States to look at our factories and how we manufacture. Now, we go there to look at their production lines. The Japanese have also come to look at our technology, but now is the time for Americans to look and learn from Japanese technology. In a global environment, no country can sit idly by and ignore the rapid progress being made in other countries.

The Japanese appreciate the importance of information. They have almost a passion for information of all kinds. They love studies and they believe in making assessments, quantitative comparisons of all kinds of factual data. Much more than in the United States, the Japanese believe in, and use, statistical data to make predictions. I was particularly impressed by their use of the Delphi method to make predictions. A good example is Future Technology in Japan-Forecast to the Year 2015. It was published by The Institute for Future Technology (4th technology forecast survey of the Science and Technology Agency (STA)). It is updated regularly, with the last version being printed in 1988.

The closest parallel to this work in the United States is the annual critical technologies report issued by the Department of Defense. However, no such unclassified report existed prior to 1989, while the Japanese have been publishing their reports for at least 15 years. Unlike us in the United States, the Japanese spend much time and money learning what others are doing. In fact, they are proud of the type of assessments they are able to make of other people's work, and often have chided us for not paying attention to their work. One of the surprising comments made to me by a Japanese colleague back in 1984 when I started the Japanese assessment program called JTEC, was "It is time that you Americans are starting to pay attention to what we are doing. We have been following your work for some time now, but you don't even pay attention to our technical journals published in English."

Just how interested the Japanese are in foreign technology is illustrated in Table 1. The data was published in 1987 by the General Affairs Agency

TABLE 1 Trade in Technology Information in 1987 (million dollars)


From Japan

To Japan

United States



Western and Eastern Europe



Asia, and other continents



NOTE: Technology information includes all forms of information transfer: books, journals, newspapers, video and audio tapes, and compact disks.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, November 14, 1988.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement