UN UNIVERSITY LECTURES: 9
Why the Quest Was Uncertain
Centre Science, Technologie et Société,
Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers
A Presentation Made at the United Nations University
on 11 July 1994,
Let me start by expressing my deep gratitude to the United Nations University and in particular the Rector, Professor Gurgulino de Souza, for the support they gave to the project that resulted in the volume already published in English and French (and which will soon appear in Spanish) under the title: The Uncertain Quest: Science, Technology and Development. This was in itself an uncertain endeavour: to bring together 16 contributors from all around the world; to reach a consensus about what needs to be known, reviewed and evaluated in a field that is by nature multi-disciplinary, without clear-cut frontiers, and where views sometimes differ radically and where ideologies can easily intrude. It is a tribute to Professor Gurgulino de Souza, to recall his immediately enthusiastic reaction to the project and his constant support ever since.
What was our aim in preparing this volume? First, we wanted to produce a sourcebook in every sense of the term, i.e., present the most up-to-date information on the knowledge, controversies, experiences and problems related to the interactions between science, technology and development, including the most pertinent and important bibliographical references. We intended the book not only for students at any level in a wide range of disciplines, but also for researchers, administrators and (why not) policy makers and even politicians-assuming that such people still have the time and are willing to learn by reading.
Secondly, in this time of considerable changes, questionings and reappraisals, we wanted to stress that science and technology do matter, and nowadays, matter more and more. This should be self-evident, and yet we all know that in many developing countries, this fact is still so little appreciated, by both decision makers and the general public, that people either do not know or do not realize the benefits that a deliberate and consistent development strategy can derive from scientific and technical resources.
Thirdly, we felt it essential to place the "defence and illustration" of the role that science and technology can play in the process of development in a critical context, namely that these benefits can never be taken as given and cannot be understood or assessed in a simple-minded positivist manner. Too often people underestimate the fact that science and technology function successfully only within a larger social, political and economic environment which provides an effective combination of non-technical incentives and complementary inputs in the innovation process. Science and technology are not exogenous factors that determine a society's evolution independently from its historical, social, political, cultural or religious background.
To stress this point from the very outset of our endeavour meant that we would dispel any illusions that there was a linear and predictable relationship between science and technology and the development process. We had to take into account the variety of situations facing the developing countries, especially as regards their endowment in terms of science and technology, and thus the fact that there is no single model for defining and implementing strategies. Moreover, we had to acknowledge the contradictory, if not disappointing results achieved by development economics, and stress the effort that must be made in order to integrate science and technology policy into an overall policy for economic and social development.
Let me now review some clear lessons that have emerged from our quest.
Whatever its pace and level, development is a journey between tradition and modernity. In this dynamic process, quantitative indicators are always relative: development never stops and certainly is never achieved once for all, nor can progress be measured merely in quantitative terms. Neither "take-off" nor increasing industrialization can ever be a reliable guarantee against slipping back, as the example of Eastern Europe has shown recently. In addition, although the data available provide points of comparison, we are not dealing with a scale of values derived from a single theoretical pattern. The journey takes time, incurs costs, requires choices to be made, and so demands a resolute collective determination not simply to cope with the risks arising from change, but to try in a long-term perspective to guide change in a particular direction.
As Gunnar Myrdal has emphasized, the terminology used by the social sciences is not neutral.1 We now talk about "developing countries" rather than "underdeveloped countries" because we want to play down the realities of structural imbalance and stress instead the chances of catching up. The courteous language of diplomacy suggests that there is merely a short time-lag separating the industrialized countries from those that are not there yet: all that is needed in order to bridge the gap is to adopt the "right" economic policy. The term "developing country" is illogical, according to Myrdal, because it conveys the idea that there are countries which are not developing. Besides, it gives no indication of whether a country wants to develop or is taking practical steps to foster its development. In this sense, the first requirement-not just in terms of chronology, but above all of principles-can be summed up in this determination to try to develop, not so much with a view to breaking with the past (or at least not with all earlier traditions) as to acquiring the means to modernize. These means are partly but not entirely economic; institutional, social, political and cultural factors also count. The development process is a package in which success depends on many different elements in combinations that can never be determined by economic indicators alone.
The most general lesson is that technical change does not transform societies independently of other factors unrelated to technology as such. The social and cultural factors-the attitudes and the beliefs attached to economic, political and social organization-influence the role that science and technology play in a given society. In their turn, the spread of new knowledge, products and processes derived from scientific and technological progress transforms social structures, modes of behaviour and attitudes of the mind. The role of technical change in the process of economic growth is recognized by all theories of development. But what precisely is that role? In particular, what part did science and technology play in the economic and social transformations that accompanied the Industrial Revolution from its beginnings? Answers to these questions can be neither easy nor, consequently, swift, requiring as they do a subtle analysis, a long-term historical perspective, and reference to examples drawn from many different social sciences.
But one thing is sure: the ways in which technical change transforms attitudes, institutions and societies cannot be reduced to a simple linear relationship that is automatic, i.e., deterministic. And the rapid spread of a new technology never of itself implies rapid social change. Other factors are involved, such as economic, social and educational policies, the negotiations and agreements between interest groups, the well-established customs of daily life and social institutions, the society's values and traditions. Science and technology are not independent variables in the process of development: they are part of a human, economic, social and cultural setting shaped by history. It is this setting above all which determines the chances of applying scientific knowledge that meets the real needs of a country. It is not the case that there are two systems-science and technology on one side and society on the other-held together by some magic formula. Rather, science and technology exist in a given society as a system that is more or less capable of osmosis, assimilation and innovation-but also of rejection-according to realities that are simultaneously material, historical, cultural and political. All in all, there is no inevitability in technical change: neither its pace nor its direction is predetermined (even though one cannot underestimate the strength of certain industrial and national lobbies in imposing their factories or products), and the success of an innovation is never certain. Technology influences economics and history, but it is itself the product and the expression of culture. In brief, science and tech-nology are a social process among others.
It is from this angle that the links between science, technology and society in developing countries should be addressed. Beyond a certain threshold of resources, capital accumulation is never by itself a guarantee of growth. On the contrary, it is first and foremost the organization of society-which in turn determines the organization of production-that allows a country to create and exploit its scientific and technical resources. These factors define the extent to which science and technology can operate to initiate and stimulate the process of development, and not vice versa. If science and technology are not external to this process, it is because they cannot themselves be either developed or used other than in a given economic and social framework. Extreme underdevelopment is, in this sense, the stage of development that puts no pressure on the social structure to become involved in scientific and technical research. And, lacking a favourable economic and social structure, even countries above this level may find themselves unable to take advantage of science and technology. The lesson to be kept from history, and especially history of science, is that the routes and institutions by which knowledge develops and is transmitted across a society, as much as across cultural frontiers, are neither linear nor mechanistic.
The Industrial Revolution witnessed the start of a new type of growth, which was connected with a succession of technical innovations that speeded up the pace of change, although their origins and development depended on a wide range of non-technical factors. In Europe, capitalistic competition encouraged technical developments geared to increasing labour productivity. These changes happened and were able to spread only because the economic, institutional and social circumstances were favourable. In their turn, these circumstances were altered by the progress of science and technology and then influenced the rate and direction of technical innovation. The process was extremely complex, as David Landes stressed in the conclusion to his history of the Industrial Revolution: "There is a wide range of links, direct and indirect, tight and loose, exclusive and partial, and each industrializing society develops its own combination of elements to fit its traditions, possibilities, and circumstances. The fact that there is this play of structure, however, does not mean that there is no structure".2
In this delicate and uncertain "play of structure", which is affected by the historical and cultural background of each country, the institutional and political prerequisites for making good use of the scientific and technical resources available mainly relate to these non-economic factors. The growing interdependence of nations and the emergence of the world economy have not abolished the individuality of cultures and societies. The journey from tradition to modernity raises the same question for all developing countries, but they are the only ones in a position to reply, in line with the decisions that they take themselves, about science and technology as about everything else. This question is double-edged: how to modernize without sacrificing tradition? How to preserve tradition without compromising modernization? More than ever, the hurly-burly of politics that we are witnessing as we approach the 21st century warns any developing country to be sensitive to the implications of this question.
If a book like ours had been prepared a quarter of a century ago, the editors and contributors would have been less hesitant to celebrate the marvels of what science and technology can offer to mankind. The title as well as the contents would have been more optimistic with regard to their potential positive influence. This does not mean that, in this turbulent sea of change, one can minimize the unprecedented opportunities for improvements in living standards offered by scientific and technological progress. No civilization has produced in so short a time so much new knowledge and technical know-how, all of which have permitted human beings to extend their understanding of Nature and themselves, and to increase the wealth of nations, as Christopher Freeman once put it, "not only in the narrow sense of increased prosperity, but also in the more fundamental sense of being able to do things which have never been done before at all".3 Modern science and technology have become such an indispensable ingredient of the development process that nothing can be built for the future without making the best of this ingredient.
Today, however, the uncertain quest of mobilizing science and technology for development appears more elusive. Again we must admit that our knowledge of the interactions between science, technology and development is fragmentary. The fundamental changes these concepts are now experiencing make it all the more difficult to derive authoritative and unambiguous conclusions from advances in the field. This task is made even more difficult by the constellation of political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, scientific and technological changes now occurring, for they are continuously altering the ways in which the processes of knowledge generation and utilization interact with other spheres of human activity. More important, the sidetracks, the adverse effects and the costs of change resulting from scientific and technical advances mean that progress as such can no longer be taken for granted. After Minamata, Seveso and Chernobyl, we know that the spectre of technological catastrophe is no longer a science-fiction fantasy. The dangers of nuclear weapons and energy and the damage to the environment from industrial activity put reason and rationality on trial-and this is also part of the new uncertainty of the quest. We have listed in the volume some of the most important changes in this constellation. Although they are common knowledge, they still deserved to be stressed if we want to understand and overcome the challenges ahead. The uncertain world in which we live has many dimensions: a rapidly shifting political setting, changes in the patterns of world economic interdependence, growth and diversification of social demands, emergence of environmental concerns, and major transformations in the cultural landscape. Let me just evoke some of these changes to illustrate how little we are prepared-in spite of the historically unparalleled scientific and technological tools we enjoy-to face what is at stake in the transition to the 21st century.
As to the political setting: The end of the Cold War has undermined the ideological, military and political foundations of the international order that prevailed during the last half-century. The world is in transition to a "post-bipolar" political and economic order, whose nature is in the process of being defined, but which requires a profound re-examination of the means to provide national, regional and international security as a precondition for development. Some of the elements of this new order include the potential elimination of the threat of an all-out nuclear war, an increase in the number and intensity of regional conflicts, the likelihood of a more cooperative approach to conflict resolution among key political and economic players, and an emerging larger role for international institutions in fostering and maintaining international security.
Ethnic and religious tensions within and among countries destabilize an order that the major military powers may no longer keep under their influence. Despite diminished global superpower rivalry, there is no evidence of a decline in regional disputes, or in organized violence by ethnic groups, independence movements, terrorists, or drug traffickers. At the same time, the nation-state is becoming less important as a political unit, in the sense of being able to control whatever phenomena-economic, social, environmental or technological-take place in the world at present. This is hard to get used to, for political systems are geared to focus on states as the locus of power and decision-making. The pre-eminence and sovereignty of states is being eroded in many aspects of foreign and economic policy, as is highlighted by the renewed importance of the United Nations in conflict prevention and resolution, by the proliferation of regional trade and economic agreements, by the growing economic power of international corporations, and by the conditions established by international financial institutions for obtaining access to resources under their control.
Political pluralism, popular participation and democratic movements are becoming a fact of life everywhere: East, West, North and South. It is now almost unthinkable to accept-at least without outrage, loud protest and international sanctions-any government's imposition of a repressive regime on its citizens. By the early 1990s Eastern European countries had their first open elections in half a century, a majority of the countries of Latin America had democratic regimes, a military coup failed in Russia, the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union were struggling to become modern nations. White rule has ended in South Africa, and there were pressures to abolish one-party rule in many countries in Africa. However, as the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, Somalia or Rwanda show, advances towards democracy and peaceful co-existence are, by no means, guaranteed.
As to the international economy: The major transformation taking place in the patterns of world economic interdependence include the rapid growth and globalization of financial markets, changes in trade patterns, and new situations in key countries that affect the world economy. International financial markets now comprise a tight web of transactions involving global securities trading, arbitrage in multiple markets and currencies, portfolio investments through a bewildering array of international funds, and massive transborder capital movements. Financial transactions have acquired a life of their own and are becoming separate from the production and distribution of goods and services.
So far, few developing countries have been able to benefit from the rapidly expanding flows of foreign direct investment, and only five developing economies accounted for about 80% of foreign direct investment flows: China, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt and Malaysia. The reasons why most of the poor countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East have not been able to attract direct foreign investment include their remote geographic location in relation to main export markets, the relatively small size of their domestic markets, deficiencies in physical and institutional infrastructure, lack of a skilled work force, inadequate investment incentives, but also-too often mainly-stupid and selfish behaviour of leaders only interested in seizing for themselves the scarce resources of their people.
But the most important changes in the direction and content of international trade are the emergence of the North Pacific as the world's largest trading area, the movement towards worldwide trade liberalization, the rise of regional trading blocs (Europe after 1992 and the North American Free Trade Agreement), and the shift in the content of international trade against primary commodities (exported mainly by developing countries) and in favour of high technology services and manufactured products (typically industrialized nations' exports). A new web of commercial linkages between transnational corporations-covering manufacturing, finance, trade and services-has now emerged, of which strategic alliances in pre-competitive research and development are a prime example.
In addition, we have seen completely new situations in several key countries and regions that affect the world economy significantly, such as the fact that the United States became a net debtor, Japan has become a dominant economic and financial actor in the international scene, and the USSR has dissolved and its republics are undergoing a painful transition towards market economies, a path followed earlier by Central and Eastern European countries. Growing interdependence has created an international economic environment which transmits disturbances and magnifies disruptions. Technological advances in telecommunications and information sciences have contributed to this, while the absence of effective international rules and institutions to regulate financial and trade flows-and the limitations of economic policy coordination among the world's leading economies-have helped to increase uncertainty.
As to the social demands: The explosive growth in social demands in the developing regions has been triggered largely by population increases during the last 30 years. Coupled with a significant slowdown in population growth in industrialized nations, this has led to a highly skewed worldwide distribution of social needs and the capabilities to satisfy them. The dynamics of population growth strongly condition the demand for food, education, employment, housing and other social goods. Although total world food production is sufficient to provide each and every human being with adequate nourishment, existing political, social and institutional arrangements-at both the national and international levels-have proven incapable of doing so. Armed conflicts, added to droughts and natural disasters, have conspired to make it even more difficult to ensure access to food in many developing countries.
Demand for basic health care and elementary education expanded at a rapid pace during the last three decades, as developing countries made efforts to improve the provision of these services to growing populations. Migration and accelerated urbanization created huge demands for housing, sanitation, transportation and energy supply-a situation that adds unmet urban needs and widespread urban poverty to the deprivation of typical rural populations throughout the developing world. But unemployment has merged as perhaps the most troublesome and persistent problem everywhere. This is a growing issue in industrialized countries, where technical change seems now to depend so heavily on capital that unemployment appears to have become one of the new structural characteristics of economic growth for the foreseeable future, if not for ever.
If there are reasons to be anxious about the outlook for employment in the industrialized countries, there are a few grounds for optimism about most developing countries. Here the jobs created by the new "techno-economic paradigm" resulting from computer and information sciences, biotechnologies, new materials, new telecommunications and media networks are generated against a background of non-employment, and the promises of a production system that will be more and more based upon robots and fully automated factories may increasingly conflict, in view of demographic trends, with the demand for jobs in developing countries. The spread of the new technologies is already transforming the very nature of work and leisure, creating jobs that are less and less like traditional tasks, although it is precisely these traditional tasks which still offer the largest number of employment opportunities in developing countries. Developing countries face the difficult challenge of raising labour productivity while at the same time absorbing the growing number of entrants into the work force.
Population imbalances could pose the problem of uncontrolled mass migration from developing to industrialized countries, threatening social cohesion and international solidarity. In some Western European countries there is already a backlash against "foreigners", although the fear of massive inflows of workers from the East or the South has failed-as yet-to materialize. The role of human capital and technological capabilities will become even more important as a major determinant of long-term growth in the next decade. In the developing countries, the level and quality of investments in human resources will have to rise significantly during and after the end of this century in order to deal with the rapid rise in the number of young people-the largest segment of the population-while ageing in industrialized nations will have a major impact on demand for social services as well as important consequences for the patterns of consumption, savings and even the direction of technical change.
As to concern about the environment: There is now greater awareness of the limits that the ability of natural ecosystems to regenerate themselves impose on human activities as well as of the dangers of the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, and from overloading the Earth's capacity to absorb waste. We have witnessed the emergence of truly global environmental threats, which underscored the possibility that unforeseen ecological instabilities could cause irreversible environmental damage. Major changes in life-styles will be essential around the world if we are to tackle the problem of environmental sustainability as we move into the 21st century.
The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro endorsed "Agenda 21", a wide-ranging world programme of action to promote sustainable development, but the negotiations exposed the divergence of perspectives between industrialized and developing nations, and the few items that were adopted in the Agenda are far from being taken seriously, far less implemented. Still, the greater importance of environmental concerns implies that access to development assistance during the next decade will be increasingly linked to attaining environmental objectives. Another result is that some industrialized countries are positioning themselves to compete in what will be one of the most dynamic markets of the future: that of environmentally sound technologies. Being able to deliver "green" technologies could soon become a source of competitive advantage in the global search for new markets.
As to the cultural transformations: Three powerful cultural forces are shaping the international scene in the transition to the 21st century: the growing importance of religious values and the rise of fundamentalism as a driving force of economic and political actions in many parts of the world; the tensions between pressures towards cultural homogeneity brought about by the pervasive influence of mass media, and the desire to preserve cultural identity; and the development of ethical issues at the forefront of choices in relation to the environment, to the new technologies and even to scientific research.
We have entered a technological world that will provide mankind with more and more artificial parts and manipulation that raise new issues and challenge traditional values. The "genetic man" as much as the "computer man"-or woman-as they are now developed by the progress of science and technology involve threats that go far beyond the fantasies of an Orwell or a Huxley. The mastery of human reproduction and the increasing commercial use of products from the human body lead to enormous ethical problems whose novelty leaves lawyers, representatives of religions, philosophers and (even more) politicians uncertain as to what is to be allowed or forbidden through scientific research. For instance, it will be difficult to impose a worldwide ban on any intervention on the human genome, although more and more biologists denounce the risk of eugenics and abuses involved in the progress of the most advanced bio-medical research. Some even suggest a moratorium in this field, such as Professor Pierre Chambon, who argued recently, in his inaugural lecture at the Coll(ege de France, that "a world moratorium for fifty years would seem to him an extremely wise decision".4
It is not a coincidence if, in most industrialized and in some developing countries, special Commissions have been set up, often at the level of the legislative branch, but also in the framework of advisory bodies independent from the executive, in order to anticipate and assess the impact of technical change and sometimes even that of scientific discoveries: Offices of Technology Assessment, Commissions on Bio-medical Ethics, on Freedom and Information Sciences, on the Prevention of Technological Risks, etc. An increasing number of fields call for mechanisms of regulation so as to correct, limit, and if possible avoid the negative or unforeseen effects of scientific and technological activities.
Against this background of fundamental changes in the international context, the single item which does not appear as uncertain is that North/South cooperation will remain a peripheral concern of industrialized countries, especially as they focus their attention on their own internal problems, on coordinating economic policies, on improving their competitiveness, and on easing the transition of the former Soviet Union and of Eastern Europe towards market economies. As prospects for greater resource flows to developing countries appear doubtful, policy reform, structural adjustment, and the mobilization of science and technology for development objectives will take place in a resource-constrained environment. This will test the political will of their governments to embark on the uncertain and long-term enterprise of building science and technology capabilities, particularly when facing a multiplicity of urgent short-term needs.
For all these reasons, nobody today can share the positivist optimism of the Enlightenment's concept of progress: the straight road to greater knowledge and material progress does not lead by the same token to the less direct road to "happiness" and "moral progress". During this century there have been so many dark sides in the balance sheet of scientific and technical progress that even the beneficial results are now under suspicion: is the price to be paid too high? Let us be unequivocal: modern science has been from its very outset an uncertain activity, but the cultural context in which it developed from the 17th to the l9th century never really treated its promises as threats to the survival of mankind. Nor did it lead to controversies that became the subject of public debate and concerns in the media and for the layman. The very uncertainty of the quest stems from this change, whose roots lie in what happened in the course of this century. And since science no less than technology was deeply implicated in what happened, it is legitimate to ask how far the rationality they reflect is adding to the problems mankind now has to face.
For instance, totalitarian regimes were built on philosophies that claimed to have a sense of history, and this historical necessity-which took the place of religion among people who proclaimed their lack of religion-was presented as a scientific fact. We have watched the collapse of these regimes, which managed to do enormous damage in a remarkably short time. But when we reflect on the political and military impetus behind this century's conflicts, and come full circle back to Sarajevo, it is hardly surprising that Reason comes under suspicion. What have we learned in this century beguiled by utopian dreams of perfect social order, of the possibility of creating new human beings fit for a brave new world? Pierre Hassner's answer is that we have discovered the fragility of human life in two senses: first, that the whole of civilization could be destroyed by nuclear weapons; second, that moral codes and standards of behaviour can easily be shattered when challenged by the most primitive forms of savagery.5
Science itself cheerfully lends its support to this savagery, and Hannah Arendt thought this was an aberration typical of our century: One can in the same breath "laud the natural sciences for having prompted a demonstrable and increasingly rapid growth of knowledge and capability", and "blame them for having increased in scarcely less demonstrable fashion, instruments of death, despair and nihilism". The most significant aspect of this nihilism and despair, Hannah Arendt added, is that "the natural sciences no longer spare the scientists, whose well-founded optimism could still be contrasted, during the 19th century, with the equally well-founded pessimism of the thinkers and poets".6
Another side of this aberrant behaviour has recently been commented upon by Albert Hirschman: the logic of the connections between political advance and economic development. Hirschman encapsulates the range of viewpoints in a few key phrases:
1. First, "All good things go together": economic development gives rise to political progress and vice versa, so that the two move ahead harmoniously, in parallel.
2. Then by contrast there is the pessimistic viewpoint that "Everything has its cost", or "There's no such thing as a free lunch", meaning that economic development carries with it automatically some political costs or vice versa: any political progress is likely to harm economic development.
3. Between these extremes there is a third and slightly more complex position, which could be labelled "per aspera ad astra": economic growth is all that matters initially, while political progress must be held back or even reversed, i.e., sacrificed in the name of economic gains; later, this temporary sacrifice will be made good. The opposite can also be considered worthwhile: to sacrifice economic development in the short term in order to achieve political progress.7
Albert Hirschman comments ironically on these views, noting that they must delight economists who believe in savings and deferred consumption, as well as psychologists used to the general notion of delayed satisfaction of desires. The fact is that the most rapid growth in the third world has occurred under extemely repressive regimes, although some repressive regimes also missed out completely on industrial growth. There can be no doubt that an interventionist modernization policy based on the most advanced technologies does not allow opposition or, even less, anarchy; and democracy does not foster decision-making or planning by a small group of technocrats or senior army officers, who choose to target one sector of development at the expense of all the rest. However much supporters of democracy may wish to see better links between political and economic progress, it appears that the two are more often quite separate. Economists, says Hirschman, have been reticent about making generalizations or conjectures in this area. But is the interpretation that he offers instead, in terms of "on and off connections", between independence and interdependence, really any improvement? Only in the long term is it possible to see a logic in the "repertory of historical ruses" that he suggests drawing up, but then in the long term, as Keynes would point out, the losers will be forgotten. In my own view, I'm afraid that the relationship is, like the famous residual factor fashionable in the 1960s, more a measure of our own ignorance than anything else.
Nevertheless, there is a lesson to be learned from this debate. Impatience to catch up, and the mirage of Western science as the magic formula required to do so, cause people to think that the process of modernization mainly involved finding technical solutions. The scientism-or the lack of awareness-that inspires this approach ignores the time factor and assumes that the elasticity of tolerance for the spurts of change is infinite. The success of the strategies of industrialization by forced marches is similar to cavalry charges that gain ground but put off the real battle-in this case, development. The inevitable inequalities of economic growth generate pressures that can act as stimulants in the short term, yet can become so unbearable in the medium term that they ultimately bring the whole process to a halt. Very few countries, so far, have been able to make these inequalities work in favour of the development of the whole of society-that is, without going too fast or too far in exploiting profitable opportunities. What is the elasticity of tolerance of growing income inequalities? The question is put in economists' jargon; in simpler political language it might be rephrased, At what point does pursuit of growth cause social unrest or even civil war?
Thus, the lesson is as simple as it is clear: history always gets its revenge on economics. A development policy that neglects the problem of income distribution inevitably lays itself open to social upheavals later on and consequently to the repercussions when the authorities are forced to become tougher and more arbitrary. To reconcile the ambition for economic growth with greater distributive justice is undoubtedly the surest way not only to avoid social upheavals, but also to guarantee continuing growth. None of the technical solutions offered by science and technology can act as a substitute for this political and social imperative. R}D is merely a tool used toward goals other than science in the strict sense-those are the objectives that shape the future of a society, not the other way around. Thus, even more than the industrialized countries, the programmes of scientific research and technical education cannot be separated from the type of development path each country hopes to follow. In other words, what a country wants to do with science and technology is ultimately linked to what it cares about.
The concept of the third world emerged as both a third element and a buffer more or less manipulated by and manipulating the two rival blocs-communism and capitalism-that confronted each other after World War II. Now that communism has collapsed, the notion of the third world is all the more meaningless in that most of the former communist countries have created a new category-that of industrialized countries which have become in their turn newly developing countries. Moreover, developing countries do not constitute a homogeneous category and the need to distinguish various levels of development and even underdevelopment is more pertinent than ever.
What is certain is that the world will continue to remain divided into two civilizations that interact strongly, although the interaction is one-sided: the second civilization is dependent and deeply affected by the first and lacks the capacity to influence the first civilization to the same degree in turn. The first civilization is based on the growth of science as the main knowledge-generating activity, the rapid evolution of science-related technologies, the incorporation of these technologies into productive and social processes, and on the emergence of new forms of working and living deeply influenced by the Weltanschauung of modern science and science-related technologies. The second civilization is characterized by its inability to generate scientific knowledge on a large scale and by a more or less passive acceptance of scientific results generated in the first; by a technological base that comprises a substantive component of traditional techniques and a veneer of imported techniques; by a productive system whose modern segment is dependent on the expansion of production in industrialized nations and on the absorption of imported technology.
The first civilization, corresponding to the developed or highly industrialized countries, has an endogenous scientific and technological base. This base is still present, in spite of its current difficulties and disruptions, in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, and one of the most important agreements signed in 1992 between the United States, the European Community and Japan was precisely intended to help these countries keep this base alive. This comes down to helping somebody not to sink when he or she already knows how to swim. The second civilization is not swimming, but struggling for survival, with the exception of a handful of countries that have recently succeeded in catching up with some of the best swimmers in the first civilization. The great majority of the countries in the second civilization are not only lagging behind, but above all lack most of the basic ingredients-in terms of resources, institutions, manpower and cultural background-indispensable if they are to benefit from scientific knowledge and new technological innovations. In our volume, we stress that the historical reasons for this situation deserve to be carefully studied in these countries by local scholars, and should be part of the science studies research programmes that can help policy makers and society at large to become more aware of the internal and external conditions that have jeopardized-and still jeopardize-the development, if not the emergence, of a scientific and technological capacity. Hopefully this sourcebook will contribute to a better understanding and thus greater mastery of all these conditions.
Development is an uncertain quest in which the seekers are doomed to rely more and more on science and technology. The quest is uncertain not only because there is no prior guarantee of success (nor that it will be lasting), but above all because it raises questions about the price of modernity: the benefits that a country can expect to derive from it, in political, economic, social and cultural terms; as well as the sacrifices that it is prepared to make on its behalf. Development is not a neutral process with no impact on the social structures that are involved; science and technology do not always bring about improvements to those areas that they affect.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, economic progress has meant upheavals-what Schumpeter called "creative destruction" leading to the renewal of economic and social structures. This is what is involved in innovation, and now that innovation is worshipped as the driving force of international competitiveness, we need to remember that it always has a price attached: technical change is accompanied by social change and hence social costs.
What is at stake for the next century is to reconcile the two civilizations in a context of fair, but also lucid and critical cooperation. To my mind, this is precisely the vocation of the United Nations University. The developing world has forced the industrialized countries to recognize not only that their cultures are extremely diverse, but that this diversity is perfectly legitimate. Both sides have learned, too, that development cannot take place without dialogue between cultural heritage and instrumental rationality, even if there are tensions on both sides. In the upheavals marking the end of this century, especially after the collapse of totalitarian ideologies and regimes, the whole world is in quest of new paths and alternatives leading to a better social order. And just as the developing countries are having to take on board some of the aspects of modernity that they used to criticize, so the industrialized countries are having to restore some aspects of tradition that they used to challenge.
Science and technology can contribute a great deal to development, but they cannot do everything, and above all they do not offer a ready-made solution to the problem of values that is raised by the clash between tradition and modernity. In this time of uncertainty, the editors and the contributors to the Uncertain Quest may claim some degree of success if at least this lesson, although modest, is conveyed to the students, researchers, administrators, policy makers and even politicians they intended to address: on the one hand, nobody can believe any longer that growth necessarily brings with it greater democracy and happiness; on the other hand, we all know now that development requires growth and a certain degree of rationality.
There is no better conclusion to my lecture than to repeat the quotation which introduces our volume and which the three co-editors felt expressed exactly what we had in mind-and let me add, in our hearts as well-when we started to discuss and plan this book. It is from the physicist Victor ("Vicky") Weisskopf who, after having dealt with highly scientific matters-particle physics, of which he was one of the world's leading specialists-went on to become more philosophical and wrote the following sentences: "All parts and all aspects of science belong together. Science cannot develop unless it is pursued for the sake of pure knowledge and insight. It will not survive unless it is used intensely and wisely for the betterment of humanity, and not as an instrument of domination by one group over another. Human existence depends upon compassion and curiosity. Curiosity without compassion is inhuman; compassion without curiosity is ineffectual".8 Science has become an uncertain venture not only because, by their very nature, discovering and innovating are not givens-they never were-but also and above all because the sense of what is involved in searching seems to be more and more lost in the torrent of applications and resulting problems that surround humanity. The alliance between curiosity and compassion is all the more what not only scientists but any common man or woman among us needs to celebrate as the most urgent and obvious imperative.
1. Gunnar Myrdal, Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations, Pantheon Books, New York, 1969.
2. David S. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present, Cambridge University Press, 1969.
3. Christopher Freeman, The Economics of Industrial Innovation, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1974.
4. Pierre Chambon, "Les obligations de l'homme génétique", Le Monde, 30 June 1994, p. 2.
5. Pierre Hassner, "Le XXe siecle, la guerre et la paix", La pensée politique, "Ecrire l'histoire du XXe siecle: La politique et la raison", Gallimard/Le Seuil, Paris, 1994.
6. Hannah Arendt, La condition de l'homme moderne, Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1961, p. 294. (The quotation is translated from the French version). On the issue of technological risks and the democratic control of technical change, see Jean-Jacques Salomon, Le destin technologique, Balland, 1993, Gallimard/Folio 1994.
7. Albert Hirschman, "The On-and-Off-Connection between Political and Economic Progress", American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, May 1994. The French version is more developed than the original: "Des liens accidentés entre progres politique et progres économique", La pensée politique, Gallimard/Le Seuil, Paris, 1994.
8. Victor Weisskopf, Physics in the Twentieth Century: Selected Essays, MIT Press, Cambridge/London, 1972, p. 364.
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