The Survival Nexus: Science, Technology, and World Affairs: A Cursory Book Review
Updated: May 2
by Dr. Atul Wad and Dr. Arnold Ventura (SC Editorial Team)
Book Description: In this book, Charles Weiss explores the intertwining of science, technology, and world affairs that affects everything from climate change and global health to cybersecurity, biotechnology, and geoengineering. Compact and readable, the book ties together ideas and experiences arising from a broad range of diverse issues, ranging from the structure of the energy economy to the future of work and the freedom of the internet
About the Author: Professor Weiss was the first Science and Technology Adviser to the World Bank, serving in that position from 1971-86. He became Distinguished Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1997.
Charles Weiss has done the world a long overdue service by conducting a very detailed examination of the challenging and multifaceted nature of how science and technology[S&T] dictate the future of mankind. This task was executed with consummate wisdom and deep humility, drawn from his extensive experiences in the multilateral and global knowledge arenas He makes the resounding point in this book that S&T are inexorable intertwined with all aspects of world affairs, including peace and war, poverty and hunger, climate change, global health, biotechnology, cybersecurity and geoengineering .
Additionally, what is admirable about this book, was its simplicity, readability and clarity, yet with no shyness to explore the ethics and values involved. Relevant issues and related ideas, such as the structure and components of the changing energy economy, robotics and the future of work and its effects on the future of labor and professions that depend on dexterity and rapid flows of information, which revolvers around the control of the internet, are handled with balance and foresight. Also He bemoans the rapid decline in global cooperation, not only between professionals in the North and South ,but even among developing countries in the same regions.
He points out that many poor and medium income countries are in constant unpayable debts, because the multilateral system has substantially abandoned aid and technological expertise to them for building S&T infrastructures to help solve their socioeconomic problems and prevent them becoming hotbeds for unlawful migration and other nefarious activities. The rapid rise of misinformation and attacks on scientific evidence over the internet, the very tool that was created to make facts more democratically available. These observations he has adduced, are responsible for less sharing of factual information and benefits flowing from S&T advancementsThe crowing idea of this excellent book is embodied in a quote from the book’s description
“Showcasing why scientists, policy makers, and citizens everywhere need to understand how the mix of science and technology with polite conomics, business, ethics, law, communications, psychology, and culture, will shape our future.”
It goes on to emphasize “this important nexus underpins issues crucial to human survival that are overlooked in the brother context of world affairs”
Once again, he, in this recent book, has called for more global leadership and management attention to be paid to these issues that are evolving very fast with disturbing consequences, despite their ability to rescue life and living on planet earth. This time to do this, he has written a very comprehensive and factual document, but by his own admission, there is much that was not broached, for example, the oceans, water, polar regions, agriculture, space, terrorism, science, diplomacy and technology transfer.
The last item, technology transfer, is a most important and vexing issue for many decades in the South. This problem has to be resolved if most of the global dilemmas he has mentioned in this book that are also plaguing the South, will have a reasonable chance of being successfully tackled. As would be expected, this book was written from a Northern perspective, and a more complete picture and better solutions can emerge if a similar one was crafted with a Southern bent. It has to be remembered that the world’s majority resides in the Global South. Visions from the North, as cogent as these are in this book, do not provide the full S&T global urgencies that need consideration. To exclude the talent in the South means that most of the worlds best are not being harnessed for the growth of S&T and its application to the world’s major issues, such as anticipation and control of global pandemics Additionally, from an environment and sustainable point of view, the world is more connected by virtue of improved transportation and communication Professor Weiss is correct in noting that the sectors and issues that he did not handle, have to be left to the young, and most of them presently reside in the South
The book has incidentally broached the role of S&T in the reduction of poverty. Strides in public heath and nutrition have significantly improved the world’s standard of living, but happiness and contentment have not kept pace with wealth across the world.
This fact and the intertwining nature of S&T knowledge have raised once more the Cedrick Price’s dictum “Technology is the answer but what is the question “Without the right questions we will not find the correct answers to the mental unease that plagues many countries. In a sense ,the details in this book have shown that the social sciences have to be substantially improved to find the best ways to harness the physical sciences. Certainly the reverse is true of economics, where more hard sciences are needed to make economics more predictable and applicable to the world’s majority
The topics covered and the analyses undertaken of the data presented in this book have made it abundantly clear that over the last five decades or so, the creation of the scientific method and the results obtained from the faithful application of this singular technique, to allow the understanding of the old artisan, and the fashioning of new technologies, have advanced the capabilities of man to the point that the future is in hands This resounding fact was made abundantly clear in this book