II . Outcome of the Study Groups - Summary

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13. HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY

1. Japanese experience as viewed through the history of technology -- Tetsuro Nakaoka
2. A history of technological policy -- Hoshimi Uchida

Nakaoka's approach to the various difficulties the LDCs face in technology transfer is to examine the ways in which Japan transformed itself from the state of underdevelopment to that of a developed country.

The foremost result of this process is the surprising degree of similarity of Japan's experience with that of Europe. The study also points out, however, that these similarities were accompanied by differences, implying that each and every people can and must select their own path of technological development and cannot follow the Western pattern in every detail.

Nakaoka focuses on Japan's iron-making and textiles as representing heavy and light industries respectively, thus making it possible to establish a broader perspective in examining such issues as peripheral technologies, services and available markets, as well as management and labour.

His study of iron-making activities highlights the degree to which Japan's development lagged behind that of the West in terms of the theoretical stages of development. The accumulation of skills in the traditional tatara method of iron-making is emphasized because it helped close the gap. The government-run Kamaishi Iron Works achieved success in technology transfer at the initial stage in terms of the quality and the output of pig iron, but it failed in converting its fuel from charcoal to coke. The subsequent successes following the switch to private management of the plant are pointed out as having been due to fuel factors as well as to the smaller scale of operation which was more appropriate for the then available market opportunities. The nature of the linkages attained with the surrounding environment in resource and fuel supply, motive power, and transportation was thus crucial.
Nakaoka points out in this connection that the puddling process (to convert pig iron into malleable iron) was virtually skipped in Japan, drastically shortening the time span needed in each stage of development from 400 years to a little over 50 years.

In the textile field, the three stages of (1) the first Western-style spinning mills introduced to Japan around 1870, (2) ten government-aided small-scale mills established around 1880, and (3) the large-scale Osaka Cotton Spinning Company established in 1882, are examined from a technological viewpoint, confirming the importance of related technologies and fringe services. Of great importance was the transformation of the managers themselves, from concerned intellectuals to managers with specialized knowledge, and the formation of skilled labour, which meant a changge from control-evading agricultural labourers to well-disciplined industrial workers.

It is argued that Japan's textile industry succeeded, despite its low productivity of only one-third to one-fifth that in contemporary Britain, chiefly by specializing in the production of low-count yarn and by linking itself with the home spinning or cottage industry that prevailed throughout Japan at that time. It is also argued that the spinning mules constituted an excessively advanced technology even in the United States, where there were many immigrant workers with high skills. It is also noted that when the mules were invented in the 1770s, there were only wooden machines. The spinning industry, thus, also needed wood-processing technologies, i.e., the skills of loom-makers (such as Sakichi Toyoda, the Japanese inventor of the automatic loom), water-wheel-makers, and iron-moulders. The encounter of these traditional skills with advanced technologies created the "intermediate technology" of the time. As an example, modern spinning and the traditional system of cloth production complemented each other to attain a very rapid development in Japan, serving as a stage only one step behind the development of full-fledged machine production.

Uchida follows the 110-year-long history of technology policy from 1825 to 1935 by dividing it into four periods.

In the first period, 1825-1868, prior to the Meiji Restoration, what was to become the prototype of the policy toward technology of the Meiji government was already observable in the shogunate and some individual fiefs. For example, the closed door policy of the shogunate really meant the selective import of science and technology information by the central government. Similarly, the various policies pursued by the individual fiefs to promote industry were in fact revenue-securing measures. The samurai class constituted the bureaucracy and the intellectuals, rather than being the warrior class, preparing the stage for the coming technological advances.
Forced to open up some ports to the world at large after 1854 but intent on maintaining national independence, the shogunate began introducing new technologies in shipbuilding, gun making, and army operations. No consideration was given to family background in seeking talented people to work at the institutions for translating technical books.

The second period, 1868-1885, covering the first half of the Meiji era, witnessed a rash "Westernization" in government-run, model plants. Not merely were equipment and machines purchased from the West, but also engineers and technicians were employed by the government, operating the plants themselves and instructing the workers. These foreign specialists numbered 239, in 1873; they declined in number, however, after 1875.

In this period there were no coherent plans or policies on the part of the government to promote the development of technology. Influential government leaders failed to agree on the issues, and various departments and agencies pursued their own policies with little co-ordination. But the competence level of the Japanese populace steadily improved throughout this period.

The third period, 1885-1910, saw a definite policy change, marking the beginning of efforts to seek Japan's unique path to modernization. Most government enterprises (except for the military services, money printing, railways, and communications) were privatized, and the accompanying transfer of trained manpower to the private sector became a milestone in the dissemination of new technology in Japan.

The government then began to opt for a more indirect means of promoting technical education, guidance, and control. For instance, a faculty of engineering was established in all the imperial universities, and the technical high schools, unique to Japan, taught dyeing, pottery, soy-sauce making, and other skills that were not taught in the universities. These graduates served as the source of engineers for the private and traditional sectors.

On the secondary level, technical schools and agricultural schools, supplemented by other vocational schools covering merchant marine technologies and fishery, were established.

Of particular interest at this time were schools established by each ministry to train its own personnel in such areas as railway operation, weather forecasting, and communications. Experimental stations and other research institutions were also run by the various ministries. The army and the navy pursued their own technology policies to attain independence in arms supply by promoting the domestic production of arms. This was virtually attained by the 1910s even in the navy. Far higher levels of skills in producing machine tools and the outflow of such highly trained technicians into the private sector during the major wars Japan fought, also served the cause of technological dissemination.

In the fourth period, 1910-1935 the emphasis of the government's technology policy was on the practical application of technological information by the already highly trained engineers, technicians, and mechanics. The goal of the army and the navy to help Japan become a military power, coincided with the aspirations of the party politicians to make Japan a first-rate industrial nation. The government provided assistance and subsidies for the development of indigenous technologies, and heavy and chemical industrialization was vigorously promoted, indirectly encouraged by the import stoppage during the First World War.

In this period, domestic items were substituted for imports among the following items: woollen goods, felt wares, clocks and watches, sewing machines, pianos, cameras, calculating machines, motorbikes, microscopes, telephone and telegraph equipment, electric fans, tyres, and art paper. This attests to the high degree of development of the metal and machining industries.

On the other hand, a group of big businesses of a new type were born with their technological basis in the heavy and chemical industries. A member of this group, the Institute of Physics and Chemistry, had its origin as a research institute for basic science which was established in 1916 with heavy government assistance.

Thus, Uchida notes the existence of many sectors that were started as government priority projects and were later transferred to private hands. The role of engineers and inventors is also emphasized. It was only in 1942 that, for the first time, technology policy was made a major objective of the government and an agency for technology was established.