Problem

Technological monoculture

Other Names:
Dependence on dominant technology
Dependence on single technology
Restriction of the technical basis of competition
Self-limiting technical innovation
Reduction of technological diversity
Nature:
Following the emergence of a fundamentally new technological innovation, the structure of the industry established around it is characterized by a high degree of diversity and experimentation primarily focused on product performance rather than price. Through competition a particular dominant approach emerges which increasingly concentrates on incremental improvements to the core technology emphasizing cost, reliability and standardization. The success development of products based on this technology steadily narrows the technical basis for competition even though it becomes more intense. As a result technical alternatives are ignored or remain unexplored even though they might prove inherently superior in terms of cost or performance. The cost advantage of continued dependence on the dominant technology precludes attention to other possibilities. It also discourages attention to technical factors in that technology that might affect higher order social or environmental impacts. But as the dependence on that technology becomes increasingly widespread new difficulties resulting from the scale of its application become important, just when the kinds of research and development capable of anticipating such problems have been phased out as irrelevant to the further commercial success of the technology. And yet it is often at this point that the technology becomes vulnerable to unexpected side effects which can generate social reactions against it. Those controlling the application of the technology may then consider it appropriate to counteract such concerns by more sophisticated marketing or by more active measures. But any short-term success with such a response may prove to be counter-productive to the long-term interests of the corporations concerned by delaying the adaptive measures they will eventually be forced to take.
Incidence:
Examples include automobile, computer, plastics, pharmaceutical nuclear, and industrialized agriculture technologies.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET