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TENDENTIAL OR NORMATIVE FORECASTING: A CRUCIAL OPTION
The selection of the type of approach to be used in the proposed prospective studies is not simply a technical or academic problem: it is also, and mainly, an option between conflicting conceptions of how to confront the present process of world transformation. The best way, in our view, of understanding the significance of the choice to be made is to analyse briefly the criteria used - explicitly or implicitly - in selecting the approaches to be applied in the prospective studies. The fact that the best known of the long-term forecastings were embodied in simulation models, and that the prospective studies we are referring to have a much wider scope, is irrelevant to the analysis: the basic philosophical options in both cases are the same.
The series of long-term global forecastings started in the 1960s had two contrasting views of the future. H. Kahn's The Year 2000- A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty Years, published in 1967 , presented an optimistic view of the future, without important discontinuities or qualitative changes. In Kahn's view, "despite much current anxiety about thermonuclear war we are entering a period of general political and economic stability, at least so far as the frontiers and economies of the old nations are concerned."
The other current of thought in forecasting sees, instead of a future of unending progress, humanity rushing towards an almost unavoidable catastrophe. In this view neo-Malthusian ideas are combined with the modern concept of "outer limits." This world-view has its best-known advocates in Anne and Paul Ehrlich (Population Resources and Environment, 1970, and The Population Bomb, 1971), J. Forrester (World Dynamics, 1971) and Dennis Meadows and co-workers (The Limits to Growth, 1972).
For those forecasting the growth of population and consumption with the ensuing pressure on natural resources and the physical environment, humanity is heading for a disaster that will result in a sudden decline in population and a miserable level of living for the survivors. Largely as a reaction to the "models of doom," several models appeared in the early 1970s, the best known being the Fundación Bariloche World Model and the Mesarovic-Pestel Model.
The second generation of global long-term forecasting appeared at the end of the 1970s or the beginning of the 1980s. The most important among them arc Interfutures (OECD), the Presidential Report on the Year 2000, and the Brandt Report. All these studies start from the present situation and try to describe the future, or a range of possible futures, on the basis of the assumed predominance of present observable trends.
From the point of view of their basic approach, these global forecasts have been divided into two groups: tendential (or positive) and normative. The former describes a possible future assuming the persistence of the main tendencies observed at the time. The normative approach proposes a possible and desirable future, and attempts to identify the actions needed to move from the present towards that future. With the exception of the Bariloche study, all these explorations of the future would be tendential.
We can now make a comparison - from the point of view of their objectives and methodology - between what we can call the studies of the North and the studies of the South. We obviously cannot attempt a detailed analysis in this brief article; our purpose is only to show the implications of the prospective approach adopted.
From the point of view of the type of forecasting selected, it is generally accepted that there is a clear difference between the two groups of works: those from the North would be essentially tendential, while those from the South would be normative. In our view, however, despite their apparent methodological differences, both groups of studies use the same basic approach.
In relation to the third world, the findings of the forecastings made in the North are basically similar. At the beginning of the next century the gap between the rich and the poor countries will be greater than now, or will diminish marginally in the more advanced developing countries. In absolute terms, the situation in the poorest part of the third world will probably worsen.
The main implicit premises of the studies of the North are essentially two: the first is that there will not be essential changes in the present social and international order, although there will be some adjustments and possible changes in the pattern of distribution of power among the advanced capitalist countries; the second premise is that the third-world countries will not produce actions that can alter significantly their present situation in the world economic and political power structure. In other words, the future of the third world is a dependent variable of what will happen in the advanced countries.
In the studies of the South the basic premises are different: they start from the assumption that the present crisis far transcends the economic and technological dimensions and question the very basis of the present social and world order and its underlying values. As in all periods of transformation, a wide array of new options is opened up, and these offer the third-world countries the opportunity to participate actively in the construction of a new and more equitable world order.
It has been argued that an essential difference between the two groups of studies is that the ones from the North take as a basis observable present trends, and are therefore "objective," i.e. do not introduce scenarios based on subjective or value-based judgements, as would be the case with the South studies. To what extent is this argument valid?
In the studies of the North the privileged variables, the ones that determine the state of the system, are mainly economic and technological and they cannot per se introduce radical changes, or discontinuities, in the global evolution of social and international systems. Besides, and most important, these variables are to a great extent controlled by the advanced countries, and are amenable to quantitative treatment. Hence, through adequate information on their values and tendencies, the North can expect to maintain a reasonable control over them even in situations of rapid change.
To incorporate the possibility of transformations that can alter the "tendential" future, it is necessary to consider also the social actors, the ultimate agents of change involved, and this is what the South prospective studies do. In the Bariloche Model, the proposed society is supposed to represent the will and aspirations of the majority of the population. The Technological Prospective for Latin America Project, now in its final stage, is based on socio-economic scenarios and selects desirable options among the range of possible futures determined by the interplay of the social actors - national as well as international - involved. 1
It is clear, therefore, that a crucial difference between the two groups of studies lies in the choice of trends - represented by variables - and that selection has to be explained by factors other than whether or not these are observable or "objective. "
In our view the selection of variables is mainly determined by the fact that the countries of the North have a privileged position in the world power structure, and so it is only natural for them to avoid or underestimate variables - over which they have little control- that can alter an already unstable situation. In a position of privilege, any change is potentially dangerous and to ignore or minimize it has been a recurrent attitude all through history.
In conclusion, the basic approaches followed in the studies of the North and the South are not so different as they seem to be. Forecasting, starting with the specific attitudes of its authors, selects, through the choice of variables, one or a set of options among a whole range of possible futures. To assume that present trends will continue into the future without significant changes is, in present circumstances, at least as "normative" or "subjective" as to assume that these trends are not viable in the long-term perspective. In both cases there is a choice of a future: the basic difference between them is that in the case of the North the selected future is the continuation of the present situation with the minimum possible degree of change, while in the case of the South it is assumed that continuation of present trends is neither viable nor desirable, and a viable scenario is selected from among a multiplicity of possible options on the basis of explicit value judgments.
These are not "objective" visions of the future because there is no predetermined future; there are only options. Forecasting is as much a tool for shaping the future as it is an instrument for exploring it. This means that forecasting is not simply a theoretical exercise, but is always performed - implicitly or explicitly as a guide for action. The selection of variables implies the selection of long-term objectives, and it is only natural for the forecasters to highlight the variables which, in their view, hold the key to the attainment of the proposed goals. Thus the divergence between the prospective studies of the North and the South reflects the conflicting relations between the two blocs into which the world is divided, rather than methodological differences in the strict technical sense.
We do not want to leave the impression, however, that we believe that it is only in the third world that the viability and desirability of the present world order is being questioned. In previous analyses there have been unavoidable simplifications, the most important being the apparent clear-cut division between the North and the South perceptions of the world. The attitude towards the future embodied in the North studies is far from universally accepted in the developed countries. There is an important part of the population - particularly significant in the younger generation and among intellectuals - that strongly questions the vision of the world implicit in these prospective studies. At a more general level, an attitude of confrontation is one of the basic elements of the ecological, peace and feminist movements and, as we also know, a most important part of the literature on alternative futures is being produced in the developed countries. We used those studies as representative of the North, at the risk of oversimplification, because they reflect the position of a great part of the upper levels of political decision-makers, those that have a central responsibility for the shaping and maintenance of the present world order.
In conclusion, what we need as a guide for actions that could give us hope for avoiding the dire consequences implicit in present world trends are long-term normative prospective studies in the strict sense - in other words, studies that focus, among the possible options, on future scenarios that are viable and desirable. It is in this frame of reference that the impact of new technologies on human rights and fundamental freedoms can be properly explored.
NORMATIVE PROSPECTIVE STUDIES AND THE TECHNOLOGICAL DlMENSION
We can consider now the role of the technological dimension in the prospective studies we are referring to. Our discussion will be based on the methodology used in the Technological Prospective for Latin America project.2
The central feature of the TPLA in relation to the subject under discussion is that the frame of reference for the formulation of scientific and technological strategy is the R&D demand of the desired society. This means that R&D policy should not be determined by specific problems, or areas of problems posed by the technologies per se, but rather by the socio-economic, political and cultural goals proposed by the chosen society.
This approach implies the following sequence of steps:
1. Definition of the social goals to be reached.
2. Identification of the obstacles to the attainment of those goals.
3. Formulation of a socio-economic and political strategy for overcoming those obstacles.
4. Determination of the scientific and technological demands of the strategy.
It seems an almost hopeless task to reach a general agreement on what a "viable and desirable society" means, but this is a necessary pre-condition for the attainment of a just and stable world order. In the TPLA project it was decided to define the desirable society on the basis of a few normative characteristics defined as "invariants," in the sense that if any one of them is not present, the society is not desirable. This allows for a multiplicity of societies which are desirable, within a wide spectrum of cultural and organizational differences.
The invariant characteristics adopted for the desirable society are the following:
- Essentially egalitarian in the access to goods and services.
- Participative: all members have the right to participate in the social decisions at all levels.
- Autonomous (not autarchic).
- Intrinsically compatible with its physical environment.
These characteristics may seem too general, but they are enough to define a basic type of society and, more important, they are shared by the majority of mankind. They are what can be called first-order long-term goals. They constitute the frame of reference for the formulation of the short- and medium-term objectives. These objectives could vary greatly, depending on national or regional conditions and on the selected strategy, but they should fulfil the objective of contributing - or at least not hindering - the final attainment of the first-order goals.
We cannot attempt a detailed discussion on how to deduce the social technological demand from socio-economic strategy. We will only make some brief general comments on points that could be particularly relevant to the subject under discussion.
The traditional way of formulating an R&D strategy - to identify the demand for goods and services over the productive system and from that to deduce the demand over the R&D system - should be considerably changed.
That approach, which is essentially sectoral, does not allow the adequate identification and incorporation in the R&D demand of the qualitative elements - such as participation, relations with the environment, decentralization of decision-making and production, cultural traits, autonomy, etc. - which are so important in characterizing a society.
An R&D strategy is not simply the addition of the sectoral demands, taking them in isolation; it is necessary to articulate them and to establish priorities. On the other hand, the interaction between the sectors and, consequently, the factors which determine priorities vary with time, above all in a process of transformation as deep as the present one. This is particularly evident in the qualitative elements already mentioned. It is obvious in consequence that essential components of the R&D demand cannot be identified through the sectoral approach because they are conditioned by the global evolution of the society. In other words, the formulation of the R&D strategy requires a reasonably clear conception of the possible global evolution of the society in the period under consideration.
That approach means that the present dichotomy in practice between socioeconomic and R&D planning should be overcome: the scientific and technological dimensions should be explicit variables incorporated in the whole process of socio-economic planning.
The integration of socio-economic and scientific and technological planning in the context of a changing society cannot be effectively attained unless there is close interaction between social scientists, technologists, and natural scientists. So the implementation of real interdisciplinary research - instead of the loose addition of knowledge from different disciplines that we now call interdisciplinary research - is one of the most difficult challenges confronted by the social sciences today. We cannot discuss this complex subject further; we only want to stress that the basic pre-condition for really relevant co-ordination is to start by posing the problems in an interdisciplinary context, instead of the present common practice of defining a social problem in terms of a single component economics, for instance and asking for the support of other disciplinary fields afterwards.
The approach to the study of the impact of the new technologies, so briefly outlined, has in our view the following advantages which are particularly relevant for third-world countries:
1. It eliminates the danger of falling into what can be called the "defensive" approach, which consists of the identification of possible negative impacts of the new technologies - for instance, unemployment - and the concentration of effort on the avoidance of those supposedly negative effects. The identification of the R&D demands in the context of socio-economic strategy allows an objective and unprejudiced evaluation of the opportunities and risks posed by the new technologies.
2. It allows an easy and "natural" articulation of the new technologies with the current technologies, including the traditional ones. One of the central elements to be taken into account to identify the R&D demand is the present technological context.
3. It should be emphasized finally that, although the R&D demand is identified at the formulation of the R&D strategy, the potential of the new technologies is taken into consideration in the establishment of the socio-economic objectives. There are socio-economic objectives that were not possible in the past, but are possible now owing to the new technologies.
The New Technologies and Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
On the basis of the methodology outlined above, which attempts to define the socioeconomic and political strategy required to achieve a society compatible with the full exercise of the fundamental freedoms, we can now attempt to explore the relationship between new technologies and human rights. The full understanding of that relationship will take an effort which goes far beyond the possibilities of a single project. There are some preliminary results, however, that could help to identify lines of research which deserve further exploration.
The first one, as we have already pointed out, is that the most important social impact of the new technologies is the impact of micro-electronics - through automation and robotization - on the organization of production, the labour process, and the social division of labour. The problem is not whether or not traditional forms of work and employment will be abolished - that change is inherent in the transformations induced by the new technologies - but rather the way in which they will be abolished.
The growing recognition that the character of present unemployment confronts the advanced countries with a problem that cannot be solved without a complete questioning of the relationships between technology, employment, and work is starting to generate a debate on the subject.
In a recent paper, W. Zegweld makes a proposal that, although still very general, is an advance in the right direction.
The problem is to organize the breaking down of barriers between traditional wage-earning employment and work in the widest sense of the term. Such work can provide income but also offers a social role, contact with others, and opportunity for creation or enterprise. It must not be proposed in a single, rigid setting identical for all but must be flexible enough to meet the wide variety of demands and respond to freely expressed choices. Instead of offering everyone a problematical full-time job, the aim is to allow everyone to find and choose a job in which working hours, level of pay and social security coverage are no longer pre-determined closely linked but can be adapted, above an indispensable minimum. to wishes of the individual...3
In A. Gorz's opinion, the characteristics of socially necessary work do not allow for any creativity or personal development of the worker. The only solution is the reduction of working time through the new technologies and the distribution of the remaining socially necessary work among the whole population. In his view, "the choice is between the liberatory and socially controlled abolition of work or its oppressive and anti-social abolition."4
That is the challenge confronted now by society, particularly in the developed countries, and it is still too early to know with certainty how the process of change will evolve. We believe that the first option will finally prevail: first, because the oppressive imposition of new forms of work would be extremely difficult in a society where social control is largely based on the discipline imposed by the traditional relationship between work and employment - precisely the relationship that the new technologies can radically change; and second, because it allows satisfaction of one of the oldest aspirations of our species: the liberation of human beings from routine work that does not require creative capacity.
The solution to the problem of employment applied now in the developed countries - the payment of a minimum for subsistence to the unemployed - creates a category, the unemployed, which represents, in practice, a form of social marginalization. In A. Gorz's words:
Whatever the amount of the minimum guarantee, its fundamental vice remains: it leads to a gash in society, to a dualist stratification that can amount to a South Africanization of the social relationships. The minimum guarantee is really the salary of the social marginalization and exclusion. . . The minimum guarantee is a way of accepting that gash, and of consolidating and making it more tolerable.5 In the social project of the TPLA the employment policy is based on the principle that every person has not only the duty but, above all, has the right a useful task in society.
In the first stages of development of the proposed society, all the members of the workforce without a place in the productive system will receive a state subsidy - as happens now in the industrialized countries - that can ensure them adequate access to all basic goods and services. The difference is that they will have to fulfil some socially useful task.
That conception means that it will be necessary to create new socially productive activities outside the traditional forms of employment. This policy will be greatly facilitated by the fact that the process of transformation activated by the socioeconomic strategy will certainly generate, or stimulate, social activities which do not have a clearly defined role in the present employment structure, such as informal education, community organization, preservation of the environment, etc.
In more advanced stages of the process of change the objective will be the uniform distribution of the diminishing socially necessary work among the whole population. This will require a complete redefinition of the relationship, work-employment-technology, and of the social role of salary. This policy, made possible by the advances of technology, would mean the end of one of the greatest evils in the history of our species: the social division of labour between intellectual and manual, or, perhaps more appropriately, routine work.
The low relative efficiency of the technologies used in the past meant that most of the population had to devote its effort to the physical tasks connected with the primary needs of material life, so that through the physical work of the majority a small minority could be liberated to devote itself to the social functions which demand a higher input of knowledge and creativity. The alternative solution, the distribution of the lower tasks among all members of the community in order to give everybody the opportunity to participate in the higher functions, seemed not socially feasible because a homogeneous distribution of physical or routine labour would have allowed each individual only a negligible marginal time to be devoted to other activities. As the higher functions in this type of society require a long and intensive training, that amount of individual free time would not be enough to provide for it.
With the advances of the technologies of production after the Industrial Revolution, it became increasingly difficult to justify the injustice represented by the character of the prevailing division of labour. With the coercion made possible through the appropriation of the social surplus, it became necessary to invent a moral justification for that glaring inequality. In the Western world it took the form of a glorification of brute physical work, which has no precedent in history: manual work was exalted as the source of all virtues, as the very foundation of all that man has accomplished. Not surprisingly, the overwhelmingly dominant voices in this universal chorus were those of people who had never had the need to perform any significant amount of routine physical work to earn a living.
Now, as the culmination of a process that started when man invented the first tool to facilitate his interaction with the physical world, it finally becomes possible to formulate a human right, complementary to the one stated above: the right of every person to have access to intellectually creative work.
The relationship of man with work will be, in our view, a focus, perhaps the central one, in the discussions in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Up to now, and specially since the Industrial Revolution, for most persons work has been almost synonymous with employment - i.e. work of a standardized, repetitive nature. Employment gave an income to provide for basic human needs. Now we have the possibility of recovering the original meaning of work: the liberation of the creative capacity of man.
Another human right, the context of which has entirely changed with the new technologies, is the right of participation in all social decisions. There is a relatively wide consensus - at least at the level of declarations - that in a really democratic society all persons should have the right to participate in social decisions in a more effective and direct way than the periodic election of governments. There is less consensus, however, in relation to the possible mechanisms of participation. In general, there is a tendency to subordinate this basic human right to the attainment of certain objectives which are considered pre-conditions for effective participation: higher levels of education and social awakening, creation of adequate means of access to information, etc.
The implicit philosophy of the TPLA is that participation is not only a means for more efficient social organization, but an end in itself. In the process of social change persons arc not liberated when certain specific goals arc attained - as for instance, in poor countries, when basic needs are satisfied - but rather when they feel that they are protagonists of the process, and not simply passive beneficiaries or victims.
Starting from the principle that full participation is the result of a process, and that the only way to learn participation is by participating, the process should start at the very beginning of the period of transition, through participation at the levels of the community and workplace. This approach has two main advantages:
1. At the community and place of work levels, all persons have, or can obtain easily, the information required to take decisions on matters that concern them directly.
2. The decisions taken at those Ievels affect the participants directly; the well known mechanism of trial and error is the best school for learning a conscious and responsible participation.
It is very difficult to foresee the character of the mechanisms that will emerge to allow participation at higher levels of decision-making. We want, nevertheless, to emphasize the following points:
1. The decisions taken at the community and place of work levels necessarily affect the upper levels.
2. The type of decisions taken at the first Ievel reflects clearly the general lines of thinking and opinions of the population.
3. Taking into consideration the previous points, it is difficult imagine that upper levels of decision-making would try to impose policies in open contra diction to the tendencies expressed at the first levels. That would generate conflicts - at the operational and implementation levels - which would jeopardize the viability of those policies.
Summing up the above, it could be said that the pre-condition for real participation is that the social actors who conduct the process of change should regard participation not only as a characteristic of the new society, but also as a fundamental instrument with which to build it.
Participation is not possible, above all in societies of the size and complexity of the modern nation-states, without adequate information. The advances in information technology mean, for the first time in history, that the information necessary to make social and economic decisions can be made available to the whole population. One of the goals of the R&D strategy should be to study what is the most efficient way - not only technically but also from the point of view of how participation is socially organized - of making the required information available to the participants.
Participation, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential for the preservation of other rights and freedoms. The new technologies relating to information can make an enormous contribution to the construction of a better and more democratic society, but they can also be used against the exercise of fundamental freedoms by helping to concentrate information - and consequently power - in the hands of the state or of dominant social groups, instead of making it available to the whole population.
Only through the effective participation of the population in all important social decisions can that menace to the fundamental freedoms be eliminated. History shows that the defensive ex post facto approach, of defining specific freedoms that could be affected by the new technologies, is not effective enough. Only a society intrinsically compatible with the fundamental freedoms - and this means a participatory society can ensure a socially creative use of information.
Another field of concern regarding new technologies and human rights is the dependence of the third world on the technological knowledge produced in the developed countries. We cannot analyse this complex subject in detail here but, in our view, any constructive discussion of the problem should take into account the following points.
A central premise of the TPLA approach is that the main problem for third-world countries is not so much to close the technological gap in absolute or abstract terms, but rather to "close" it in the context of the socio-economic and institutional adaptations required for the creative incorporation of the new technological paradigm. In other words, the way the technological gap should be closed is a dependent variable of the socio-economic strategy.
The above leads to the concept of what scientific and technological autonomy really means.
The technological dependence - in greater or lesser degree - is unavoidable, even in countries with R&D systems more developed than those in the third world. This makes the concept of "technological space" in the TPLA project particularly important.
In this approach, endogenous generation of technology refers basically to the process through which the characteristics that a given technological solution should have are determined. The information thus produced - social, economic, cultural, environmental - defines technological space.
All possible solutions that fit the technological space should be considered. In other words, the endogenous process is the process of definition of the character of the required solution, and not necessarily the technology itself, which can be imported provided it fits the technological space. In this way the transfer of technology becomes an integral part of the process of generation of technology.
In the determination of technological space, participation has a decisive role: the appropriate technological solutions required for the building of a new society can only be generated through an active interaction between the R&D systems and the social demands expressed through the mechanisms for participation referred to above.
We want to emphasize finally that although we have presented the above approach or methodology to explore the impact of the new technologies on human rights as a view from the third world, we believe that the approach has a validity which far transcends the specific circumstances of the developing countries. The starting-points are different, but the challenge presented by the global process of transformation seen in the crisis is basically the same for the three blocs into which the world is presently divided. Each of the blocs will follow its own trajectory in the period of transition to a new society, but unless these trajectories are convergent, there is little hope of finally building a world order compatible with the full exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
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