Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The vectorial sum of all fears

I haven't posted for a long while, so I'll start with the obvious and depressing.


  • Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the developed world bemoans the fiscal prolems associated with a falling support ratio. "How," they ask, "will economically active people support the children and the elderly with the demographic conditions we expect for 2050?" (handwaved approximation for Europe).

  • Tuesdays, Thursdays and during the weekend, they warn against genetics, neurotech, and all the other "morally bankrupt technologies driven by the souless search of inhuman so-called 'enhancement' . " (a collage of the usual published criticism).



Ta-da!

The interplay between those two fears will, I think, be in the long term more important to global politics than the "Global War on Terror." Needlessly to say, the political and cultural tensions of the "war of civilizations" (which is neither, by the way) only complicates things.

Just when you need massive migrations to balance out the global labor markets, you have enraged cultural conflict and mistrust. As a technological leap proves necessary to tackle energy, climate and baseline productivity issues, scientific literacy (and its political support) nosedives.

And if demographic concerns turn into nationalistic fears instead of windows for economic transformation, all bets are off.

For my next post: hopefully less depressing future-gazing, more back-of-the-envelope depressing calculations.

4 comments:

Edward said...

"The interplay between those two fears will, I think, be in the long term more important to global politics than the "Global War on Terror.""

Interesting, I hadn't really thought about it this way. I have been pretty focused on the short term, by which I mean the next decade or so.

"scientific literacy (and its political support) nosedives".

Do you really think its that bad. This wasn't really my impression.

"And if demographic concerns turn into nationalistic fears instead of windows for economic transformation, all bets are off."

Yep, well this really is an issue, and looking at what's going on here in Europe right now doesn't exactly fill me with optimism either.

CV said...

"And if demographic concerns turn into nationalistic fears instead of windows for economic transformation, all bets are off."

Yes, this is really a point well made Marcelo. Immigration is important to offset the demographic trends and as such I would say that in many countries the nationalistic fears are already well established as a main political discourse; not least in Denmark!

Marcelo said...

"scientific literacy (and its political support) nosedives".

Do you really think its that bad. This wasn't really my impression.


It's a bit of an exaggeration, of course - we are hardly undoing the scientific revolution - but political support for science seems at a low point (granted, perhaps most of that variation is a US- and Bush-specific bump, not part of a long-term trend).

Edward said...

"but political support for science seems at a low point"

Not in Europe it isn't. Raising R&D spending forms an integral part of the Lisbon Agenda. France in particular is really backing science and technology with big bucks.

I'm sort of with Claus on this one.

In the UK the institutional framework for stem cell research seems to have been put in place fairly effectively, and even in 'catholic' Spain pragmatic changes are coming - in particular since the regional government here in Barcelona wants to become the number 2 in Europe after the UK.

"perhaps most of that variation is a US- and Bush-specific bump"

I think this is more like it, and even this is now producing a big debate in the US. And remember the US model is a non-governmental intervention one, what they need to get right is the regulatory framework.