Comstock Technology Assessment Matrix

Comstock Technology Assessment Matrix

Technology Assessment

In 1972, Roland Comstock, at that time, Presidential Staff Assistant at Northern States Power Co., set forth a method for technology assessment which can provide every citizen concerned about legislation, government policy, and long-range corporate planning. with a convenient method of analyzing the claims that a new technological breakthrough is only a few months (years?) and a few million (billion?) dollars away.
Each technology should be assessed against a number of constraints in a manner analogous to a series of sieves vertically stacked, each of a finer mesh. What is left after testing the proposed technological solutions for the “problem” of concern at the moment is some rational and reasonable idea of which technologies are most suitable for deployment, and some guides toward where R&D priorities ought to focus.

A Technology Assessment Matrix

Constraints

Assessment

Concept

Based on present information/knowledge, what is or at least seems to be workable? What technologies survive because the basic idea is sound?

Time

Limit consideration of technologies that have little or no chance of deployment within the next 25 years and give priority to those that have near-term development possibilities.

Available resources

Of those technologies which have the potential for near-term deployment, what are the relative conversion efficiencies in relation to availability of natural resources such as fuel and water? Reject those which are inappropriately wasteful.

Practicality

Of those technologies which have the potential for near-term deployment and reasonable conversion efficiencies in relation to available resources, eliminate those which pose apparently unsurmountable operational problems.

Environmental Impact

Of those technologies which have potential for near-term deployment with reasonable conversion efficiencies in relation to available natural resources, and which do not pose insurmountable operational problems, eliminate those which pose unacceptable environmental impacts.

Scale

Of those technologies which have potential for near-term deployment with reasonable conversion efficiencies in relation to available natural resources, and which do not pose insurmountable operational problems, and unacceptable environmental impacts, assume maximum probable (or even maximum possible) deployment and then exclude those technologies whose potential contribution is simply not large enough in relation to the size of the problem.

Money

Of those technologies which have potential for near-term deployment with reasonable conversion efficiencies in relation to available natural resources, and which do not pose insurmountable operational problems, and unacceptable environmental impacts, and which can contribute significantly to satisfying human needs, eliminate those technologies which—­at this point in time—­appear to be unacceptably expensive in the first instance to those industrial and commercial entities which are expected to deploy the technology and ultimately to the society which must pay for it.