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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession V: From intellectual dependence to creativity
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Science and technology are not the products of modern societies alone. Science and technology in Europe have been influenced and based upon the heritage of other civilizations. Although distinctively modern science has arisen in Europe since the sixteenth century, the birth of modern science owed much to the preceding achievements of Greek, Indian, Chinese, and Islamic/Arabic science. For example, in the first fifteen centuries of our era, a large number of mechanical and other innovations were transmitted from China to Europe, and these were large factors not only in revolutionizing medieval Europe, but also in the constitution of modern science itself. The same can be said of the transmission of techniques and the exact sciences from the Arabic world to the Latin West through commercial and cultural contact and through the movement of translations into Latin between the ninth and fourteenth century. This point shows that science and technology are not creations of any one civilization alone. Science can flourish because of beneficial social and political conditions. When we consider the birth of modern science we see that it was also linked to the particular social evolution that took place in the West.

Science and technology continued to expand and flourish in the West, whereas they developed at a much slower rate in the civilizations of the East. Science and technology as developed in Europe consequently were employed as means for domination and suppression, which tended to hinder similar developments within the other regions of the world.

If favourable conditions can be created for the development of science and technology in any country, whether in the East or in the West, then there will be a flourishing, as can be seen from the Japanese experience. Here we have the example of a "late-coming" Asian country which was underdeveloped in science and technology, yet favourable conditions were created in that country because of the lack of foreign domination, because of the presence of an independent, strong control government, and because of the interaction of endogenous and exogenous factors. The Japanese experience shows that modern technology can be successfully incorporated into local culture, provided that certain prerequisites are met.

It seems beyond doubt that human freedom and national liberty depend on economic independence. Having in mind the role which science and technology play in economic development, attention is much given to the discrepancy in the level of research and education between the "North" and the "South," that is between developed nations leading in science, and the bulk of humanity, still striving in poverty for cultural recognition and freedom from domination. But pleading for more science and technology alone does not seem to affect very much cultural emancipation whose dominant aim is to preserve and revive national roots and culture and so to open the prospective of human civilization as a plurality of national cultures. As was outlined above, science and technology have been throughout their history deeply rooted in the human race, and all attempts to ascribe them to any one nation, or group, as local achievements or characteristics, are false. Whatever the national culture is like, science and technology can fit in, as complements. And though it may seem a paradox, no national culture will survive, unless it makes space within itself for the scientific technological culture.

Science cannot be developed primarily through the needs of local, divided practical activities. It is also impossible to plan scientific application in detail. Therefore, a broad population should be cultivated in science in order to help society to develop in a competent way. Similarly competence in technology is not a matter of choice or some local priorities. It is a part of a basic culture of a broad population.

Science and technology are a way of thinking. They deal with basic things in the human environment and in humans themselves. Therefore it is not possible for a society to benefit from science and technology without being exposed to their influence on human behaviour.

Far from looking upon science and technology as creating unemployment, they must be considered as liberating man from dull work and over-work. Science and technology are thus prerequisites of emancipation and development.

When speaking about science and technology it was usually implied that we were speaking only of physical and biological sciences. The role of social sciences was usually ignored. All societies need scientific social knowledge in order to build their own futures. Western social sciences have not universal validity and they cannot adequately cope with the problems faced by other peoples with different civilizations. The knowledge of the members of certain cultures about their own societies is not institutionalized nor systematically organized. The social science which is needed to help these peoples in their liberation effort must include both the systematic knowledge of their own societies and of the dominant hegemonic societies.

Hegemony is not being maintained only through repression, but also through cultural domination. The ability to conceive new visions is becoming decisive. We are confronted by the greatest challenge of all, the creation of a knowledge that is suited to our epoch. There are two faces of science and technology. There is the vision of social and economic growth, and there is the vision of an uncertain future and the illusory criticism of technology which gave rise to the slogan "protect us from technology." However, it is of decisive importance to realize that science and technology are not negative powers in themselves, they turn into that when becoming part of an antagonistic social arrangement. What we are seeking is a new type of society or civilization which is to be a more favourable framework for the development of the authentic potentials of man.

The new culture or civilization cannot be built without international solidarity. Without mutuality, there is no autonomy.

The coming era opens a glorious but also critical period of overall interdependence. We are living in a planetary world society. A pluralism of cultures is necessary in order to have the world become a society which is not uniform and indistinguishable. Only autonomy, independence, and equality can lead toward universal richness. Differences will remain. But the decisive question is whether they will lead to a mutual complementarity, or whether they will turn into hostility and antagonism.