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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderOpening addresses
View the documentZivorad Kovacevic
View the documentPavle Savic
View the documentMiroslav Pecujlic
View the documentKinhide Mushakoji

Miroslav Pecujlic

Rector, University of Belgrade
Chairman of the Seminar

1. Introduction

This international seminar is dedicated to the investigation of one of the crucial topics of our age: the role of science and technology in the transformation and conquest of a more humane world, of a new international economic and social order. Science and technology are part of a new civilizational wave of new gigantic powers that has conquered and which brings us to the threshold of a new world. But science and technology have found themselves at a great historical crossroads. Scientific and technical forces, which no epoch of previous human history could have dreamed of, have entered life. These are forces which have the wonderful power of making human labour freer, creative, and worthier of man, of liberating mankind from the yoke of poverty, and of narrowing the gap between rich and poor countries.

However, it is a dangerous illusion to believe that technology would automatically, on its own, solve man's existential problems. As if by some fateful magic spell the new sources of productive power - as opposed to their great liberation potentials - can become destructive both for nature and man. They can be misused and they can serve for subordinating people and entire communities, for widening the gap between the rich and the poor - the gap which is turning contemporary society into true volcanic ground.

Science and technology are not neutral. They are developing not in a vacuum but in human space. In order to make technological growth become human progress at the same time, it is necessary not to stop it but to give it a new direction, a connection with the broad cultural horizon of a human society, with the transformation of the world.

The age in which we live, and particularly the gigantic development of science and technology, has opened a glorious but also critical era of universal interdependence. The former isolated and autarchic societies, like oases separated by deserts, have come closer together and have become connected by thousands of links. We are living in a world planetary society; but it is of crucial importance what it will be like. In order to make the world a human community, a society which is not uniform and undistinguishable but rich in its Promethean quest for life, which is becoming worthier of man, it is essential to have a pluralism of cultures, their mutual enrichment. Only full independence, autonomy, equality of rights, freedom, and one's own identity can be the road leading to the universal richness of the world, a world which every culture is contributing to with its endogenous "intellectual creativity - understood as the contribution of the countries or cultures to human civilization; the study of how to give creativity precedence over mere transfer" (UNU project). Deprived of this, interdependence is not a road to mutual enrichment but an impersonalization, a halting of civilizational development.

"The central intent of this seminar is to study the dimension of science and technology in and through the historic period of the transformation of the world we now live in. This transformation is visualized by the SCA project as being the combined output of three major sets of formative influences: (a) the re-emergence of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and specifically the Orient to contemporaneity (the dimension of national liberation); (b) the rise of socialism as a set of new models facing the traditional capitalistic models; and (c) the second phase in the industrial revolution, often labelled the scientific and technological revolution" (A. Abdei Malek). The rise of so-ciocultural alternatives within the developed western countries is connected with the radicalization of the social processes.

The socio-cultural development alternatives in a changing world are connected with national liberation and socialism as the world process.

The aim of this international seminar is the investigation of these characteristics of social practice which enable technological growth to coincide with authentic human progress. As an illustration of this we propose a dialogue based on the following:

(i) The application of science and technology that provides for the effective solution of existential problems of the broad working people such as: hunger (nutrition, housing, employment. A strategy of economic-social and technological development which leads to the narrowing (rather than growth, of such essential social differences that endanger the survival and development of large sections of the population, entire social groups, and countries or regions. A technological development that benefits the working people, and not primarily the privileged position of narrow strata of certain countries.

(ii) The relationship between science, technology, and traditional culture. A way of modernization which is not destructive - destructive in the sense that it destroys the positive cultural and productive heritage of original civilization, not creating new living and working conditions for the population, but creating gigantic masses of pauperized populations that have lost their roots. A mode of technological development which preserves progressive cultural and productive tradition and turns it into a point of departure for the creation of new forms of social organization, for a great mobilization of human energy - a development that suits society's own needs.

(iii) Forms of sociability and modern science and technology. Some fundamental forms of life and mentality - cultural and civilizational values such as solidarity, a tendency towards egalitarianism, and a collective spirit - represent important components of the human community. But traditional forms of sociability had great limitations: firstly, traditional collective communities were confined to a narrow framework - to a village, to a local community - while the pyramid of the ruling elites and groups rose above them like a kind of superstructure. Secondly, the local community and its solidarity was kept in life by using the undeveloped productive forces which had not changed for centuries - by their conservation. The key problem is how to attain greater sociability - more human and more solidary forms of social life - on a larger scale, not within the framework of small local communities, and on the basis of revolutionary productive forces. The problem is how to preserve positive values and unite them with the modern.

2. Human or Repressive Role of Science and Technology - Distinctions

Where do the distinctions lie between a science and technology which serves the authentic progress of individuals and communities and, on the other hand, an application which turns science and technology into new instruments for controlling and manipulating people, for technological subordination?

The discussion should show the differences both in the goals and ways of application of the same technology and in the formation of alterative technologies, which are more suitable to a specific natural and social environment.

This general guiding thought should be materialized in systematic discussions in a few fields of utmost importance.

(i) Science, technology and the control of environment - alternative types of urbanization and industrialization and their social consequences.

Alternative patterns of urbanization, collective conditions of living. The crisis of the megalopolis; the city which is developing according to human needs, rather than according to a profiteer-bureaucratic logic that alienates people, turning the city into a modern anthill.

Various types of industrialization (modernization). Two sides of technology transfer - independent development and progress, or a way of transferring knowledge which maintains subordination and widens the civilizational, economic gap between societies.

The strategy of scientific and technological development which is not limited exclusively to the copying of the patterns of others. Greater reliance on one's own forces and a larger share of endogenous creativity in technological development, development of cities, production of food and raw materials, organization of labour. How to develop endogenous scientific creativity (its autonomy, specificity) and reject autarchy, sterile confinement, simultaneously. How to open bridges to the world, enrich one's own experience with the most valuable heritage of other cultures, with knowledge, and with universal values - to create a new economic and social order in the world.

(ii) Science, technology, and the control of environment - the transformation of agrarian societies and technological revolution.

Connections between social processes and the conception of development, and agrarian relations and science, social agronomy.

The character and mode of application of science and technology which leads to emancipation and to the solution of the existential needs of the population. Possibilities for an alternative technology, for combining traditional methods, knowledge, experience, and contemporary productive forces.

A character and mode of application of science and technology, of modernization, which leads to the ruin of the land, to a decrease in the fertility of the soil, to a decrease in the quality of food and an expansion of hunger, to biological degradation, to mass pauperization of the agrarian population, to a larger dependence on developed world centres.

(iii) Social medicine, biology, and demography in the service of authentic progress.

The relationship between the organization of labour and way of work, working hours, social contradictions, and the human organism. To what extent does the way of using the labour force and working conditions truly influence the human organism, the span of human life, illness.

Does medicine, as a practice and as a science, bring about knowledge about this and critically investigate the social conditions which lead to the mass improvement or deterioration of health as the basic value. The social direction in medical and pharmaceutical research - to what extent are innovations directed towards the fundamental upgrading of the quality of health, and to what extent are they directed solely towards variations which prevent repletion of the market and the reduction of profit.

Biology in the service of the promotion of man's health and life, or the creation of new kinds of control and manipulation of people through genetic engineering.

(iv) Science, technology, and the control of space and power (geopolitics, armaments).

3. The Quest for a Humanistic Science - the Scientist in the Transformation of the World

(i) The character of contemporary science.

The constituent principles - organization, professional ideology and culture, the way of formation of experts (narrow specialization and "parcelization") on which modern science, as a special sphere of human practice, rests. For instance, to what extent are the principles on which the prevailing pattern of scientific knowledge is based those that exclude from their perspective the positive traditions - the results of the experience of people as to how the fertility of the soil is preserved or how one can live better in human settlements, what people feel as good or bad; e.g., why don't the research workers at modern agronomical institutes wonder what will happen to the land, whether it will lose its fertility, what will happen to nutrition, whether food will lose essential nutritive qualities, what will the human organism look like, what social consequences will arise in certain societies and in international relations? Why do they not ask those questions of themselves? Probably not only because of commercial interests but also because of professional ideology, because they have pedagogically been formed to think as narrow specialists, only within the framework of their limited sector, and to exclude the social dimension. Are they being formed as one-dimensional people?

(ii) The scientists as subjects of the historical process of socio-cultural alternatives.

What kind of transformation in its social direction, internal principles, and professional culture should science undergo in order to take part in the transformation of the world, representing an aspect of the transformation towards a more human world.

Universities as the protagonists of such scientific research, pioneers in the discovery of new possibilities for development. The university as the watchhower of the world development of science, but also from the point of view of endogenous, original creativity and the needs of society.

The pedagogical principles of such a formation of young intelligentsia who will be masters of knowledge but with a deep social feeling, who will seek the best technical but also human solution, adapted to the needs of their own society. The formation of research workers whose minds will reach the horizons of world science but whose feet will firmly rest on the foundations of endogenous national culture and needs.

Philosophy and ethics.

(iii) The socio-economic framework and creativity.

Socio-political organization: the state and self-management.