Someone needs to buy manufactured technology eventually in a monetized economy

The only way that a technology ends up being used by people who are not building it is if it’s sold or given away. In either situation, it needs to be “productized” ie. made legible and useful for people outside the organization. If it is going to be sold on an open market, it also needs to be “commercialized” ie. made cheap and desirable enough that it makes sense to sell it in the first place.

As with anything there are exceptions. The major exception happens when a technology is created and used entirely internally to an organization. Many of the internal tools used at Google are clean examples of entirely internally created, manufactured, and used tools. Additionally there is open pen source software. Firms can create technology barter deals. At-home manufacturing completely breaks the model, although arguably that would just be a trend towards a less monetized economy.

It’s a common perception that the military creates internal technology similar to Google and sits outside the market as an unmoved mover of technology. The US government’s version of internal technology creation is less clean than Google’s. The government owns R&D labs in order to create the technology that it specifically needs. However, to my knowledge, the government still contracts out manufacturing to external firms as opposed to owning the manufacturing plant and giving it a budget. However, many of these contracting firms only work for the US government (as opposed to the big primes) so they may be part of the government for all intents and purposes. Organizations can get incomes via Contracts, budgets, or products. So even military technology is purchased eventually. The firms that sell to the military need to pay their bills so the costs do matter (though cost-plus contracting distorts this) and if the military paid less than the cost of the goods the firms would go out of business. And while the US military spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year ($934B in 2019), it does not have infinite money. So while they are weaker, I’d argue that the forces of market discipline do act on military technology - if it becomes cheaper for the same quality it will be used more.

If this view is correct, it means that in a monetized economy, commercialization is an essential step on a technology’s path to adoption. There is an implicit feeling among some technologists^1 that commercialization is a lesser activity for people just out to make money. Instead, it should be seen as a critical part of Phenomena-based cycles.


^1: My past self included, which is one of the reasons for this note.

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