Blogger’s Note: Regular visitors to this site will have noticed an absence of new postings over the past few months. However regrettable, this has been the inevitable result of an exceptionally busy spring schedule of travel, teaching, lectures and conferences, as well as competing writing commitments. I hope to resume a pattern of more regular contributions over the course of the summer. In the meantime, the brief entry below represents a summary of some of the main messages which I have been delivering while on the road.
We cannot solve the problems we have created with the same thinking we used in creating them.
Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, today the most profound challenges which today imperil the planet are grounded in neither religious extremism nor political violence. Instead, the globalization age has given rise to a vexing array of transnational issues which are rooted in science, driven by technology and largely immune to the application of armed force. Climate change, diminishing biodiversity, environmental collapse, pandemic disease and resource scarcity, to name but a few of these elemental S&T-based issues, exacerbate underdevelopment and heighten insecurity. Unlike terrorism or ideological rivalry, however, this new threat set places everyone at risk. There are no military solutions; human security is a function of broadly-based development, and is not a martial art.
Science diplomacy – a transformative tool of soft power which offers the prospect of engaging shared interests to overcome political constraints and enlarge international cooperation – represents a particularly promising way forward. Knowledge-based, technologically-enabled problem-solving can make an essential contribution, not only to the construction of a more secure, equitable and sustainable world order, but also to the prospects for long-term human survival. That said, S&T capacity is largely alien to, and almost invisible within most institutions of global governance. Foreign ministries, development agencies, and multilateral organizations face a debilitating performance gap, and are typically without the scientific expertise, technological savvy, cultural predisposition or research and development (R&D) network access required to bridge digital divides and manage S&T-based issues effectively. While innovation, imagination and creative thinking thrive in a lateral, interconnected and networked setting, existing institutions feature bureaucratic sclerosis, stovepipes and silos, rigid occupational hierarchies and authoritarian social relations. All of that must change.
The present misallocation of scarce international policy resources, in favour of defence and at the expense of diplomacy and development, must be remedied. Even at that, enlarged capacity and major reforms will be necessary if the daunting range of process and structural obstacles are to be overcome. Future postings will explore the revolution in culture, values and professional practice required to ensure that the proposed combination of science and diplomacy can deliver as advertised.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.