Keywords: resource use policies, resource allocation, social value, dynamical systems, systems thinking, innovation, technology forecasting, non-renewable resources, real option valuation, sustainable societies, sustainability, sustainable development, technology leverage, economic value, input resources, valued outputs, output values, conversion processes, conservation, society, systems science, assessment methods, social systems
Technology leverage and a sustainable society: a call for technology forecasting that anticipates innovation
We argue that economic value to society is created by converting input resources into valued outputs though the application of technology. To support this argument, the concept of technology leverage is introduced, and it is noted that the same input resource can be converted into different output values depending upon the technology employed in the conversion process and the state of technical innovation at the time the conversion occurs. This implies that through as yet unrealised innovations, future generations may create greater value for the same amount of resource than is currently possible. This difference has significant ramifications for current day resource allocation decisions. In addition to more conventional conservation arguments, technology leverage also recognises that the future value of retaining resources, especially non-renewable ones, may be evaluated using real option valuation techniques. These concepts are helpful in determining more comprehensive policies relating to resource allocation decisions.