What it Means to Take Japan Seriously
Chapter 8 05/12/2000 13:44 Page 1 8. A note about technological determinism* I’ve always assumed that among sociologists ‘technological determinist’ was a term of abuse, and that declaring myself to be one has had an element of trailing my coat, of teasing the orthodox (even though I mean it only in the qualified sense that I’ve explained in Chapter 7). But I wonder how out-ofdate my notion that technological determinism is still seen as hopelessly naïve has become. Everybody now seems to be a technological determinist. Perhaps it’s a new kind of millennial bug. The ‘knowledge economy’ will totally transform our lives. IT is the revolutionary beginning of a new age, and so on. Are we going to eat information, clothe and house ourselves in knowledge? To be sure, the advertising industry and the stockbroking industry are expanding their share of GNP by leaps and bounds. But how will the availability of a new means of communication - the shift from telephone, mail and fax to the internet for the transmission of (some kinds of) information, business orders, designs or whatever - transform the production of beer or houses or insurance so fundamentally? To be sure, the pace of technological innovation has been accelerating in recent decades (just count the decade-bydecade increase in patent registrations in the United States), and that acceleration does change the nature of business competition quite considerably. But the quantum leap of the IT revolution? I don’t buy it. One can see how in...
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