The volume is a compilation of papers presented at the Sixth Convocation of the Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences held in Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1987. The convocation brought together about one hundred leaders in technology from more than twenty countries to discuss issues of “Technology and the Global Economy.” The program of the convocation was structured around four objectives:
identification and discussion of the driving technologies of the current era, for example, in materials, information, and manufacturing;
evaluation of how technological advances are transforming industrial sectors such as telecommunications and construction;
exploration of how in turn the global economy is affecting technology and production through such factors as marketing strategies, intellectual property rights, and financial markets; and
clarification of regional and national consequences of globalizing industries for several geographical areas including the Pacific Rim, Western Europe, and Latin America.
An overall assessment of the issues raised was provided in conclusion by a panel consisting of Morris Tanenbaum, Wolf Häfele, Sir Robin Nicholson, and Robert Malpas. On the one hand, their assessment made clear that though most technological advance occurs in industry, there are too few mechanisms for exchange of views on international technology and cooperation that involve both private and public sector representatives in a forum not constrained by the formal policies and stands of national governments. There is great need for improved and more open lines of international communication on topics where engineering and technology intertwine with trade and economic growth.
At the same time, the panelists’ evaluations made clear a hierarchy of four sets of relationships among technology, technologists, and the societies they attempt to serve. The first of these includes relationships at the human level, ranging from professional education to relations between management and labor to the public’s understanding of the impact of technology on our lives. The second includes relationships at the institutional level, that is, the impact of technology on the management of businesses and industries. The third relationship is at the national level, where public and private interactions determine the use of technology and possibly a country’s ability to grow economically. The fourth relationship occurs at the international level. Here information flows, trade frictions, and alliances characterize technological development, its diffusion, global competition, and economic advance.
At the human level a key area of change is the invisible contract between a manufacturing company and its customers and employees. In the factory, we are seeing a movement away from the expectation that workers should be organized to fit the technologies and a movement toward networking and