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War as a technological engine

Written circa January 2003


Wars for long have been thought to be as bad omen. And every time somebody mentions War, pictures of mass destruction hover in front of our eyes. But history tells us that wars have traditionally been the powerhouse of technological revolution. The recent most world war, that is the Second World War, is the most flamboyant example of the above fact.

Robert B. Young at the Stanford research institute studied the span of time between the first commercial appearance of a new electrical appliance and at the time the industry manufacturing it reaches a peak production of the item. Young found that for a group appliances introduced in the United States before 1920, including the vacuum cleaner, the electric range and the refrigerator, the average Span between introduction and peak production was 34 years. 

But for the group that appeared in 1939-59 period, including the electric frying pan, television and washer and dryer combination, the Span was only eight years. The lag had shrunk by more than 76 percent. ‘The post-war group’, he noted, ‘demonstrated vividly the rapidly accelerating nature of modern cycle’.

The Times of India noted recently that both India and Pakistan, in spite of widespread economic losses, during their wars, had increased their rate of production during the same period. It is often noted that had it not been for the Second World War atomic energy would not have been discovered for another decade. Likewise, the widespread use of fighter aircrafts in the Second World War gave a boost to the airline industry in the post-war period. So many other technological revolutions have been triggered due to the Second World War. 

Wars have acted as a source of inspiration for industry and the society to speed up its pace of progress. The inspirational nature of war is probably because the urgency it introduces. In War-time it is always necessary to work faster and better than the enemy so as to win the war. To sustain the economic overload due to the war the industry must work faster. 

For industries in the strategic sectors it is even more vital to work faster, so as to provide the army with a continuous supply of resources. Scientists must speed up their research so as to over smart the enemy in technological warfare. The training sessions for fresh cadets are speeded up so that the army can be provided with perennial human resource. 

And to the utter surprise of management theorists, in spite of the increase in the rate of production there is no fall in the quality of production during wartime. There is no better example to illustrate the versatility of human resource than its work in wartime.
Wars give us a chance to test the limits of our ability.

Many times economic distress has led to wars but almost all of the times wars have led to propulsion of the economic engine. The wars give a chance to leave behind what is obsolete and come up with new ideas and philosophies. Every time a war destroys old establishments it also opens a gateway to recreate those establishments but this time without the flaws that crept in last time. Older cities can be the rebuilt, better resources can be provided. 

Have you ever written a letter and thought of redrafting it. What you do with the old copy of it? You normally tear it off or throw it in the dust bin. Wars give us a chance, to do the same with our social system. 

Therefore though economics may call Wars, a bad omen, they are actually a necessity for the existence of mankind. Just as there are two sites of a coin, wars can be thought of as one side of the coin which has progress on the other.
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1 Comments to " War as a technological engine "

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