Global Technological Change---From Hard Technology to Soft Technology
2nd Chinese Edition of Soft Technology, Zhouying JIN,
Peking University Press, Beijing, 2010.8.
Soft technology — the primary subject of this book — is not new. For thousands of years human beings have been creating soft technology, as well as using it, and benefiting from it. However, because of the great impact of industrialization and the brilliant achievements of natural science and technology, soft technology has been overshadowed by hard technology. As a consequence soft technology has rarely, if ever, been developed consciously as a form of technology. This failure to appreciate the true nature of technology, incorporating what I have labeled as soft technology, has prevented us from properly grasping the essence of the process of technological innovation. It has also distracted us from dealing properly with the relationship between technological innovation and institutional innovation.
Through exploring the concept of soft technology in this book I stress the importance of innovation and technological competitiveness for closing the gap between developed and developing countries. The book also contains discussion about how qualified soft technology workers may be trained, and about how soft technology — or “soft-tech” — industries may be developed. Meanwhile, I challenge developing countries to shift away from the strategy of “catching up and then surpassing” developed countries by investing most funds, human resources, and energy in to hard technology, towards a strategy of consciously developing soft technology. I also stress that leaders in developing countries need to understand, and create, the new rules of game. Developing countries need to stay alert to new advances in hard technology and soft technology in developed countries and to avoid blindly following old thinking patterns and criteria when choosing new development strategies, routes, and industry structures. In order to catch up and ultimately surpass developed countries, developing countries need to bring their own new advantages into play, and follow their own route to success.
Soft technology is crucial to the sustainable economic and social development of all nations and all communities. As a citizen and scholar of China, however, I have written this book with an eye trained on the special circumstances of China’s economy and technology. China’s social and economic development has now come to a critical stage; and for its development process to be sustained the nation’s economic structure must face further adjustments and reforms. In the face of economic and technological globalization, a broad-based technological innovation system must be established in order to facilitate overall innovation, boost strategic adjustment, and improve comprehensive national power and international competitiveness.
Research on the new paradigm of technology — soft technology — has just begun, and this book is just an elementary contribution to the field. Many problems and issues addressed in this book will require further study; so the weaknesses of this book, of which there are no doubt many, are open to the criticisms and comments of its readers. I sincerely hope that entrepreneurs, scholars, social activists, government officials, managers, and administrators (no matter what rank) who are concerned with creativity, innovation, and business startups, can participate jointly in both the research and the practice of soft technology.
August 20, 2001