| The uncertain quest: science, technology, and development |
|Introduction: From tradition to modernity|
Jean-Jacques Salomon, Francisco R. Sagasti, and CÃ©line Sachs-Jeantet
A "science" of some sort has existed in every society at all periods of human history. There can be no action, whether on natural or social phenomena, without a certain amount of rational empirical knowledge of the physical, living, and social world. Such knowledge has always played an important role in the development of societies, in their material as well as in their institutional and cultural achievements. However, it is in modern industrial societies that science and technology became the critical factor in the process of long-term economic growth and development. Many civilizations and societies have ignored or simply not paid attention to the notion of progress, but nevertheless have witnessed some degree of technical change that occurred over the very long term.
Expectations about prospects for improvement in the standard of living are a rather recent phenomenon, and they rose extremely slowly in the pre-industrial era. The idea of progress emerged in the context of the Judeo-Christian civilization and developed mainly with the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century, the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, and the Industrial Revolution that is still with us. Subsequently, economic growth became - for better or for worse - the basis of every society's hopes for the future, and science and technology became more and more instrumental in the fulfilment of these expectations. It is in this framework that policies for and through research and development (R&D) activities became more and more indispensable to the conception, elaboration, and implementation of broader policy and political objectives. Max Weber considered that the modern state is defined by bureaucracy, so that any current policy-making process can be defined as bureaucracy plus science: most political decisions today have recourse to scientific disciplines as regards methods, proofs, results, and even promises.