Technology Transfer

Most technologies are local creations. Members of a population will identify a need, find naturally occurring phenomena that can be controlled and applied to meet that need, and then design a new hard or soft technology based on the phenomena or they will exapt an existing technology to meet a need. Different populations, even those with similar local resources will sometimes create similar technologies to meet similar needs and sometimes different technologies. Attempts to transfer a technology from one population to another are frequently met with difficulties that arise some several factors.

In general, technologies will transfer from one population to another when there is no preexisting and well-established technology for that domain in the receiving population and when the culture is receptive to the changes induced by the accepted technology. Factors influencing the receptivity to a technology include existing skills and existing psychological or sociological taboos or preferences. Also, new technologies can pose threats to old expertise and existing hierarchies that can inhibit transfer of technology. Further, governments that attempt to prevent the diffusion of a technology through regulation generally fail.

Historian of technology, Arnold Pacey (1990) observed that, occasionally, technologies can be transferred from one population and region to another and the technology and the social implications of the technology are adopted and the population adapts to its influence. In other cases, the receiving population is slow to adapt to new technologies. In many cases, the arrival of new technologies (by transfer) is associated with a period of expanded innovation as the receiving population modifies the technology and invents new uses of the technology and new social expectations as a result of the technology.


Pacey, Arnold. (1990). Technology in World Civilization. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.