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What is Soft Technology?
Zhouying JIN

Soft-tech and hard-tech are the different paradigm of technology in the broad sense, their distinction bases on operational object, and the title of soft & hard technology was edified by different functions of computer software & hardware. As economies develop and technology changes, the boundary between hard and soft technology blurs. However, in general, “hard” refers to the physical entities through which operations are conducted; “soft” refers to entities without physical form and embodied process. As a vivid example, service is a process technology which belongs to soft technology. Namely, “hard” refers to tangible phenomena, while “soft” refers to intangible phenomena.

In other words,technology is the means and tools for “problem solving”.

In the long history of human society, in order to survive and develop, humankind continued to invent, create, innovate various means, tools and methods to solve “problems” which they meet everyday. As traditionally understood, “technology” describes an operable knowledge system that is mainly derived from the knowledge of natural science, namely, the skills, tools, and rules that are employed by humans to alter, accommodate-to (humans can only accommodate to nature, and not control it), and manage nature. Well then, those operable knowledge systems derived from social sciences, non-natural sciences, and non-scientific (traditional) knowledge, aimed at solving various practical problems, also belong to the category of “technology”, we can entitle the former as “hard technology” and the latter as “soft technology.”

Soft technology comes about through the conscious use of common laws or experiences in economic, social, and humanistic activities, then shapes the rules, mechanisms, means, institutions, methods, and procedures that contribute to the improvement, adaptation, or control of the subjective and objective world. We can say that the "soft" technologies are drivers of physical "hardware" technologies.

Nowadays, the softening of science and technology is one of the remarkable trends. At present, soft-tech development exhibits the following characteristics: 1) soft technology is transforming hard technology through its human nature;2) increasing soft technology as the core technologies are creating new industries; 3) new fields of soft technology are rapidly rising; 4) the further integration of soft technology and hard technology.

Although there are thousands of years of soft-tech practical history, the theory of soft technology rests on the stage of ground breaking, and soft technology study is still a new ground which opens up before us.

To lucubrate technology which extolled as “engine” for development of human society, develop soft-tech consciously and systematically, renew the notion of technology innovation, institutional innovation, technological competitiveness, nation’s competitiveness as well as various “gaps”, will help us change the thinking mode,foster and exert our creativities.




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