place before 1900. The rate of technological innovation has arguably accelerated and extended into virtually every field of human activity over the last century, powered by the extension of mass education, a more systematic pursuit of knowledge creation at universities, companies, and the government, and the requirements of war. The list of major breakthroughs could include the powered aircraft, antibiotics, rockets, computers, lasers, biotechnology, magnetic resonance imaging, smart phones, 3D printing, and the collaborative economy, among other developments.
Analyzing all areas of technology and their implications for the economy and the society is mission impossible. We will focus the attention on information and communications technology, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing as illustrations of the extensive ways in which our lives have already changed and will continue to change in the future. We will also review how governments promote technology, and the ways in which emerging economies are joining the group of countries at the forefront of technological development.
Information and communications technology
Perhaps no area has evolved faster and with more far-reaching implications than information and communications technology (ICT), which has come to epitomize what electronic gadgets and connectivity can do for the economy and how it can affect political and social life. Nowadays, a third of all patents have to do with this area of technology.