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Session I: Science and technology as formative factors of contemporary civilization - from domination to liberation

Report on session I
Technology and society
Paradigmes scientifiques et auto-détermination humaine
Science and the making of contemporary civilization

Chairman: José A. Silva Michelena
Co-chairman: Slobodan Ristic
Rapporteur: James A. Maraj


Gregory BIue

The five position papers presented to this session and the ensuing discussion developed the theme from different points of view, but it seems that each intervention sought to focus attention on the same basic questions, namely: Science and technology for whom? For whose benefit? At whose serviced In addition, special attention was paid to debunking various forms of scientism and technological determinism. It was first of all pointed out that science and technology are the results of historically determined social activity. Dr. Tomovic reviewed the development of modern technology since the Industrial Revolution and considered the implications of a heritage dominated by mass production, profit optimization, hierarchical forms of management, and the abuse of natural resources. Dr. Leite Lopes extended this historical analysis in order to situate the scientific and technological dependence of the Latin American countries; and Dr. Le Thanh Khoi related specific mechanisms of scientific and technical dependence to other aspects of the cultural domination to which Third World countries are subjected. Henri Lefebvre stressed the continuing pre-eminence of the world market in shaping scientific and technological as well as political objectives and, drawing on the example of the informational sciences, considered ways in which the development of new fields of knowledge is a scene of sharp social struggle. Dr. Pandeya (whose paper we have not been able to include in this volume) in turn pointed out that in the Third World both the natural and the social sciences can flourish only if the scientists are bound closely to the people and serve the interests of the people. Dr. Barel developed these problems theoretically, working from a view of the mutual interpenetration of science and society; he distinguished two necessarily complementary types of rationality, namely, the mechanistic and the dialectical, and he spoke of the dangers inherent in pushing along with the first while neglecting the second, since human liberation requires that the dialectical (or structural) method must take the leading role. According to Dr. Lefebvre, on the other hand, scientific truth extends rather than dilates the scope of human responsibility, and it therefore necessitates critical political struggle for differences at all levels. Drs. Pandoya and Leite Lopes emphasized that only political struggles could determine whether science and technology would play a specifically liberating role for the majority of the people in the world; and Dr. Leite Lopes in particular noted that the goal of advancing science itself gives Third World scientists an integral role in participating in such struggles. Finally, Dr. Tomovic spoke concretely about ways and means of breaking out of contemporary technological impasses and of creating better facilities for solving individual and social problems.

One of the points of conflict throughout the conference, especially in the early sessions, concerned the question of "appropriate technology." Starting off the discussion, Dr. Macura argued that the technology necessary to meet the growing needs of the population of the Third World must be appropriate, in the sense of being inexpensive, labour-intensive, energy-saving, and egalitarian in terms of providing employment opportunities and the satisfaction of basic needs. Dr. Holland spoke of the dangers of technological unemployment and noted that technological innovation is often an aspect of heightening international competition. Dr. Pandaya, on the other hand, objected strongly to the notion of appropriate technology on the grounds that what is advertised as "appropriate" for Third World countries is in fact often obsolete for the industrialized nations, and he said that implementation of such technology is in fact a recipe for continual dependence and underdevelopment. Dr. Stambuk agreed with this and felt that problems concerning the development of science and technology as well as those concerning unemployment would properly have to be viewed within the more general context of changes in society as a whole. Finally, Dr. Pecujlic was of the opinion that "alternative" technologies which take into account both productivity and human well-being can be born only from social struggle and not from catchy slogans. Unfortunately, Dr. Leite Lopes was unable to attend the conference, but the last section of his paper should be consulted for his own cogent criticism of the strategy of "appropriate technology."

Stuart Holland, Le Thanh Khoi, Milos Macura, and A.N. Pandeya took part in the discussion.

Report on session I

Jam. A. Maraj

The initial consideration of the sub-theme was facilitated by the presentation of four position papers whose titles give some indication of the particular perspective from which each of the main speakers approached the matter.

Dr. Lefebvre in opening the proceedings concerned himself with what was necessary and what was possible in the transformation being contemplated. In the worldwide struggle taking place, although "knowledge" was only part of the overall problem, it was nevertheless a most significant part. A strategy for coping with knowledge on a world scale was urgently required, for the emergence of information science as a result of technological development now made it impossible for any specialist to grasp the complexity and the amount of information being processed and disseminated. Dr. Lefebvre also noted that by linking information processing to government channels which controlled financial resources, there was a tendency to emphasize consumption rather than production. The technology itself had little to do with how the information was processed and absorbed, and questions related to the production of information by whom and for whom were politically and ideologically determined rather than technologically.

Professor Tomovic argued that we had reached a turning point or the beginning of a new era. He wondered what universities could do. Referring to the definition of technology in his paper, he commented on the mystification of the relationship between science and technology and noted that very few powers could really develop technology from basic knowledge. Professor Tomovic felt that emphasizing technology often diverted attention from social problems. The development of particular technologies was essentially socially conditioned. He referred to destructive effects associated with mass production based on profit motives and claimed that the management of technology often depended on authoritarian attitudes. In his view, if social conditions favoured it, enough of the basic goods could be produced and technology could be used to solve urgent urban problems or improve the delivery of health care for the masses, for example. Professor Tomovic suggested that universities should start research on a critical history of technology and he wanted particular studies made of the interaction between specific technologies and their social consequences. He drew attention to the need for technology forecasting and assessment and the need for greater self-reliance to be promoted. In his view this self-reliance was not facilitated by transfers of techniques or educational systems whose goals required thorough reexamination.

Professor Pandeya reminded us that the focus of our concerns in considering science and technology as factors in transformation had to be seen in the context of a movement from domination to liberation. He accepted the contribution which two sciences could make, and had made, to development. Natural sciences (Sc. 1), which generate technology leading to productivity, and Sc. 2, humanistic and social sciences which were. at the core of a society's ideological apparatus, were taken as given. Professor Pandeya emphasized, however, that there was a third science which had to be utilized for revolutionizing existing structures in order to create the new order or new varieties of order which we seek. It was not reproduction of the order as known which science and technology should be used for; rather they should be revolutionizing agents. Relating this approach to cultural transformation, Professor Pandeya argued that there was a need to link scientific insights to "the physic impulses" of the people and that their cultural perspective should not be limited to a social. memory only, but be enhanced by a forward-looking element which could lead to a capacity for critical reflection. In his view, liberation will only be achieved when, on a large scale, the critical scientific insights of imaginative minds are shared by the people and become an integral part of their consciousness and cultural frame of reference.

Professor Yves Barel, commenting on his paper, "Scientific Paradigms and Human Self-determination," noted the following:

1. Science and technology, contrary to certain well-established beliefs, have certain negative side-effects on human self-determination, i.e. on the right and the power of the individual, the social groups, and, finally, the bulk of the population to decide about their actions, to make sense of them, and to determine their objectives.

2. These negative side-effects are particularly significant in three fields:

- the autonomization of technical systems, which means the autonomy of the machinery vis-à-vis the immediate human operator;

- the displacement of labour know-how, the real qualification of workers, by algorithms which become foreign to these workers;

- the development of new forms of social control founded on the diffusion of "scientific" and rationalizing norms in multidirectional domains: private life sexuality, family life, education of children, nourishment methods, etc.

3. This influence of science and technology is not only a problem of the social misuse of their results, but also a problem of inner methodological and epistemological orientations. These orientations, in turn, are themselves partly a social problem.

4. Reorienting the techno-scientific direction implies a new sort of compromise between the two dominant paradigms - the mechanistic paradigm and the "structural" or "dialectic" paradigm - which does not give priority to the mechanization of structure, particularly human and social structures. The real problem which this raises is the problem of re-examining the present imbalance of power.


Professor Macura noted that while ethical, philosophical factors were important, economic factors were no less so. Quoting figures related to the gap between developed and developing countries, he felt that technology was the instrument to assist in its reduction. Focusing on the employment problem faced by most countries he noted that appropriate technology had to be seriously considered.

The new technology must advance egalitarianism, save energy, and conserve natural resources; it should be inexpensive and labour-intensive, but productive. China had demonstrated its feasibility. The question now was whether China could continue in this way and in what specific dimensions alternatives would be essential.

Dr. Holland reminded us that we were at the end of a long phase of development. He noted the distinction between process and product innovations, the former resulting in the displacement of labour which is no longer absorbed and compensated for by growth in the latter.

It was important to recall how people view the world. For example, work is regarded as a good thing per se. Some of these values may have to be altered and if technology could not produce more jobs, as seemed to be the case, could it be used to assist in coping with new life patterns, e.g., wiser use of leisure.

Looking at S & T on a wider perspective, perhaps biological planning, availability of nuclear energy, etc., could in due course also be major factors in the transformation.

Professor Pandeya observed that the economic gap was not the whole story. The science-knowledge industry had grown to such proportions that it was now over 30:1 in favour of the industrialized nations. The notion that low-level technology is good enough for the Third World was totally unacceptable in his view.

Rector Pecujlic noted that the problem was essentially one of individual norms of behaviour versus the collective conditions of the system. He felt that it was only out of a social struggle that technological innovation could really be born.

Professor Le Thanh Khoi observed that science and technology are a part of culture as envisaged in its largest meaning, and should be examined in this context. Culture could be a liberation as well as a domination. There was no political and economic independence without a cultural independence. In his view culture comprised four main elements: education; science and technology; "culture in its restrictive senses"; and communication.

1. Education. Its development is usually measured by quantitative indicators (rates of enrollment, number of students per 10,000 inhabitants, percentage of GNP devoted to education, etc.). The real question is what is education for and for whom. Is education a reflection of its own culture or of foreign culture(s), does it use national language(s), what are the social origins of those students who arrive at the university and get the diplomas enabling them to obtain the best positions while others are condemned to manual occupations or to unemployment?

2. Science and technology. These, likewise, should be examined not only from the quantitative point of view (number of scientists and engineers per 10,000 inhabitants, budget, etc.), but particularly from the point of view of the policy followed by national authorities, which in turn is composed of three elements:

- The production of knowledge: what kind of knowledge is or is not produced in the country, by whom (expatriate or national scientists)? Does this production take into account the real conditions of the country?

- The diffusion of knowledge: is it restricted to the elite or widely communicated to the population, so that they can apply it to production?

- The application of knowledge: there may be knowledge, but it is not applied for what reasons? These may be political, social, or economic reasons, e.g. pressures from transnational corporations.

3. Culture (in its restricted sense). Colonialism had persuaded the colonized peoples that they had no culture, or a culture vastly inferior to European culture. This situation has not disappeared in many countries, where the leaders are not mentally liberated. Only an authentic culture can give meaning to the development process. It is by being oneself that a people can participate in the dialogue of cultures and civilizations. But this "return to roots" should eliminate the negative aspects of traditional cultures and not be closed to foreign influences.

4. Communication. The mass media have become a powerful instrument of manipulating international opinion and sometimes destabilizing governments. At present, 65 per cent of world information is produced in and diffused from the United States. Many countries content themselves to reproduce messages from the big Western press agencies without analyzing their ideological contents. Information is at the same time conditioning. The message is in fact "massage" of the minds, destined to contribute to the reproduction of the existing international order.

Dr. Stambuk in his intervention asked whether the problem should be viewed as requiring a change in society rather than changes in technology even when consideration had been given to the alternative forms available.

Professor Macura referring both to Pandit Nehru and President Carter asked what the options were to his earlier proposals, if these proposals were not acceptable.

Professor Mushakoji then made the following observations before the session was concluded:

1. Science did not only feed into technology, but also received from technological developments new knowledge and insights.

2. Decentralization, which was desirable, had itself been assisted by technological developments, especially in such areas as micro-processors.

3. The need for collective self-reliance by the Third World countries should be recognized and acted upon as it could lead to changing the bases of power. In this connection the intellectual stimulus would have to come from universities.

In the discussion workshop, participants having satisfied themselves that the summary record of the plenary sessions was fair, then moved to a more detailed consideration of underlying themes. It was agreed that the discussions should lead to a sharpening of the differences which had emerged and the following positions were arrived at:

(a) There was need for a much more vigorous examination of the relationship between the way a technology was applied, the technology itself, and the basic science from which it grew.

(b) In pursuing the examination, attention should be focused on the role of technology as a factor in the social, economic, and cultural aspects taken individually and cumulatively. The interaction between the various aspects should also be closely observed as well as such matters as, Is the problem the technology itself or its management, or the resource base? etc.

(c) It was particularly important to re-examine these relationships as we are entering a new era following the current world crisis.

(d) Technology was not an end in itself. It was preconditioned by social goals and these goals needed to be clearly articulated. In particular, the human factor had to be emphasized, not only from the standpoint of the individual but also from that of the social group as we strive towards egalitarianism in terms of equality of opportunity. The search for a fraternal convivial society should recognize both cultural identity and diversity.

(e) In accepting the proposition that science and technology were socially conditioned, it was thought that it would be useful to study the application of various specific technologies to determine whether the goals being pursued were in fact being achieved or whether the technologies imposed by wrong motivations themselves altered the character and the nature of the technology.

(f) While recognizing that various dilemmas would have to be confronted, it was thought that some of these could be made less difficult to cope with, if clearly defined social criteria could be stated and adequate methods agreed upon for assessing and forecasting technologies.

(g) It was noted that while science had to a large extent been decentralized, this was not so with technological development. The latter was still heavily monopolized by a few powers.

(h) The link between technological development proceeding from a scientific base was seriously questioned and several reasons given for the non-automatic emergence of technological development even where a strong science base existed.

(i) It was concluded that the various parameters of the social field had to be carefully examined before deciding on technology development or adaptation and that the entire social system itself would be the determinant of the extent to which technological development would succeed in effective transformation.

Technology and society

Ralko Tomovic

Ralko Tomovic

The term technology has had an interesting evolution. Originally it was used to refer to the processing of raw materials. However, production turned out to be but one small aspect of the resources and activities involved in successfully running an industrial organization. Gradually awareness grew that a combination of scientific knowledge and accumulated experience is necessary to run any large system, no matter what its nature. Thus, with the evolution of modern society, technology's role has increased enormously in depth and in scope.

Technology is not the only factor shaping our future, but there is no doubt that it will play a decisive role in all efforts to change our world. Knowing this, it would be too risky to allow technology to develop without monitoring its trends in terms of social needs. Already a new activity, technology forecasting and assessment, is becoming a prominent part of any national and global planning. The speed of technological progress has increased so much that, without a strategy of technological development, the economic and defensive capabilities of any country could be seriously undermined.

Choosing an adequate strategy for technological development has become a highly delicate issue, especially for developing countries. Traditional approaches, such as giving top priority to heavy industry, have lost much of their value because many other industries, once at the bottom of the priority list, have been promoted to the top (food production, data processing, raw materials, and so forth). On the other hand, many options in the selection of an appropriate strategy for technological development that did not exist 30 or 40 years ago are available today. I do not intend to discuss the whole problem of technology forecasting and assessment, but to emphasize that this important field of research and applied activity must be given an adequate place at the university level.

Technology's new social and political functions can be best understood by reviewing the general conditions under which modern technology emerged. This technology is still young; it is generally agreed that the technological era began with the advent of the steam engine and the first automatic regulator devices in the mid-eighteenth century.

Having been exposed to the tremendous production potential of the modern world, we easily forget the scarcity of goods only 200 years ago. In 1750 most tools used by farmers were made either by the village blacksmith or by the farmer himself. It was only around 1850 that farm equipment started coming in increasing quantities from factories. When speaking of numbers, it should not be forgotten that farming machines were selling at the rate of just a few thousand a year. In other words, the technological era began without an adequate farm equipment industry. The first sugar-beet factory, which had an extraction efficiency of only two to three per cent, was completed in 1802, which means again that the food industry, now of strategic importance, was marginal 150 years ago. At the turn of the eighteenth century, England's pig iron production was about 15,000 tons. The level of development of the most advanced technological countries around this time may be characterized by various statistics: for example, in 1841, 33 per cent of men and 49 per cent of women marrying in England and Wales signed the marriage-register with a mark, while the structure of England's work-force in 1850 was such that the number of blacksmiths exceeded the number of iron workers by nearly 50 per cent, and there were at the same time twice as many tailors as railway employees.

The most powerful factors shaping our technology - union of science, research and technology as well as extensive technological education - were almost non-existent until the middle of the nineteenth century.

The awakening to the need for technological education started in the period from 1851 to 1867. Mathematics and physics had been introduced as separate subjects in schools in Europe in 1840.

The middle of the nineteenth century may also be taken as the beginning of proper engineering education in Europe. A few facts taken from official university documents of that era clearly illustrate the contempt prevailing in academic circles toward engineering. For instance, the first professors in engineering had to give assurances that they would not encroach on other university disciplines. Attitudes such as that which considered that engineering was not "a proper department in which a degree should be conferred" were also indicative of the misunderstanding of the role of applied science.

One could add many other details from the history of technology in order to emphasize the striking differences in the production means of today and yesterday. In fact, a comprehensive study of this phenomenon proper rather than a mere comparison of facts and figures would be highly valuable to the understanding of the new social tasks of modern technology. An international effort in this direction would certainly be welcome.

I have repeatedly referred to the interaction of technology and society. Consequently, a full understanding of the reasons that technology has led to a consumer society, environmental destruction and abuse of natural resources would require studying the socioeconomic conditions under which it evolved.

Let me again mention just the most relevant features of the world situation in the mid-eighteenth century. First, the social structure of the world, in spite of great differences, was homogeneous in one important respect: the land and the production potential in general were, exclusively, privately owned. State ownership and participation, not to mention self-government, were at that time unheard-of principles of socio-economic structures. At the same time, vast areas of our planet, in fact the majority of mankind, were forced to live under colonial rule. Without exaggeration, one can say that never in the history of our planet was global decision power concentrated in so few hands located in such a narrow geographic area. It is under these circumstances that the basic features of our present technology were shaped.

The above remarks should be helpful in understanding the following statements about the interaction of technology and society in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. The basic social goals which globally affected the existing technology were as follows:

a. Mass production. There are very few books which will give full credit to the idea on which all modern technology is based. The founders of our technological civilization were really concerned just with small-scale production. Production tolerances at that time were so large that each machine had to be built as a single unit. The fundamental idea of developing industrial production on the principle of replaceable parts is not more than 130 or 140 years old. It is no wonder that the first experiments in this direction aroused great interest, because the technology of replaceable parts leads immediately to production specialization, assembly lines and services. Without such an approach, many goods such as household appliances, cars, television sets and so on would still be the privileges of very restricted groups. Let us not forget that even shoes and socks were once reserved just for the aristocracy. Creating a more democratic access to goods of all kinds is definitely a historical aspect of modern technology.

b. Profit optimization. Taking into account the historical conditions under which present technology grew, it is easily understood that profit motivation was the single major factor affecting the functioning, organization and management of production processes. How deeply the profit motivation has affected the very nature of our factories still remains to be analysed. In fact, very few studies based on the interaction of profit motivation and technology are available. But there is little doubt that absurd destruction of the human environment is the product of a narrowly oriented technology. Another example of negative interaction of one-sided social goals and technology is human settlements. Reducing the human being to a commuter between the suburbs and the working place deprives him of rich, many-sided interactions with the city, narrowing them down to just traveling and working.

c. Abuse of natural resources. A clear distinction between mass production and the consumer society must be made. Consumer technology, including marketing and advertising, is meant to satisfy not just the average needs of man but his artificially created demands as well. The folly of such an approach has now become evident. After the oil crisis, it requires little imagination to understand how absurd it is to develop megalopolises where, for each family, three to four tonnes of steel and several hundred litres of gasoline per month are needed just for transportation. This is just the minor part of the story. The chemical, drug, food, textile, electronic and many other industries also have been developed without paying due attention to the abuse of renewable and non-renewable natural resources.

d. Management. The term technology in its broader sense applies to the management of resources in general, to the improvement of the organizational aspects of applied activities and to improved decision making processes as well. The dominant management technology of our time is conceived on the basis of hierarchic organization, subordination, and separation of man's intellectual and physical involvement in the production process. That is, the fundamental principle of prevailing practice in management technology means rule by authority based on hierarchy rather than full involvement of all those concerned. This has led to two oppressive principles. First, although the equality of human beings as political decision makers is unconditionally accepted, at least in principle, when the same human being begins to work, in production or elsewhere, he is ruled by "orders and degrees" issued by an elite founded on hierarchy, property or education. Even more oppressive is the fact that such management and organizational principles are practiced not only in societies based on private ownership but also in those with state ownership of factories.

Evidently such undemocratic treatment of human beings cannot be maintained without considerable repression and manipulation. One of the most subtle and dangerous ways of manipulation is deeply rooted in current educational systems. Instead of extensive analysis of this phenomenon, let me just quote the words of André Gorz (Proceedings, Fourth International Workshop of Metalworkers, April 1972, Oberhausen, European Publishing House).

From the social point of view, the educational system has essentially a selective role: it provides the cultural background for social inequality. The educational system forces students of all ages to a painful process of acquiring uninteresting knowledge without internal motivation; they are obliged to become part of a competition system within which beforehand the success of one individual depends on the failure of the others so that they are degraded to less ''valuable" positions. Thus the educational system is favouring not the most "talented" ones but the most ambitious ones: those who have the ambition to "improve themselves socially," accepting thus the disciplinary-hierarchical nature of the school which in its educational relations reflects already the patterns of production relations and has the tendency to reproduce them. As seen, the manipulation of human beings by power structures tends to start very early.

Now let us turn to the future. New socio-economic, scientific, educational and cultural conditions affecting the interaction of technology and society can hardly be compared to the old ones. Again, I shall not use numerical data to emphasize the quantitative differences between the past and the present, but instead will attempt to summarize the essential features of the last two radical breakthroughs in the history of technology.

The rate of progress in technology and production potential of the world has been so fast in the last 150 years that, notwithstanding enormous market expansion, mankind's basic needs can be met. This is certainly true if the arts industry is included as a productive factor. For the first time in its history, humankind has at its disposal production facilities which, in principle, do not require discrimination in terms of goods to satisfy basic human needs (clothing, food, housing, public transportation, education, and health care). At least, such a goal is technologically feasible today. But other factors, beyond technology, still prevent faster progress in this direction.

Modern technology possesses yet another fundamental asset. As is well known, the Industrial Revolution was carried out in its early stages without using such powerful resources as science and education. Individual creativity and heuristic approaches were the most frequent tools of technological progress in the eighteenth century. Nowadays the greatest potential for technological progress lies not in "hardware" but in "software." Modern science, industry, and society possess a most powerful tool: we know how to manage, organize, and implement the transfer of new scientific knowledge into all human activities. By mastering this most complicated transfer process, promoting technology becomes an organized social activity rather than one involving only individuals or companies.

In contrast to the extreme national and regional concentration of technological power in the past, know-how, advanced industry, and promotion of new technology are no longer the privileges of a few western nations. Europe as a whole belongs today to technologically developed societies. Nations in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East also possess powerful industries and technological resources. Even more important, education in science and technology has spread all over the world either directly or indirectly. This profound change in the distribution of technological power across the world and the fall of colonial rule have laid down the basis for a global order of equality of nations rather than rule by domination and monopolies.

The once homogeneous socio-political system of governing represents nowadays but a part of the global order. Socialist ideas are not theoretical considerations any more but have become the founding principles and guidelines of many nations, both large and small. In these circumstances it has become inadequate to assess technology just in terms of profit optimization. Its meaning and impact must be evaluated in a much broader context, including urban environment, education, health, and human rights at work.

New living conditions have placed new requirements on technology. It is a matter of complex multidisciplinary studies to propose more precise guidelines for a strategy of technological development in our era. At this point I shall just present a sketch of some of the options which lie before us.

a. Urban technology. So far it has been technology's role to support the functioning of human settlements whose basic profiles and growth have been determined by the needs of consumer society, commerce, banking, industry and administration. Eventually, with increased social consciousness and in the face of an alarming deterioration in the quality of life in metropolitan areas, steps were taken to use technology to improve the worst effects of the urban crisis.

From a long-term point of view, palliative measures cannot resolve the problem; instead, the basic approach must be changed. Social, urban, regional and economic planning must be granted the same status as other factors so that human needs are matched not to patterns imposed by the past but to projects containing completely new value systems. For instance our cities would certainly offer much better opportunities for human contact if urban transportation systems had been built on the principle of pedestrian zones, public transportation and individual motorized displacement. New technology for human settlements must be oriented in a way which will strike a better balance between human needs and economic constraints.

b. Health care systems. The most striking fact about health services is the very idea that "health care," conceived as a nation-wide system, is relatively new. The basic human right to have equal access to the best medical care available is still far from a reality in our world. Technology is certainly one restraint on progress in this area.

Medical instrumentation, hospital management and existing organizational institutions are still unable to accomplish the transition from the centuries-old practice of "small-scale operations" to the full coverage of citizens' demands in health services. Our current knowledge of automation, electronics, computers, telecommunications and so forth is such that with concurrent efforts of science, technology and organized social forces a much better functioning of large-scale health care systems can be assured.

The effect of profit-motivated technology on the drug industry is another deep problem related to health care. How many of the drugs bombarding us are effective, semi-effective or ineffective remains to be analysed, though drug and food safety regulations are certainly a small step in the right direction. Technology's future role in health care presents great challenges and expectations. Neglecting health care problems is a reflection more of misplaced social priorities than of current technology deficiencies.

c. Management technology. I have pointed out that the most adverse effects on human rights in the production sphere occur during decision making processes. Authoritative management was understandable in the early stages of technological development when a large amount of physical labour was a sine qua non for any production system. However, the advent of modern automation and the computer makes any kind of non-creative, degraded human work obsolete, provided there is enough professional and social support. The basic question today is not mass production but the human factor. Quite a change in a rather short historical period: let us not forget that the industrial era relied heavily on child and illiterate labour, as well as pushing workers to the limits of human endurance.

Such practices are marginal in contemporary conditions. But, even so, the most challenging tasks lie ahead. The fundamental goal of social and technological endeavours must become the right of each man to be free not only in terms of civil rights but also in a much deeper sense. "As long as human activity is not shaped freely but by chance, his own product becomes an adverse and estranged power constraining man instead of freeing him" (Karl Marx). "To be free means fulfillment of one's life. That means a great number of freedoms.... If one cannot become himself, does it make sense to become anything?" (Tennessee Williams). "It seems to me that we owe to each human being many other lives" (Arthur Rimbaud). Taking away from a human being the right to self-government at any level of his activity is equivalent to the amputation of his personality.

Quoting poetic visions of human destiny in the context of technological considerations may seem artificial. However, the interaction of society and technology has reached such a level that the strategy of technological development must take into consideration not only economic values but the human factor in its full richness as well.


This piece is by no means an exhaustive study of future technology, for that would require enormous effort and detailed analysis. Most probably it will take another hundred years before the transition from profit-motivated and economic growth-oriented development to human factor-dominated technology is achieved. But the transition has already begun and there is no turning back.

Having to choose between mere generalities and technical considerations, I wanted to present, in the first place, a possible outline for international research activity in the domain of technology and society. History of technology, multidisciplinary studies of the impact of technology, the strategy of technological development and technology forecasting and assessment seem to be pieces of a new, comprehensive field of academic activity. The issues raised are of such fundamental and general importance that the United Nations University seems to be the most appropriate institution to launch such a research programme. As noted, during the Industrial Revolution academic institutions were not anxious to invest their intellectual resources in engineering and technology. This time, the university is given another chance to assume a leading role at a time of transition. We should not remain passively watching the emergence of new relations between society and technology.

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