Over the past few lessons, you’ve read about how the military rapidly creates and integrates new technologies. Many military innovations have gone on to be used by civilians in everyday life (Dugan & Gabriel, 2013). Nuclear technology first developed for atomic weapons is now used to generate electricity, for example, and microwaves that were first employed for radar are now used to heat food. Other military innovations that have been adapted to civilian use include the Global Positioning System (GPS) and duct tape.
And this technology crossover isn’t just a recent trend: the metalworking techniques invented to forge strong armor in the Middle Ages were also critically important to the development of agricultural tools. If we look back to the great artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, we’ll see that many of the problems he tried to solve had military origins. We can find examples of many military devices sketched in his notebooks, including early plans for tanks, fire-throwing devices, crossbows, and armed chariots (Willings, 2019). His inventions began as ways to use technology to create an advantage in war, but his ideas had far-reaching effects in civilian life as well.
One thing you may not know was invented in the military is the internet. Military researchers began exploring the possibility of a digital communication network in 1977, and with rising tensions during the Cold War, they worked to create a product that would let military forces coordinate and communicate more effectively. This product laid the foundation for the internet that has now become central to our lives.
Dugan, R., Gabriel, K. (2013, October). Special Forces’ Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems. Harvard Business Review. www.hbr.org/2013/10/special-forces-innovation-how-darpa-attacks-problems
Willings, Adrian. (2019, May 31). 28 Ways Military Tech Changed Our Lives. Pocket-lint. www.pocket-lint.com/gadgets/news/143526-how-military-tech-changed-our-lives
Source: Strategic Education, Inc. 2020. Learn from the Past, Prepare for the Future.