|Science and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 pages)|
Kazuko Tsurumi, Rajko Tomovic, and A.N.
1. The first international seminar, dedicated to the investigation of one of the crucial items on the agenda of our age - the role of science and technology in the transformation of the world - met. in a context of expectations, clearly articulated by the Project Co-ordinator, Dr. Anouar Abdel-Malek, and the Conference Chairman, Dr. Miroslav Pecujlic, Rector of the University of Belgrade, in the capital city of the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, which vigorously proceeds along the paths of constructive mediation between the different spheres in the world of power and culture at work in our times. The central character of our times, of the real world in our times, is implicit in the transformation of all the dimensions of the life of human societies - a transformation which is neither unilinear nor synchronic, but involves the different sectors of social life and activity - economic production, patterns of power, social cohesiveness, cultural identity, civilizational projects, political ideologies, religious formations, philosophies, myths, etc., covering the entire span of the infrastructure and superstructure of society. The question arises: how can this transformation of the world be related to the social and human sciences, political and social theories, the philosophical quest for humane vision - in short, the cultural and civilizational dimensions of our life tomorrow - through structural modifications, through remodeling in depth of the world as we know it today? And the general focus, within which such interrogations and deliberations as are relevant to the problematique could unfold themselves, yielding significant, converging insights, must inevitably couple science and technology with culture, culture/civilization with power, in the belief that such confluence should become the meeting point of scholars and policy-makers; of specialists in the natural, mathematical, material, engineering, and life sciences with analysts and theoreticians of the sciences of man and society, of humanistic cultures and civilizational totalities. And the problematique, in all its complex ramifications, must continuously remain grounded in the firm territory of the crisis confronting us all - in the monstrous asymmetries of economic, political, scientific-technological, cultural/civilizational, informational/communicational resources, characterizing the present distribution across the globe.
2. This complex problematique was explored in its major facets, comprising constellations of specific questions and issues, through five plenary sessions, focusing successively on Science and Technology as Formative Factors of Contemporary Civilization; Technology Generation and Transfer - Transformation Alternatives; Biology, Medicine, and the Future of Mankind; The Control of Space and Power; and From Intellectual Dependence to Creativity. The expositions, discussions, debates, interrogations, illustrative concretizations, insightful suggestions, reflections and observations - all the diverse forms of cognitive, exploratory activities that were triggered off by the earnest engagement of leading minds from the major cultural, socio-political zones of the globe - eventually took identifiable flow-patterns: mutually complementary, occasionally converging, often ranged in debate-prone tendencies, sometimes in polar opposition, reflecting the real contradictions and divisions of our real-life situations. But, on balance, as the dialogue built up, gathered material and dynamism in its movement from the plenary session to the dialectical stage of in-depth reflections in the working sessions, it was impossible to escape the feeling of a general focusing slowly taking shape, of a broad convergence gradually unfolding as insights and thoughts started falling into place; of an overall deepening, extending, of our understanding; of the centrality of certain issues; and of the awareness that what had actually happened was a cognitive transformation that had overtaken us all!
3. As concluding reflections on the problematique, it must be advisable to take note of those areas where, relatively speaking, the shared insights and cognitive convergence appeared to be pronounced. Science, in its totality of domains - natural, human-social, cultural/civilizational - and technology were everywhere firmly and deeply embodied in the socio-political structures which determined their dominating/ liberating functions. Their hidden social relations and hidden power-base, therefore, needed total transformation, if these resources were to be converted into a massive cultural/civilizational force for re-forming the greater part of the human societies into a more humane, democratic, just, and egalitarian future. The cultural question, then, was how to disseminate scientific insights to the people at large; how to integrate the dissociated sectors of science/technology with the foundational sectors of political social policy formation and decision making; how to strengthen complementarities across differentiated orientations; how to identify and strengthen solidarity among humane, transforming, progressive sectors of humanity distributed across the existing divisions of socio-political boundaries; how to sharpen focus on the gearbox of changing, challenging priorities; how to cope with the ever-increasing pressures which hegemonistic, dominating centres were busy releasing at an exponential pace; how to mobilize and organize the vast, latent reserves of endogenous creativity of the vast majority of mankind for initiating, sustaining, and completing the transformations that are overdue, that admit of no procrastination, divergence, or masking. In this realm of confluence, where reflective activity suggested urgent action, we note the final thrust of the seminar deliberations.