Science and Technology, Part 2

Exploring the framework for a “Balanced Development” model

 

Ramses Rashidi

©2008 Center for Balanced Development (www.cbdus.org)

 

In the last article we mostly talked about the history of science and technology and its role in the development of civilizations. Here, we are going to further examine the growth and development of science and technology and its impact on society and the development process.

 

The Role of Science in the Development Process

First of all, “What is science?” Alan Chalmers in “What Is This Thing Called Science?” basically comes to the conclusion that science is nothing more than an assumption based on the scientists’ experimentation and observation. This assumption is true until someone finds something that proves to be otherwise. So, in essence, scientific theory is about “falsification” and it’s relative to our understanding at the time. For example, the idea of earth being flat was considered to be true for some time until a theory proved that the earth was round. In modern theory of quantum physics a new paradigm has emerged, stating that matter consists of subatomic particles that move rapidly in space. Throughout history, most of our preconceived notions about life and the universe have been challenged and will continue to be challenged in the future as we mature and evolve as a society. This in turn leads to an increase in the human capacity for understanding higher dimensions of life and unraveling the mysteries of the world of nature. 

 

Here we need to ask the question, “What is the role of science and technology in society?”. One fundamental idea we learn from science, is that change is inevitable. We also realize that scientific theory is fallible. In other words, science is capable of making mistakes and that human beings are far from being able to think in absolute terms. Therefore, the role of science in society is relative to the local conditions, resources and needs. The development in the environmental sciences, in terms of creating technologies that would produce less pollution and waste, has been a great achievement in improving our conditions. But far more important is the role of science in serving the development of more united and harmonious societies.

 

Here we really need to look at science and technology in a different light. We’re moving in a direction that is becoming increasingly obvious that the popular economic model of supply and demand is critically inadequate to deal with the complex issues that we are faced with. To achieve a truly balanced development model, we not only need to be bring into account the environmental factor, but also we must address the human relations, as well as human potential factors, and how science and technology can effectively serve these societal priorities. 

 

“Is science capable of addressing all issues involving human beings and nature?” According to the trends these days and how we are obsessed with science, the popular answer to this question seem to be a resounding “yes”. This answer is not surprising, considering the fragmented nature of development and the way we live on the planet. In essence, it’s an indication of how we utilize most of our productive time thinking in terms of products or services. To make ends meet in our highly individualistic societies, we need to think hard as the competition and pressure builds up. Therefore, we see a trend where other aspects of life, namely self and relations, are neglected as discretionary time becomes a rare commodity. Families start to fall apart, friendships become based on needs, communities do not communicate, and life turns into a single-dimensional, blatantly stark reality. This is true whether you’re a scientist, an artist, a teacher or a manager. It’s interesting how this social breakdown is setting the stage for inevitable economic failure. Seemingly, it’s the market and prices that are at the root of development and prosperity. But the underlying reality of the situation is our human values, how we conduct ourselves, and where we place our priorities. In this case, Science should play a complementary role to our growth ­­–– not the dominating dictatorial force of our lives.

 

Current Trends and Thoughts in Technology

Today, technology plays a very important role in the way we live. Among the more developed regions of the world, it’s inconceivable to live without electricity, telephone, transportation and the numerous technological advancements that are now commonplace. We are constantly coming up with new technologies. The popular idea that by making a little gadget that makes life a little easier and you could sell millions of them, is a very prevalent mode of thinking globally among both young and seasoned entrepreneurs. Nowadays, rags to riches stories of inventors and technological visionaries are passed around like fairytales.

 

Children in the modern world grow up using a wide variety of innovative and novel gadgets. Fascination with technology is an inherent part of our reality in the modern world. There is a deep-rooted conviction that with more technology life will be better. This belief has led to the current trend where we spend a great deal of time in and with the “machine”. We are addicted to technology and can’t get enough. As a society, we glorify scientists and inventors to the point that we literally worship these technological icons and believe almost everything they say and label it as “scientific”. We consider the ultimate success as being able to create new technologies and building gadgets that would become common household items, regardless of their side-effects. The system is set up so that technology is at the center of human activities.

 

As we had mentioned before, traditionally technology and society have had a synergetic, symbiotic and co-dependent relation. We know that technology affects our environment.

Technology also influences, and is influenced by societal factors such as economics, values, culture, ethics, institutions, groups and government policies, actions, and laws. Being aware of the potential effects of different technologies that are constantly becoming available to us could be very helpful in making decisions in terms of investing time and money in those technologies. The future belongs to those that base their careers and life on promoting technologies that are conducive to building a global community, fostering human potential, and preserving our natural resources. In this mode of thinking, moderation is the watchword, and service is the framework for achieving great “success”.

 

In the next article, we’ll further examine this topic and explore the many fields of science and technology that have been emerging in the modern times.

 

 

Ramses Rashidi (ramses@cbdus.org) is the founder and director of Center for Balanced Development.

The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and services to foster global balance in social, personal, ecological and economic development.