Future Worlds pp 159-183 | Cite as

Policies and Prospects: Technical and Social Change

  • John Gribbin


Forecasting technical change is a dangerous business. Most people who have tried it in the past — industry, government or university academics — have made absolute howlers when attempting to spell out how much time or money will be required to develop a new technology, and how acceptable it will be to the intended users. The ghastly example of Concorde, and the continuing arguments about nuclear fast-breeder reactors, provide two obvious examples. Looking back to the mid-1960s, we can find such statements as:

The years 1965/66 will be memorable in the history of man’s control of energy. Ten years ago, nuclear energy could compete with fossil power only where there was a shortage of coal and of oil or where (as in England) there was a growing reluctance to mine the thinning coal deposits, and this was possible only because the byproduct plutonium could be sold to the military. It was a great surprise, even to many experts, when in these last years not only the cost per kilowatt hour of nuclear plants fell below that of coal-burning plants, but even the capital cost per installed kilowatt, by the advent of the American boiler reactor. In Britain probably the last coal-burning plant ever to be built is now on order. [my italics]. (Dennis Gabor, ‘Material Development’, in Mankind 2000, ed. Robert Jungk and Johan Galtung, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, 1969, p. 159.)


Technical Change Poor Country Land Reform Poor Nation Rich Nation 
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Copyright information

© The Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, and John Gribbin 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Gribbin
    • 1
  1. 1.Science Policy Research UnitUniversity of SussexBrightonEngland

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