Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Military contributions to technology - it's now happening in reverse

I did a research project on military contributions to technology when I was in Officer training school in the Navy.

Many of the technologies we rely on today were researched for military use. My own grandfather was a research scientist that made great leaps in chemistry during WWII, and some of his research was eventually published for academic use (Although his Ph.D thesis was classified for many years).

The Economist has an interesting take on this phenomenon, and it's arguing it's now happening in reverse.

THE earliest computers were used to crack codes and simulate nuclear explosions. The internet grew out of a military research project. In-car navigation systems rely on satellites that were put into orbit to guide ships, troops and missiles. The Boeing 747, with its raised cockpit, was designed as a military transporter. In each case a technology created for military use has gone on to become widely used by civilians. That this happens so often is not surprising: the military is, after all, a deep-pocketed customer prepared to fund the development of expensive new technologies. As gizmos become smaller and cheaper—and they invariably do—they are then able to percolate from the soldier on the battlefield to the man in the street.

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