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Reith Lecture 2005
April 16, 2005 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Reith Lecture 2005: The Triumph of Technology Lord Broers -In the five lectures, he sets out his belief that technology can and should hold the key to the future. He says: "It is time to wake up to this fact. Applied science is rivalling pure science both in importance and in intellectual interest. We cannot leave technology to the technologists; we must all embrace it. We have lived through a revolution in which technology has affected all our lives and altered our societies for ever."
posted by srboisvert (8 comments total)

 
It seems a bit short-sighted to consider our times to be "unlike any that came before". I'm sure people felt the same way when they started to see cars replacing horse-and-buggy combos, or when commercial air travel began taking over from sea-borne travel.

The world is changing faster than before, but that doesn't mean that technologically-driven change is something that started in our times -- or indeed in any time besides that seminal moment when prehistoric man figured out that he could make a sharp edge by banging two rocks together.
posted by clevershark at 8:33 AM on April 16, 2005


I highly recommend the 2003 Reith Lectures given by Vilayanur S Ramachandran on the topic of "The Emerging Mind." I was listening to the five lectures where I used to work and got absolutely nothing done that day. You can find them here.
posted by Falconetti at 8:35 AM on April 16, 2005


I've really enjoyed listening to these. So cool that they are in Mp3 rather than the dreaded Real Player.
posted by laukf at 8:39 AM on April 16, 2005


It seems a bit short-sighted to consider our times to be "unlike any that came before".

Ok a little off topic but yup it's very interesting, you can see this tendency everywhere really, people absolutely love to believe the most extreme events are happening in their own times. Not sure why, and guess it's not particularly harmful for the most part, but agree it is short-sighted and, heh, can lead to a certain type of generational arrogance which one has to go to the effort of correcting later in life.

Does anyone really think for example that the introduction of color TV had a greater impact than that of B&W or radio? Or that the availability of alternate fuel vehicles in the 2020's will change the average person's life more than the model T did in the 1920's? Or that landing on the moon changed things more than landing on North America? Did the discovery of electricity change life more than well... fire? Did flight really make a bigger difference than the wheel?

Anyhow, I'm not saying give up or quit moving forward, I really like my digital camera, but hey a little perspective and humility is good too, it's not literally unlike anything that came before.

On topic, I have to admit I don't quite get it though. Don't pure and applied science pretty much have to advance together? Hard to see how one could have got to where it is without the other. The man says 'we' will be left behind if we don't embrace technology, who's he referring to?
posted by scheptech at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2005


Master of the obvious.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:07 AM on April 16, 2005


Don't pure and applied science pretty much have to advance together? Hard to see how one could have got to where it is without the other.

There has been concern in some areas of science, and in some countries, that a reduction in spending on theory could lead to to an eventual 'catching up' of applied science with theoretical science. So in simple terms the answer to your first question is yes. How much you spend on 'pure' research (also called blue sky research) is difficult to assess in terms of the results it contributes too with regard to actual applications, but the general consensus is that there is risk attached to no investing in theoretical as well as applied science. Of course, if no applied benefits came out the theory over an extended period then you might consider the money spent on theoretical research was being wasted (and consider stopping its funding), but this is not the general experience of history.

However, the perspective that technology holds the key to the future is not a new one. The technocentric vs ecocentric debate has been going on for some time, and I imagine y2karl can present a much better summary of it than me should he wander in to this thread, but googling will give you plenty of info if you're interested. Development and adoption of new technologies is a complex societal process and has been much studied. Encouraging individuals to embrace technology seems pointless, in simple terms they will embrace those technologies that meet their needs and reject those that don't, in more complex terms this process will be subject to various processes, including, for example, the market (itself a catch-all term for multiple processes), the quality of regulation that applies to the technology, cultural and social attitudes at national and regional levels, available alternatives, cost, etc. Even the whims of organisations like the RAENG (as headed by the FPP's speaker) might have an impact, as with the position the organisation has taken recently in the debate on the future on renewables/nuclear energy in the UK. Perhaps some technologies need to be embraced more than others?
posted by biffa at 10:39 AM on April 16, 2005


The man says 'we' will be left behind if we don't embrace technology, who's he referring to?

Quite: it's bollocks, unless he's speaking to a predominantly elderly audience (it is Radio 4, after all). As biffa says, people are extremely open to embracing technology when it's useful and fits socially - take the mobile phone.
posted by raygirvan at 10:44 AM on April 16, 2005


Is there any way to get the first lecture as an MP3?
posted by monocyte at 11:07 AM on April 16, 2005


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