Future of Science (commenting Arthur Sowers)

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Jun 5 17:59:06 EST 1996

On Wed, 5 Jun 1996, Arthur E. Sowers wrote:

[ lot of previous deleted ]

> > There are many reasons: i) most academics are "doing OK" (meaning that
> > they are "scraping by" off the bottom of the barrel, but are not out of
> > the barrel, or out of the frying pan and into the fire), ii) it is not
> > anywhere near as common of an event in this country as it is in Northern
> > Ireland to have "explosive" events happening very often to call attention
> > to matters of social concern, iii) a substantial fraction of underlings,
> > which are under the overlings (in heirarchical systems), don't even
> > realize that anything like a "revolution" or "protest" or "organization"
> > (as in unions) might be a creative and useful answer to the exploitation
> > they are experiencing, and iv) we here in the USA are living in probably
> > the most virulently capitalist-imperialist country in the world. HOWEVER,
> > managers, administrators, and related kahunas well understand the power
> > that they wield, being that they have their hands on the valves controling
> > the flow of money and the push-buttons controling executive decisions, iv)
> > this arrangement insures that risks will be reallocated to the underlings
> > and the benefits will be reallocated to the overlings (a variation on the
> > theme of "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer"). 

Agree with everything, very lucid points.
> The three things I forgot to mention as having a negative effect
> particularly on the science business (and even more particularly on the
> basic research business) are: i) the end of the Cold War, ii) the
> globalization of economies (where USA money & jobs become transfered to
> other countries where the payscale is much lower), and iii) substantial
> political concern with downsizing federal government and federal budgets.
> And, I don't think any one of us little guys can do anything about any of
> those three items. 

Tend to agree too, although not quite sure about the
general incapacity of 'little guys'. Some of them 
often make a lot of troubles. I don't imply loners
like poor Ted from Montana, but cohesive efforts 
of several dozens of people bringing up a worthy
issue (like Fat Cats of grantsmanaship club, or
a court action to criminalize anonymous peer review) 
may ideed be of an impact.

> I really think that, although our technology will
> continue to advance (computers, internet, communications), the scientific
> component of our society will be stagnating or shrinking in the future. 
> ..signed, Art.

Here we are coming to the issue of 

Despite that it appear 'obvious' that in the Future
it's going to be a lot of it (science), I don't see
why it necessarily going to be so. It could equally 
well happen that Science as an evolutionary tool of 
the Mankind (sorry HuMANkind : to safisfy politcorrects), 
just did it main job, say, between 17 and (end of) 
20 century and now about to retire. Or at best 
remain as a some kind of a curiocity Zoo.  

After all, it (science) may (sharply or gradually) 
decline to oblivion, in the same manner as it happen 
with many other activities (e.g hunting, which I 
am sure much less popular [ overall ] now than 
it was 100 years ago).

Taking this as a premiss (working hypothesis), we
can than likely expalin a lot of things happening now
with science and scientists.

For example, judging from the general apathy of 
scientists (especially younger generation) to 
defend their own turf, the conjecture well may be
that (science) is indeed moving to its dementia stage,
towards its (almost) full extinction in the 
foreseable future. Than what we are facing is
a NATURAL process of a de-phasing of science as
a social institution and the instrument of
progress (not just de-phasing of such of its 
attributes as a peer review).  

I don't know of any convincing evidence that it is 
decisevely NOT so. Perhaps indeed something else 
is about to take place of it (science) in a near 
future. (a new major hobby ?). 

Any comments ? 

Alex Berezin  

> > 
> > Art Sowers
> > 
> > 
> > 

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