“2001: A Space Odyssey” is a 1968 epic science fiction film. The movie opens with a group of ape-like hominins being forced from their watering hole by a more aggressive rival tribe.
Sometime later one member of the clan kicked out of the watering hole is playing the bleached leg bone of a large animal. Wielding the bone, the ape pounds the ground until he smashes the skull of the dead animal.
His troop returns to the watering hole and now armed with their new weapons, kills the opposing leader and reclaims their territory. Technology wins, especially if you have a monopoly on it.
Ancient Rome conquered the Western world not only through its military but also through its construction technology. Their roads were built to withstand even the harshest environments and flooding. Roman structures were so durable because of the use of concrete. Many Roman structures that are still standing today were built with this concrete.
England colonized the world because of its navy, a result of Britain’s technological lead, giving an increasing advantage over its enemies for nearly 200 years. Steam engines were developed to pump out deep mines to get at the coke that fired the iron founding process. The technology for boring cannon was subsequently used to make pistons for steam engines. Copper was mined in vast quantities for the first time to provide sheathing for the hulls, which hugely improved their endurance.
The US virtually owned the 20th century because of the technology developed including the light bulb, electricity, and transmission systems with the single most important invention of the 20th century being the transistor.
I can remember seeing color television for the first time when I was eight years old. The hand-held transistor radio became a “Walkman” and eventually in 2001, the iPod. Now we have streaming music. The last half of the 20th century was a period of expecting and anticipating the next jump forward in technology.
The original iPhone came out in 2007 and we are now at iPhone 14. The original PlayStation was first released in December 1994 and the PS5 in 2020. But with both of those products, there is not much fundamental difference between the “original” and the “latest.” Control of the latest technology created the Roman, British, and American empires. Who might be in charge now?
Similar to the US government’s RAND Corporation is the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a defense and strategic policy think tank founded by the Australian government and funded by the Australian and overseas governments, and defense and technology companies. Published last week is the “ASPI’s Critical Technology Tracker: The global race for future power,” answering the question “Who is leading the Critical Technology race?”
From the 75-page report: “Western democracies are losing the global technological competition, including the race for scientific and research breakthroughs, and the ability to retain global talent—crucial ingredients that underpin the development and control of the world’s most important technologies, including those that don’t yet exist. Our research reveals that China has built the foundations to position itself as the world’s leading science and technology superpower.” ASPI covered 44 technology areas.
The US controls 28.3 percent of technology in the area of “Vaccines and medical countermeasures.” China controls 48.4 percent in “Advanced aircraft engines” versus the US with 11.7 percent.
ASPI looked at the degree of “Technology Monopoly Risk.” Of the 44 technology areas, eight carry a “HIGH” degree of monopoly risk.These include Nanoscale materials and manufacturing, Advanced radiofrequency communications, Hydrogen and ammonia for power generation, Supercapacitors, Electric batteries, and Synthetic biology. All eight with the high monopoly risk belong to China. There is a “Medium Risk” of US monopoly in “Quantum computing.”
The conclusions: “China is further ahead in more areas as the leading country in 37 of the 44 technologies evaluated. Urgent policy changes, increased investment and global collaboration are required from many countries to close the enormous and widening gap (with China).” Good luck with that.
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