Technological Revolution
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Technological Revolution
Axe made of iron, dating from Swedish Iron Age, found at Gotland, Sweden: the iron--as a new material--initiated a dramatic revolution in technology, economy, society, warfare and politics.

A technological revolution is a period in which one or more technologies is replaced by another technology in a short amount of time. It is an era of accelerated technological progress characterized by new innovations whose rapid application and diffusion cause an abrupt change in society.

A technological revolution is made of interconnected technological changes.

Description by Joseph C. Galisim

The Spinning Jenny and Spinning Mule (shown) greatly increased the productivity of thread manufacturing compared to the spinning wheel
A Watt steam engine--the steam engine, fuelled primarily by coal, propelled the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and the world.
IBM Personal Computer XT in 1988--the PC was an invention that dramatically changed not only professional life, but personal life as well.

A technological revolution increases productivity and efficiency. It may involve material or ideological changes caused by the introduction of a device or system. Some examples of its potential impact are business management, education, social interactions, finance and research methodology; it is not limited strictly to technical aspects. Technological revolution rewrites the material conditions of human existence and can reshape culture. It can play a role of a trigger of a chain of various and unpredictable changes:[1]

What distinguishes a technological revolution from a random collection of technology systems and justifies conceptualizing it as a revolution are two basic features:

1. The strong interconnectedness and interdependence of the participating systems in their technologies and markets.

2. The capacity to transform profoundly the rest of the economy (and eventually society).[2]

The consequences of a technological revolution are not necessarily positive. For example, innovations, such as the use of coal as an energy source, can have negative environmental impact and cause technological unemployment. The concept of technological revolution is based on the idea that technological progress is not linear but undulatory. Technological revolution can be:

The concept of universal technological revolutions is a key factor in the Neo-Schumpeterian theory of long economic waves/cycles[3] (Carlota Perez, Tessaleno Devezas, Daniel ?mihula and others).


The most known example of technological revolution was the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the scientific-technical revolution about 1950-1960, the Neolithic revolution, the Digital revolution and so on. The notion of "technological revolution" is frequently overused, therefore it is not easy to define which technological revolutions having occurred during world history were really crucial and influenced not only one segment of human activity, but had a universal impact. One universal technological revolution should be composed from several sectoral technological revolutions (in science, industry, transport and the like).

We can identify several universal technological revolutions which occurred during the modern era in Western culture:[4]

  • 1. Financial-agricultural revolution (1600-1740)
  • 2. Industrial revolution (1780-1840)
  • 3. Technical revolution or Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1920)
  • 4. Scientific-technical revolution (1940-1970)
  • 5. Information and telecommunications revolution (1975-present)

Attempts to find comparable periods of well defined technological revolutions in the pre-modern era are highly speculative.[5] Probably one of the most systematic attempts to suggest a timeline of technological revolutions in pre-modern Europe was done by Daniel ?mihula:[6]

  • A. Indo-European technological revolution (1900-1100 BC)
  • B. Celtic and Greek technological revolution (700-200 BC)
  • C. Germano-Slavic technological revolution (300-700 AD)
  • D. Medieval technological revolution (930-1200 AD)
  • E. Renaissance technological revolution (1340-1470 AD)

Potential future technological revolutions

After 2000 there became popular the idea that a sequence of technological revolutions is not over and in the forthcoming future we will witness the dawn of a new universal technological revolution. The main innovations should develop in the fields of nanotechnologies, alternative fuel and energy systems, biotechnologies, genetic engineering, new materials technologies and so on .[7]

Relation to "technological revolution" and "technical revolution"

Sometimes the notion of "technological revolution" is used for the Second Industrial Revolution in the period about 1900, but in this case the designation "technical revolution" would be more proper. When the notion of technical revolution is used in more general meaning it is almost identical with technological revolution, but technological revolution requires material changes in used tools, machines, energy sources, production processes. Technical revolution can be restricted to changes in management, organisation and so called non-material technologies (e.g. a progress in mathematics or accounting).

List of intellectual, philosophical and technological revolutions (sectoral or universal)

Technological revolution can cause the production-possibility frontier to shift outward and initiate economic growth

See also


  1. ^ Klein, Maury(2008): The Technological Revolution, in The Newsletter of Foreign Policy Research Institute, Vol.13, No. 18. [1]
  2. ^ Perez, Carlota (2009):Technological revolutions and techno-economic paradigms., in Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics, Working Paper No. 20, (Norway and Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn) [2]
  3. ^ for example: Perez, Carlota (2009):Technological revolutions and techno-economic paradigms., in Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics, Working Paper No. 20, (Norway and Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn) [3]
  4. ^ based onmihula, Daniel (2011): Long waves of technological innovations, Studia politica Slovaca, 2/2011, Bratislava, ISSN 1337-8163, pp. 50-69. [4]
  5. ^ for example: Drucker, Peter F. (1965):The First Technological Revolution and Its Lessons. [5]
  6. ^ ?mihula, Daniel (2011): Long waves of technological innovations, Studia politica Slovaca, 2/2011, Bratislava, ISSN 1337-8163, pp. 50-69
  7. ^ Philip S. Anton, Richard Silberglitt, James Schneider (2001): The Global Technology Revolution - Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015., RAND, ISBN 0-8330-2949-5

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