Technology and Society: The Influence of Machines in the United States

By S. Mckee Rosen; Laura Rosen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
NATIONAL POLICY AND TECHNOLOGY

BY WILLIAM F. OGBURN


Invention in an Age of Change

It has come to be a commonplace observation that we are living in an age of transition, an era of rapid change and of widespread adjustment. Many observers point to the fact that in recent decades the machine has brought into being a new kind of world, and that just as we speak of an industrial revolution of the past so we identify the present as an age of great technological change. Even the ordinary person of today is impressed by the innovations he has witnessed within his lifetime. The airplane, the radio, and the "talkie" are but a few of the hundreds of more obvious inventions which have served to transform profoundly his whole environment. Where invention will lead in the distant future is a question open to much speculation; but comprehension of where we are today and of what lies in store for us tomorrow is of far greater importance.

In an age of great change, anticipation of that which will probably come to pass is a necessity for executives at the helm of the Ship of State. A study of invention offers excellent guidance to future problems and social conditions, for, of four material factors that determine the economic well‐ being of nations—invention, population, natural resources, and economic organization—the first alters most frequently and hence acts most often as a causal factor in bringing about further shift.

Patents for 50,000 inventions are granted in the United States annually. Some of these discoveries have great influence. To illustrate, the production curve of railroads forecast the movement of people away from rural and toward

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