Technology and Society
January 2, 2007
I believe technology is here to serve but one purpose: for the betterment of human kind. From the time the first artifact was made (presumably when a stone was first touched by a human hand to hit an object, eventually reshaped to serve the purpose better), the march towards newer and improved technology has never stopped. Due to the reflective capability of man, the homo sapiens, that is (as opposed to the instinctive faculty of the lower forms of animal, this phenomenon became possible and built itself up in a spiral process of increasing complexity. Any technology in recorded history from its crudest form to the most complex one contains two elements: the logic and the morphology of such technology. This is what I call the form-substance paradigm.
This basic understanding of technology lies at the doorstep of efficiency frontier in man’s constant search on how to improve his lot. When the Stone Age homo sapiens attached a wood handle or lever to a rough chipped off rock (morphology), that decision was part of his dogged attempt to look for better ways to crack a nut (logic).
I know critics of technology will always advance the atomic bomb and GMO as patent examples of antithesis to human advancement – and technology has got a lot to do about them. From the moral context, the bomb in whatever form and intensity it comes is to me downright evil, but the latter is debatable. GMO when properly introduced in a society (sorry to some of my priest-friends) can in fact yield tremendous benefits in terms of bountiful harvests or efficient farm production. Even from a Machiavellian perspective, one can argue (but not me) that these technologies do serve a noble purpose: self-preservation by a society against an enemy, on one hand, and against hunger, on the other.
In a world getting more complex by the hour, any society should have a policy that defines its deployment of technology. In fact, science policy and technology policy should go hand in hand and find concrete expression in a society’s (nation or region) system of innovation. Yes, innovation provides a systemic approach to the usual linear view of science and technology. A national system of innovation, for example, can integrate the different elements in a country that can be harnessed or addressed (skills, capability, resources, institutions, and the like) to arrive at a more responsive policy statement – e.g. introducing relevant R&D program and appropriate technologies, and the strategies thereto, in order to ensure sustained growth and long-term competitiveness of the country.
In the words of Thomas R. de Gregori, “life in general and human life in particular have evolved not by living within limits but by overcoming them.. By overcoming limits, we live longer, better lives. The sustainable society sought by many is the one that gives vent to the creative powers of human beings, to fashion the resources and overall means of life through advances in technology, science and the arts.” (A Theory of Technology, 1985). That is why I believe that, as the playing field is being levelled on a global basis through regional integration, multilateral and bilateral agreements, and the power of the Internet (knowledge networks), we as a nation must forcefully harness the benefits of technology through aggressive R&D collaboration, skills and capability upgrade program, sustained technology planning, deployment, and marketing as well as the setting up of support structures (e.g. soft loan facilities, venture capital, capital market development) under the umbrella of a national system of innovation for the Philippines.