Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
President of the City Assembly of Belgrade
I have the honour to welcome you cordially on behalf of the citizens of Belgrade and in my own name, guests and participants of the International Seminar on Science and Technology in the Transformation of the World, and to wish you successful work.
The place of your meeting - the University of Belgrade in the city of Belgrade - is a place of progressive tradition, openness, free communication, host to a number of international political, professional, scientific meetings dedicated to advancement of mutual co-operation.
However, the fact that this is the first international symposium of the United Nations University and that it is held jointly with our university, as well as the fact that it is dedicated to a topic such as the humanistic role of science, is our special pleasure and honour.
This fact is not accidental. it is rooted in the joint strivings of the United Nations University and our country; in a lively sense of the great dilemmas of our epoch which are troubling the world and especially developing countries; in endeavours for creating a more human, more just community of the new world economic but also social and cultural order.
The United Nations University is a noble example of such endeavours, establishing mutual links between countries, mutual intellectual enrichment. Your project, the theme which is the topic of your research, shows such a richness; a panorama of significant and inspiring themes comprising fundamental dimensions of scientific work from natural to social sciences.
Your seminar is dedicated to a topic that attracts more and more attention, the crucial topic of our epoch - the relations between technique and society, technological growth and human progress. It is dedicated to science and technology, which are parts of a new civilization wave; which are becoming a driving force of development, a strong lever for the humanization of the world, for the liquidation of poverty and hunger, for reducing the gap between rich and poor countries - this volcanic contradiction of our epoch.
But it would be a dangerous illusion to believe that technique by itself will solve existential problems. In spite of its great humanistic potentialities it can be abused, it can become destructive of nature, transformed into a powerful instrument of domination and power over people and whole communities, it can be used in favour of privileged groups and countries.
Technological growth will provide human progress not if it is stopped, but if it is connected with humanistic aims. It is necessary that every country develop its own creativity and not merely adopt foreign patterns of industrial urban development. Without individual creativity and development of all individual scientific potentialities, independent social and cultural identity cannot be achieved. However, it does not mean autarchy. On the contrary, at the same time that we reject any sterile isolation and building of Chinese walls around ourselves, we open up bridges towards the world, towards universal scientific achievements and mutual enrichment. Our times have become an epoch of general interdependence - technological, economic, cultural. But the world shall become a real human community of equal people and nations only provided that each culture enriches it by its authentic, unique creativity, looking for answers to the problems that we all have to face.
This is the great, real role of a university which comes out of its isolation and has a sense for social needs. However, it is not merely a receiver of orders, but is rather one of the pioneers in the discovery of new possibilities of development; a watchtower of the world development of science from the viewpoint of the need for development of all creative potentialities of one's own society.
I know that one group at this meeting shall separately discuss science and technology as causes of change in urban environment. Belgrade as a big urban centre is especially interested in all achievements that can improve conditions of work and life in big urban centres. We are putting great efforts into this aspect and we have, besides a number of research programmes, invested a considerable part of our scientific and financial potentialities in the establishment of the Centre for Urban Technology. The principal task of the Centre is to carry out in practice the theoretical knowledge accumulated in the world and to give answers as to how citizens - producers and consumers - can more effectively participate in making vital decisions in their everyday lives.
President, Academy of Sciences of Serbia
It is my privilege to welcome you with the wish that your efforts should provide the greatest possible contribution in solving the problems laid in the basis of our civilization. In other words, I wish you full success in the task that you have undertaken to carry out as men of science, inspired by human goals. Problems which are imposing themselves on every thoughtful creature of our times and on which the destiny of the human race is depending, undoubtedly are those which are the topic of this and other worldwide endeavours in our times.
Let me explain in a few lines why I consider that questions with which the seminar is dealing are not only of vital interest for the further development of our civilization and its role in the humanization of society, but as well of vital importance for its very survival. I have surveyed material prepared for this seminar and studied it as carefully as I could, and I wouldn't like to repeat what is written there for I want to save your precious time.
We all want, and in our vision of the future we strive, that our image of the future should be more human than the total pre-history of contemporary civilization. What premises for this vision do we have?
The main characteristics of the present times are the geometrical progression of the birth rate and the increasing expansion of population of our planet; and the exhaustion of classical energy resources, whereas energy resources are the roots of development of every civilization. That means that we are at a turning point between old and new civilizations, or, as Pecujlic would say in his study, we are on the threshold of "the future which has begun."
In the analysis of the structure of our civilization we must point to the great potential, both useful and destructive possibilities, of nuclear energy, which already substitutes for classic resources and imposes itself by its inexhaustible possibilities as the only possible successor of dying civilization based upon exploitation of classical energy resources.
Our generation, and generations that are coming, have to carry a heavy burden, because this change of civilizations causes revolutionary changes in the structure of human society: in the still-powerful capitalist society with its means of production vested in private property and a hired labour force alienated from surplus labour, as stated by Marx in his scientific analysis, while, on the other hand, socialist relations are accomplished and efforts are being put forward in creating such relations in specific conditions created by the history of each particular nation: when super-developed and extremely underdeveloped human communities simultaneously exist; when millions of men, women, and children are dying of starvation and diseases, and a minority enjoys the benefits of accumulated wealth.
You know all this better than I do, because you are dealing with these problems as specialists. Therefore, from the domain of sociology and political economy, I shall move to the field I am more familiar with.
Besides the nuclear resources of energy which nowadays exist as a reality, but are as well as a monopoly of super-powers, technology is using electronics in different ways: lasers, cybernetic computers as a special application of electronics, etc.
No reasonable man would expect, taking into consideration these conditions of our times, that technological development by itself can remove the increasing potential differences which from day to day threaten ever more to cause a spark.
Furthermore, no reasonable man would expect that the increase of population will stop by itself or that technological development by itself will provide the humanization of human society. We must be well aware that only by the conscious endeavours and active efforts of all progressive forces, by agreements and regulations agreed upon and based on scientific results, may threatening dangers to the survival of the human race be overcome. These dangers are not only in the destructive power of nuclear weapons, in the event of their application, but, although invisible at the first sight, far-reaching consequences for the human race lie hidden in biological discoveries, genetic mutations caused by chemical means, and pollution of the human environment by an unreasonable struggle for profit. Even today the situation in the human environment has been brought to an alarming state in technologically developed countries, and especially in developing countries which are procuring obsolete technology and thus becoming subject to neo-colonialistic dependence on technologically developed countries.
In such a complex situation as the contemporary world is, we come to the conclusion that it is necessary to organize endeavours of all progressive forces in order to provide that scientific achievements serve the majority instead of the minority. It is not a question of whether it should be done in the interests of morality, but whether it should be done in the interests of survival of the human race.
In order to be more explicit, I shall use an example from the history of the Spartan people who, in order to survive, hurled from the Tarpeian cliff all cripples, because they were only a dead weight and endangered the survival of this people. Our civilization is facing the same problem; in the interest of the human race's survival and the further development of productive forces we must find a Tarpeian cliff from which not people but all obstacles on the path to the aims of their more human life shall be hurled. That means, firstly, to be aware that the interests of the people are above the interests of individuals or particular castes; that social responsibility for the application of scientific and technological achievements should be enhanced; that the developed must endeavour to contribute to the development of the economically and technologically underdeveloped in order to accelerate the process of development of productive forces and to avoid the perilous consequences of existing and increasing contradictions. I would like to stress the following contradiction which governs the development of human society: the idea is born individually, but it is put into practice by collective work. This means that a man invents, but society undertakes the use, and responsibility for the use, of discoveries and technological processes in the interest of the community. I point to this in contrast to utopian and totally senseless tendencies to stop the process of development of science and technology, to stop progress because the world is going to perish because of new inventions.
It seems absurd, but it is true, One need only observe mass movements against the erection of nuclear plants, movements that are developing in technologically developed countries. It would be enough to inform people that they are under full and responsible control of science. But they also frequently undertake senseless endeavours to stop progress, to turn the historical course, as at the time of the introduction of the first railway or electricity.
At the end, I would like to express my sincere belief that the efforts which we put forward may make science and technology become the properties of society as a whole, providing for the humanization of human relations and creating the basis for a different, more human morality which conforms more to the conscience and welfare of people than one based upon the right of the stronger. I welcome you once more and wish you success in your work.
Rector, University of Belgrade
Chairman of the Seminar
This international seminar is dedicated to the investigation of one of the crucial topics of our age: the role of science and technology in the transformation and conquest of a more humane world, of a new international economic and social order. Science and technology are part of a new civilizational wave of new gigantic powers that has conquered and which brings us to the threshold of a new world. But science and technology have found themselves at a great historical crossroads. Scientific and technical forces, which no epoch of previous human history could have dreamed of, have entered life. These are forces which have the wonderful power of making human labour freer, creative, and worthier of man, of liberating mankind from the yoke of poverty, and of narrowing the gap between rich and poor countries.
However, it is a dangerous illusion to believe that technology would automatically, on its own, solve man's existential problems. As if by some fateful magic spell the new sources of productive power - as opposed to their great liberation potentials - can become destructive both for nature and man. They can be misused and they can serve for subordinating people and entire communities, for widening the gap between the rich and the poor - the gap which is turning contemporary society into true volcanic ground.
Science and technology are not neutral. They are developing not in a vacuum but in human space. In order to make technological growth become human progress at the same time, it is necessary not to stop it but to give it a new direction, a connection with the broad cultural horizon of a human society, with the transformation of the world.
The age in which we live, and particularly the gigantic development of science and technology, has opened a glorious but also critical era of universal interdependence. The former isolated and autarchic societies, like oases separated by deserts, have come closer together and have become connected by thousands of links. We are living in a world planetary society; but it is of crucial importance what it will be like. In order to make the world a human community, a society which is not uniform and undistinguishable but rich in its Promethean quest for life, which is becoming worthier of man, it is essential to have a pluralism of cultures, their mutual enrichment. Only full independence, autonomy, equality of rights, freedom, and one's own identity can be the road leading to the universal richness of the world, a world which every culture is contributing to with its endogenous "intellectual creativity - understood as the contribution of the countries or cultures to human civilization; the study of how to give creativity precedence over mere transfer" (UNU project). Deprived of this, interdependence is not a road to mutual enrichment but an impersonalization, a halting of civilizational development.
"The central intent of this seminar is to study the dimension of science and technology in and through the historic period of the transformation of the world we now live in. This transformation is visualized by the SCA project as being the combined output of three major sets of formative influences: (a) the re-emergence of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and specifically the Orient to contemporaneity (the dimension of national liberation); (b) the rise of socialism as a set of new models facing the traditional capitalistic models; and (c) the second phase in the industrial revolution, often labelled the scientific and technological revolution" (A. Abdei Malek). The rise of so-ciocultural alternatives within the developed western countries is connected with the radicalization of the social processes.
The socio-cultural development alternatives in a changing world are connected with national liberation and socialism as the world process.
The aim of this international seminar is the investigation of these characteristics of social practice which enable technological growth to coincide with authentic human progress. As an illustration of this we propose a dialogue based on the following:
(i) The application of science and technology that provides for the effective solution of existential problems of the broad working people such as: hunger (nutrition, housing, employment. A strategy of economic-social and technological development which leads to the narrowing (rather than growth, of such essential social differences that endanger the survival and development of large sections of the population, entire social groups, and countries or regions. A technological development that benefits the working people, and not primarily the privileged position of narrow strata of certain countries.
(ii) The relationship between science, technology, and traditional culture. A way of modernization which is not destructive - destructive in the sense that it destroys the positive cultural and productive heritage of original civilization, not creating new living and working conditions for the population, but creating gigantic masses of pauperized populations that have lost their roots. A mode of technological development which preserves progressive cultural and productive tradition and turns it into a point of departure for the creation of new forms of social organization, for a great mobilization of human energy - a development that suits society's own needs.
(iii) Forms of sociability and modern science and technology. Some fundamental forms of life and mentality - cultural and civilizational values such as solidarity, a tendency towards egalitarianism, and a collective spirit - represent important components of the human community. But traditional forms of sociability had great limitations: firstly, traditional collective communities were confined to a narrow framework - to a village, to a local community - while the pyramid of the ruling elites and groups rose above them like a kind of superstructure. Secondly, the local community and its solidarity was kept in life by using the undeveloped productive forces which had not changed for centuries - by their conservation. The key problem is how to attain greater sociability - more human and more solidary forms of social life - on a larger scale, not within the framework of small local communities, and on the basis of revolutionary productive forces. The problem is how to preserve positive values and unite them with the modern.
2. Human or Repressive Role of Science and Technology - Distinctions
Where do the distinctions lie between a science and technology which serves the authentic progress of individuals and communities and, on the other hand, an application which turns science and technology into new instruments for controlling and manipulating people, for technological subordination?
The discussion should show the differences both in the goals and ways of application of the same technology and in the formation of alterative technologies, which are more suitable to a specific natural and social environment.
This general guiding thought should be materialized in systematic discussions in a few fields of utmost importance.
(i) Science, technology and the control of environment - alternative types of urbanization and industrialization and their social consequences.
Alternative patterns of urbanization, collective conditions of living. The crisis of the megalopolis; the city which is developing according to human needs, rather than according to a profiteer-bureaucratic logic that alienates people, turning the city into a modern anthill.
Various types of industrialization (modernization). Two sides of technology transfer - independent development and progress, or a way of transferring knowledge which maintains subordination and widens the civilizational, economic gap between societies.
The strategy of scientific and technological development which is not limited exclusively to the copying of the patterns of others. Greater reliance on one's own forces and a larger share of endogenous creativity in technological development, development of cities, production of food and raw materials, organization of labour. How to develop endogenous scientific creativity (its autonomy, specificity) and reject autarchy, sterile confinement, simultaneously. How to open bridges to the world, enrich one's own experience with the most valuable heritage of other cultures, with knowledge, and with universal values - to create a new economic and social order in the world.
(ii) Science, technology, and the control of environment - the transformation of agrarian societies and technological revolution.
Connections between social processes and the conception of development, and agrarian relations and science, social agronomy.
The character and mode of application of science and technology which leads to emancipation and to the solution of the existential needs of the population. Possibilities for an alternative technology, for combining traditional methods, knowledge, experience, and contemporary productive forces.
A character and mode of application of science and technology, of modernization, which leads to the ruin of the land, to a decrease in the fertility of the soil, to a decrease in the quality of food and an expansion of hunger, to biological degradation, to mass pauperization of the agrarian population, to a larger dependence on developed world centres.
(iii) Social medicine, biology, and demography in the service of authentic progress.
The relationship between the organization of labour and way of work, working hours, social contradictions, and the human organism. To what extent does the way of using the labour force and working conditions truly influence the human organism, the span of human life, illness.
Does medicine, as a practice and as a science, bring about knowledge about this and critically investigate the social conditions which lead to the mass improvement or deterioration of health as the basic value. The social direction in medical and pharmaceutical research - to what extent are innovations directed towards the fundamental upgrading of the quality of health, and to what extent are they directed solely towards variations which prevent repletion of the market and the reduction of profit.
Biology in the service of the promotion of man's health and life, or the creation of new kinds of control and manipulation of people through genetic engineering.
(iv) Science, technology, and the control of space and power (geopolitics, armaments).
3. The Quest for a Humanistic Science - the Scientist in the Transformation of the World
(i) The character of contemporary science.
The constituent principles - organization, professional ideology and culture, the way of formation of experts (narrow specialization and "parcelization") on which modern science, as a special sphere of human practice, rests. For instance, to what extent are the principles on which the prevailing pattern of scientific knowledge is based those that exclude from their perspective the positive traditions - the results of the experience of people as to how the fertility of the soil is preserved or how one can live better in human settlements, what people feel as good or bad; e.g., why don't the research workers at modern agronomical institutes wonder what will happen to the land, whether it will lose its fertility, what will happen to nutrition, whether food will lose essential nutritive qualities, what will the human organism look like, what social consequences will arise in certain societies and in international relations? Why do they not ask those questions of themselves? Probably not only because of commercial interests but also because of professional ideology, because they have pedagogically been formed to think as narrow specialists, only within the framework of their limited sector, and to exclude the social dimension. Are they being formed as one-dimensional people?
(ii) The scientists as subjects of the historical process of socio-cultural alternatives.
What kind of transformation in its social direction, internal principles, and professional culture should science undergo in order to take part in the transformation of the world, representing an aspect of the transformation towards a more human world.
Universities as the protagonists of such scientific research, pioneers in the discovery of new possibilities for development. The university as the watchhower of the world development of science, but also from the point of view of endogenous, original creativity and the needs of society.
The pedagogical principles of such a formation of young intelligentsia who will be masters of knowledge but with a deep social feeling, who will seek the best technical but also human solution, adapted to the needs of their own society. The formation of research workers whose minds will reach the horizons of world science but whose feet will firmly rest on the foundations of endogenous national culture and needs.
Philosophy and ethics.
(iii) The socio-economic framework and creativity.
Socio-political organization: the state and self-management.
Vice-Rector, United Nations University
I have the pleasant obligation to express the gratitude of the UN University to the University of Belgrade, through its Rector, Prefessor Pecujlic, for having accepted to co-sponsor this seminar.
I want also to express, in the name of all the non-Yugoslav participants, our deep appreciation for the hospitality of our colleagues from this great country. I must not fail to insist on the fact that it is especially fortunate that we could hold this seminar in this country, which is indeed the meeting place between East and West, and North and South, since here we can best acquire a good sense about the transformation of the world.
Nowadays, science and technology are treated with a much more critical mind than before, mainly for the following two reasons.
Firstly, because science and technology tend to be monopolized by the major powers, monopolizing knowledge in view of their nuclear hegemony. This creates a hierarchical world order with the super-powers on the top and the developing countries on the bottom.
Secondly, because the R & D activities in science and technology tend to give a disproportionate advantage to big science and big technology through overly centralized management systems' often losing sight of the diversity of local needs and environmental conditions.
Yugoslavia, through its non-aligned position, takes a position clearly most relevant to the first aspect I have just mentioned. Through its experiment in self-management and decentralization, it provides also an interesting answer to the second problem mentioned above.
This is why the UN University is extremely happy to hold this seminar in this great country. The UN University tries to become an international scientific forum of researchers of different cultural backgrounds and ideologies, and who hold different paradigms. This is a difficult task, especially when it has to deal with problems so controversial as the one to be treated in this seminar.
Many international organizations which seek to produce reports at the end of their expert meetings are stressing the points of agreement, emphasizing consensus. The UN University encourages rather diversifying views and a frank and critical debate aiming at determining clearly the roots of divergence's. This approach, only possible within a university, must make the UN University a place where new alternative perspectives on the world in transformation can be formulated freely by the researchers collaborating with this institution.
This is why I urge all the participants of this meeting to feel free to disagree. We share, I hope, at least a common interest in ascertaining that science and technology serve humanity and guarantee its survival, and not that science and technology serve the cause of the destruction of human life, welfare, and development.
Being sure to agree on this essential point I call upon all the participants of this seminar to contribute, to sharpen this debate which is of special relevance in the UN calendar coming as it does after the UNCSTD Conference in Vienna. Thus it is at this historical moment that I call upon all the participants to put forth their reflections on Science and Technology in the Transformation of the World.
Contents - Previous - Next