The Control of the Arms Race: Disarmament and Arms Control in the Missile Age

By Hedley Bull; Richard Goold-Adams | Go to book overview

I2 THE PROBLEM OF CONTINUOUS INNOVATION

Our discussion (apart from that on outer space) has so far concerned the control only of the sorts of armaments that exist in the world now. But, of course, technology is constantly producing new armaments and making old ones obsolete. It is also increasing the variety of armaments, and of possible future military situations, and complicating the problems of planning in both strategy and arms control. There is nothing new about changes in military science and technology. But there is genuine novelty in the great and constantly accelerating pace it has now reached. It is this tendency to continuous innovation (and not 'the atom bomb' or any particular weapon or weapons system) that is the most distinctive feature of the modern armaments race and the chief theme of strategic studies.

The military industry is one of the most spectacular examples of the tendency to continuous innovation. But we should bear in mind that this tendency is characteristic of modern industrial society as a whole, and that there is not at present the slightest chance of its being reversed. Innovation is becoming increasingly institutionalized: the great agencies of change, science and technology, are not dependent for their progress on the chance discoveries of eccentric individuals working alone and on the fringes of society: they are powerful institutions at the centre of society, commanding legions of trained minds and vast economic resources.1 We should not assume, it is true, that the progress of science and technology is determined only the size of scientific and technological institutions, by the quantity of funds or of skilled manpower devoted to them. Large institutions have a tendency to stifle individual scientific enterprise: there may be loss as well as gain in the replacement of the eccentric investigator or inventor by the big scientific and technological battalions. But it remains true that the progress of science and technology has become, to a degree which is new, a steady and predictable swell.

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1
There is an interesting discussion of 'systematic innovation' in J. P. Corbett Europe and the Social Order ( Nijhoff, The Hague, 1959).

-195-

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