1.2 Technology and Society

While a lot of attention is paid to how technology affects society, those who manage technology and the businesses that use it must recognize that the interaction goes both ways. Society affects the paths of technological change, and many innovators have failed because they have tried to sell solutions to problems that their customers were not ready to solve. The time lapse between discoveries of new knowledge and commercialization can be short or long, depending upon the willingness of society to embrace the change. For instance, it took decades for television to really catch on, but social networking sites like Facebook have exploded, playing prominent roles in millions of lives within a matter of months. And while information technology could dramatically increase the efficiency and effectiveness of health care, medical professionals and institutions have been slow to adopt it. Yet the applications of new drugs, medical devices, and diagnostic equipment grow very rapidly as soon as they are available. Understanding the social and cultural dimensions of technological change is complex and uncertain, but technology managers must deal with the systems of forces that will affect the results of their efforts.

1.2.1 Social Change

Some forces that affect a new technology will be the traditional resource directions of the market, but others will arise from social change and related political forces. For instance, rapid rises in energy prices in the 1970s led ...

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