|Science and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 pages)|
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.