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Opening addresses

On the morning of Monday 26 October, the participants proceeded by coach into Belgrade's Old City to the Secretariat of the University for the formal opening ceremony of the symposium.

Mr Zivorad Kovacevic, the president of the City Assembly, began the proceedings by welcoming the participants to Belgrade in an address which succeeded in raising several major themes that would be discussed in the days to come. Perhaps the most important of these themes concerned the contradictory aspects which science and technology can exhibit. On the one hand, "science and technology... are parts of a new civilisational wave, [and they] are becoming a driving force of development, a strong lever for the humanisation of the world, for the liquidation of poverty and hunger, and for reducing the gap between rich and poor countries - this volcanic contradiction of our epoch". On the other hand, however, it is a dangerous illusion to believe that 'technique by itself' can solve all of our problems. For in spite of its great potentials, "it can be abused; it can become destructive of nature," and it can be "transformed into a powerful instrument of domination... over people and whole communities; it can be used" - as indeed it is - "in favour of privileged groups and countries". One must face this dilemma squarely and realise that neither blind faith in science and technology nor renunciation of them will provide a lasting solution to the problems of the peoples of the world.

Technological growth will contribute to human progress only if it is linked to the real needs of ordinary people; and if this requirement is to be met in the world today, then it is essential "that every country develop its own creativity and not merely adopt foreign patterns of industrial urban development". Our times have of course become an epoch of technological, economic and cultural interdependence, and it will be most useful for nations to draw on universal scientific achievements. "But the world will become a real human community only provided that each country enriches it by its own authentic, unique creativity, looking for answers to problems that we all have to face..."

If universities can break out of their traditional isolation and attune themselves to social needs, they can play a leading role in discovering new possibilities of development by linking global achievements in science and technology with the need in their own societies for the development of all creative potentials. Mr Kovacevic concluded his speech by citing the example of one such institution, namely Belgrade's Centre for Urban Technology, whose principal task is to implement theoretical knowledge accumulated around the world, so that the citizens of the city - producers and consumers - can more effectively participate in making the vital decisions that affect their everyday life.

Such participation in decision-making has, of course, not yet been won as a common right for the whole human race, and this fact goes far in explaining the fundamentally ambiguous role of science and technology in the world today. For example, it is not difficult imagine why systematic efforts were made to prevent the citizens of Pennsylvania from learning about the risks attached to the nuclear power station at Three Mile Island. As noted by Dr Pavle Savic, chairman of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, science and technology must be seen in the light of the sharp social contradictions which characterise our times, both nationally and internationally. We inhabit a world in which the lives and the co-operatively productive labours of millions of people are controlled and directed by a few tightly closed groups which attempt to suppress all efforts at overcoming their strangle-hold of privilege and power; this is a world in which "superdeveloped and extremely underdeveloped human communities exist simultaneously", a world in which "millions of men, women and children are dying of starvation and disease", while "a minority enjoys the benefits of accumulated wealth". In such a situation, it is not surprising that the results of the development of science and technology are not quite 'universally beneficial': consider the stockpiles of nuclear weapons, consider napalm, etc. Taking up a topic that would be developed by Prof. Rosa during the fourth session, Dr Savic pointed out that the technology of nuclear energy remains a virtual "monopoly of the superpowers", and he likewise deplored the widespread environmental pollution brought about in developing countries by the use of obsolete technologies which in economic terms only serve to strengthen "neo-colonialistic dependence on technologically developed countries".

While firmly emphasising the necessity for pursuing scientific and technological progress, Dr Savic said that it is unreasonable in the present world situation to expect "technological development by itself [to] remove increasing potential differences" or to bring about the humanisation of society. Given the powerful forces which science has made available, the dangers which threaten the survival of the human race are great; and "we must be well aware that [they can be overcome] only by the conscious and active endeavours of all progressive forces". Put positively, this means that "it is necessary to organise the endeavours of all progressive forces in order to provide that scientific achievements serve the majority instead of the minority". "Science and technology [must] become the property of society as a whole", in fact and not just in words; and this requires the implementation of three general principles, namely:

"that the interests of the peoples are above the interests of individuals or particular castes;

that social responsibility for the application of scientific 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 the productive forces and to avoid the perilous consequences of existing and increasing contradictions".

The practical realisation of the goals envisaged by Dr Savic faces very specific obstacles (known generally in everyday English as 'vested interests') and can only be achieved in so far as informed action is based upon a thorough evaluation of the nature of such obstacles and of the effective significance of the forces available for overcoming them. It was in order to contribute towards an evaluation of this type that the week's working sessions were carried out.

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