Full text: Trend and Cycle

The question of measurement of technology has so far been treated 
mainly on the micro-economic level by engineers . A very 
sophisticated treatment is due to Devendra Sahal ( Sahal 198 ) 
who deals with the development of the locomotive. The engineering 
studies suggest surprising continuities and regularities of the 
learning process, but the economists are still far from being able 
to integrate this into their own concepts or experience. 
4. Technology and Economic Structure. 
For the greatest part technical progress proceeds in very small 
steps (Sahal).It is a process of learning which by its nature 
requires time and consists of gradual advance. In the course of 
this continuous development there occurs,however, from time to 
time a major advance, a jump as it were. This is normally embodied 
in a new type of equipment. This discontinuous change or 
"innovation” is the resulting sum of a large number of preceding 
steps which lead up to it. Equally, after the first pioneer has 
built the new equipment there is a long series of improvements,a 
process of learning to use the equipment, and a follow up process 
of gradual improvements in the product or in the process or in 
both. It should be noted that the discontinuity in the process of 
technical advance has not only a scientific-technical but also an 
economic-social and institutional side.The novelty meets the 
resistence of established institutions;it it happens to overcome 
them it will be more or less disruptive. In fact the discontinuity 
is perhaps more important in society than in the development of 
technical knowledge itself. 
Since long run growth practically always involves technical change 
and occasional discontinuous jerks it will always involve 
structural change. This is a pretty large subject and I mention it 
here only to introduce certain amendments to my treatment of it in 
Maturity and Stagnation.In this book technical change was 
exemplified by the case of an industry in which innovation is 
introduced by one firm and subsequently spreads to the other firms 
in the industry, leading eventually to the elimination of some 
firms which are too slow to adapt and for whom there is no more 
room in view of the growth of the innovating firm’s capacity. 
This analysis, restricted to the pattern of change in a single 
industry,applies primarily to process innovations;it can be 
adapted to the case of a new product which is not so radically 
different that it involves the establishment of an altogether new 
industry.lt does not cover, however, the case of a radically new 
product which is produced by an entirely new and different 
industry and is not in very direct competition with the 
established products or services of other industries. In an 
indirect way it may sooner or later affect some of the other 
industries ( television versus cinema ), it may in some cases even 
lead to the disappearance of an old industry, but the function of 
competition in such a new industry will be taken over for the 
greater part by new entrants which follow on the heel of the 
innovator,who contribute to the gradual improvement and cheapening 
of the new product and who bring about in good time the lowering
	        

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