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Science and Power

by Nick Begich

One of the purposes of Earthpulse Press has been to develop greater awareness of the coming possibilities in science. The translation of new technological ideas and their potential impact on our lives is increasingly more important and relevant. The present age of discovery is offering both challenges and points of decision for our future directions. At the same time that we are presented greater possibilities in science we are also faced with the darker side of technology.

Historically, mankind has always coupled political structures with a method of influencing the will of the political leadership. Enforcement has usually come at the end of a gun barrel by developing and maintaining military organizations. Ultimately, the law of force and power determines whose political will shall prevail. In the last hundred years, politicians have increasingly recognized that technology and science offer new mechanisms for control. World War I and World War II brought clear recognition of the role of science and technology in creating the most powerful war machines in recorded history. Science offers governments a seemingly endless supply of new innovations for maximizing their destructive capabilities.

Innovations based on very complex science have also led to the greatest concentration of wealth ever contemplated by industry. Trillions of dollars have been dedicated to developing the best systems for destroying people and property. Huge amounts of wealth have moved from taxpayers to corporate bottom lines.

At the end of the cold war people were relieved and hoped for a shift in resources to more productive ends. Many of us realized that although the largest risks were seemingly over . new risks to stability would emerge. The need for strong armies is far from over and will likely remain for decades to come. However, it was thought that there would be a "peace dividend: which would translate into tax relief for an overburdened middle class and technology transfers to industry. It was the hope of many that the technology transfers might give access to new information in pursuit of more humane uses for our technologies. Eight years later, the results of the "peace dividend" are slow to materialize.

Some attempts have been made to transfer technology to private hands. Much of what is being released is flowing to large multi-national companies . the same companies who built much of their wealth in the defense industry. Now these firms are being given the opportunity to exploit those same technologies for even greater profits. They are perhaps in the best position to develop the science but should they be the only organizations with such access? Shouldn't this publicly funded research be considered in the public domain accessible to both small and large organizations?

We have all participated in debates about our "national interests" and have considered the distribution of our national resources. Those national resources have primarily been centered in land, minerals, water, energy and other physical property. At the same time, all national governments are discussing the value of the "information age" and the promise of great innovative potentials. The combined resources which the world's governments are pushing into new technologies is staggering. Why are these public expenditures, which often result in new patents and innovations, held by private companies rather than held in common as national interest resources equally available to the public which paid for those technological developments? Many of these developments take place in national laboratories in cooperation with research university laboratories and private companies. These are primarily publicly funded activities and yet the greatest value of the innovations fall to the companies who are feeding on the tax revenues. This would be no different than an employee of a private research facility having the opportunity to work in a lab, develop his ideas and then patent them in his own name and take the technology with him the moment he parts company with his employer. Would any private organization allow this as a practice in its normal business activity? We think not. Yet this is exactly what our various governments have often done. They have created an information welfare system where innovation and technological development are owned by private organizations and paid for with public funds.

The power awarded governments through science and innovation is shifting to large companies and organizations without national allegiances because of their global corporate point of view. These corporate interests may also conflict with citizens interests from whose tax resources the science was developed. Many of these companies move their production into areas of the world where labor is cheap and regulation is lacking, then selling the products back to industrialized counties. Most important is the idea that the technology transfers are building huge private holdings at the public.s expense in the same way that land and resource transfers did in the United States over the last two centuries. We are not suggesting that the transfer to private hands is all bad. We believe that private enterprise should be the instrument which develops these ideas into commercial possibilities. However, the transfer of "publicly funded science" should be available to everyone as public domain science. Moreover, the development of the industries that spring from public investment should have the same kind of human considerations that industry is made to comply with in the science.s source country. In other words, business organizations should not be permitted to take the science into production outside of their country of origin in order to capitalize on slave labor wage rates, poor working conditions, lack of environmental controls or other factors which run against the ethical and moral fiber of the country of origin. Our public foreign policy should never travel absent our ethical base. Corporate interests are, in most cases, driven by the profit on the bottom line, neglecting the higher values which allowed those same companies the possibility of existing in the first place.

This is a time of transition and the shift in resources must be coupled with an understanding of what these transfers imply. A great opportunity to move these resources to projects which could develop solutions to the truly great problems we face. The "peace dividend" should be used to enhance life rather than continue to exploit life. Exploitation of third world countries and people ultimately leads to political instability and runs counter to the hopes of many of us to see a lasting peace created in coming decades.

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