Monday, April 02, 2007

Rising anti-science attitude in the West?

With the rise of China and India, it’s fashionable among analysts to “predict” the downfall of the West (read America and Europe). But this “prediction” may actually come true if one takes Alvin Toffler’s recent observations in new book “Revolutionary Wealth.”

Among the waves of the future according to Toffler are biotechnology and genetic engineering but scientific efforts in the West towards these ends are being constrained by the growing anti-science attitudes in these countries. These anti-science attitudes, according to Toffler, are manifested in the shrill and sensationalistic media coverage of anti-GMO or anti-GE mass actions, the rise of “new wave” theories, and increasing clout of NGOs under the mantle of environmentalism. All these trends are happening against the backdrop of the declining enrolment in science and technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the increasing reluctance of politicians to fund GE and biotech research.

Anti-GE groups usually invoke
precautionary principle to oppose biotech, meaning that if there’s a perceived “risks” involve in new and emerging technologies, governments and companies should stop doing it. This is funny really and hypocritical. If we are supposed to ban technologies for having perceived risks, we might end up banning probably 99 percent of technologies in our midst. Cigarettes and cars are certainly harmful and confirmed killers but why is it that so-called environmentalists are not campaigning against them?

Of course, Asian countries like India and China are happy this development. These countries are aggressively spending billions of dollars in science and engineering, and are among the most
enthusiastic adopters of GE and biotechnology. In fact, many of the breakthroughs in rice research in China are now being replicated in the Philippines.

While the West is increasingly becoming superstitious, Asia is embracing science and technology. I wouldn’t really be surprised one day if the world wakes up to find out that the center of excellence in science and technology has shifted to Asia, read China. In fact, research and development laboratories are spreading fast in the Asia-Pacific Region in what is now known as
“innovation outsourcing”. The trend is largely caused by American hi-tech companies transferring to Asia to take advantage of the region’s superb and but cheap sci-tech talents. It would be safe to assume that restrictions put on research in the West are among the major factors that are driving them to Asia.

Hmm, globalization is happening in really surprising ways.

2 comments:

Mohan said...

It is interesting to see a lot more buzz around offshoring of 'innovation' and R&D. Now, it is up to the players - us - to deliver; right?

Mohan said...

It is interesting to see a lot more buzz around offshoring of 'innovation' and R&D. Now, it is up to the players - us - to deliver; right?