People often say that war is a great boon for technological development.
They say that war accelerates the pace of technological development. And that some things might not exist if certain wars had not taken place. But is there any truth to this? Let us take a brief look.
War, or the threat of an upcoming war, is a great incentive to develop military technology.
For instance, during the start of the First World War, aircraft usage in war was relatively limited. The military aircraft that existed was fairly primitive. During the war, there was a rapid development of military aircraft.
Anti-aircraft guns were conceived of before the First World War. However, they underwent significant development in response to the use of aircraft in the war.
There are countless other examples of military technology being developed during times of war. From wire-cutters to code-cracking technology.
So, it is fair to say that wars are a great incentive for the development of military technology.
All sides of a war are frequently trying to develop new technologies. This has the tendency to lead to a technology arms race where the other side is racing to try to develop better still military technology.
So, when it comes to military technology, then war can be a boon to technological development.
Military technology is of course developed in times of peace. We see this all the time. After World War 2, many major powers continued to develop their air forces, develop better artillery forces and to research and develop better tank technology. A great deal of military technological development occurs during peacetime.
War is expensive.
The cost of deploying troops and the like often means less money is available for funding military research. But in peacetime, there is often much more money to spend on military research.
So we cannot say that military technology universally undergoes greater development during times of war. Some forms of military technology do but it is often true that even military technology develops at a faster pace during times of peace.
And, what about non-military technology?
Wars tend to impair the development of non-military technologies. Why is this?
War tends to be a very expensive endeavor. It costs a lot of money to deploy troops and military hardware in a timely and effective manner.
Money has to come from somewhere.
Hopefully, the money spent does not exceed a reasonable military budget. However, sometimes war requires more money to be put aside and diverts it from other areas of the economy. We saw this during both World Wars and many wars since then.
During World War II America turned much of its economy over to wartime production. This impacted many industries. They had to tighten their belts so that America could turn a certain amount of its economy over to wartime production. As did many other countries involved in the war.
In some cases, military production takes over a certain amount of production and money.
Wars have to be won. Nobody expects to win wars for free.
This shift in investment means businesses have less money to research technology. It means they have less money to spend producing technology. Some businesses may never have the funds to get their technology off the ground.
Yes, the people making tanks and other military equipment might benefit. But companies like Microsoft lose out. They could have used the money that goes into producing tanks to develop some amazing new software.
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