Technological progress in history: a survey of evolution and shift of research emphasis from ‘hard-tech’ to ‘soft-tech’ development | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1474-2748
  • E-ISSN: 2040-0551


Technological progress has been a major factor behind contemporary socio-economic development and the rapid pace of globalization. As such, it has transformed the conventional ways in which such concepts as country, enterprise, government, knowledge, work, and even science have been understood. It has also brought to light the distinction between the hardware and software aspects of technology and the increasing significance of the latter. This paper discusses how the evolution of technology has culminated in a shift of emphasis in research and development from hard to soft technologies. Changes in technology paradigms have brought about changing views about technological competitiveness, technological innovation systems and strategies for sustainable development. After briefly characterizing contemporary popular notions of technology, this paper puts forward the case for a broader view of technology. The complementary roles of ‘hard technology’ (which is machine or product-centred) and ‘soft technology’ (which is essentially human-centred) are emphasized. The paper argues that soft technology has historically played a critical role in social and economic development, even though it might not have been recognized as such.


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