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Balance and Imbalance: In the Equation on “Differentiation – Continuity” Between Civilisations 1/4

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“Following Scientific revolutions, and through an unexpected transfer, scientists are now facing a different science". This is the conclusion reached by Thomas S. Khun in his theory on the structure of scientific revolution... in the case of technological revolutions however, the whole world is exposed to a gradual change, and the rate of change depends on the nature of the technologies of impact ad their interaction with the elements of the social environment.”

The Scientific and Technological Revolution

It goes without saying that the world, we live in today, is undergoing a momentous revolution that will result in the fastest change ever witnessed in the history of human society, at the political, economic, educational, and cultural, depending on history's facts. Levels our continuation is that we need to take a close look at the differences stands adopted towards this revolution.

The differences since there is general agreement on the fact, that the current revolution is essentially different from the previous ones, seem to have become an active element in defining the future of the world, its states and its individuals… However, at the same time, there are different theories of “informatics” as the most important aspect of this revolution, and on its expected results in the near and far future.

Two Of These Theories Have Retained Our Attention:

One that is optimistic, and even awed by the civilisation generated by the technology of information, which can also be called the “civilisation of electronics”, and which strives to be adopted in the place of the philosophical and scientific pillars underlying different (industrial western contemporary) societies.

Among the most important symbols of this “theory”, the American future scientist, Alvin Toffler,has examined, especially in his last book, “Saving the new civilisation”, the portents of the “Third Wave”, which marks the third complete split in the history of humanity after the agricultural and the industrial revolutions. One example of such signs, or “symbols”, is underlined the declaration made by John Bree Barlow, one of the most outstanding future scientists, on the liberation of cybernetics.

This declaration, is addressed to all the governments of the world, and points out that the terms “property”, “identity”, and “expression", no longer fit into this new horizon because they are merely materialistic terms, that stand in contradiction with the spirituality of the new cyberspace of informatics.

The other theory is somewhat pessimistic, or rather cautious, a forewarning that although the technology of information is our only means to dominate complicated phenomena and to solve problems, it contains a new dimension that further complicates our lives, and generates new and unexpected problems. 

The philosopher J. F. Loytard, in his book “the post – modern condition”, has pointed out that: knowledge is an informatics' commodity that cannot be dispensed with by the forces of production, and that has become, and will remain, one of the most important fields – if not the most important fields in the world – of competition over the preservation of power, and that all the states of the world might have to go to war in order to control information, as they went to war in the past to control the colonies, and to use their raw materials and their labour forces, for their own benefit information; he affirmed, was a new breakthrough for the strategic plying of trade on the one hand, and for political and military planning on the other.

Loytard's warning is based on a philosophical understanding of the technology of information and its future implication… There are some, however, who reaffirm this warning, or rather this forecast, on the basis of a “political – strategic outlook”, Joseph Newbay, a high official in the Pentagon published an important article in “Foreign Affairs”, in which he expresses his belief that the United States will be able to reinforce its hegemony in the world, through its capacity to control informatics systems, and the technology of communication, or that “geo-strategy” is subordinated to the capacity to use soft power, or communication technology, and informatics.

Along the same line, should we adopt the point of view of some optimists, who believe that “technology is like water and air”, which cannot be monopolised, and which is the result of centuries of human activity, so that everyone is entitled to benefit from it. Or,should we worry with the pessimists, who believe that the age of information might be a new phase of the global clash?

To answer this question, in the most “realistic” manner we must first of all highlight the main characteristics of the current revolution, as compared with the preceding one (the industrial revolution).

We believe that these characteristics are three: 

Firstly, this revolution is leading towards “Globalisation”, which is the attempt to unify the world in one configuration, while a bolishing traditional geographic divisions, and political, and boundaries that are considered a guarantee of security, a condition for and an outstanding element in the way of living and working, that prevailed until the industrial revolution (in the world of national sovereignty). It goes without saying that this “tendency” of the revolution is clearly expressed by the gradual change in the criteria and patterns of life and production, together with the rise of a sovereign or leading “civilisation”, whish leads the current revolution. 

Secondly, the increasing and outstanding importance of the current revolution is perceivable through communication, knowledge, and science. This means that “culture”, in the broad sense of the word, is developing into the center of gravity of this revolution with, as a result, the transformation of culture into the basis of economic, political, and spiritual investment, in accordance with technology and as exemplifiedby the growing concentration on vocational training and qualification, scientific research, technical systems, and integrated patterns of communication system and information transfer, etc.

Thirdly, the growing globalisation of the human world is related to differences in kind. We mean by these differences, that all humanity is exposed to the same cultural, material and economic impacts, so that any changes taking place anywhere have a relative impact on all, while the distribution of the means to achieve growth deteriorates everyday, so that a kind of monopoly of the elements of “progress” was achieved by some (the smallest number), alongside with an aggravation of human marginalisation for the greatest part of contemporary humanity. 

These three characteristics do not merely confirmtheneedtoaskwhat the most adequate action is to undertake in the face of the current revolution, with its challenge to many peoples and societies all over the world, and do not merely clarify the general features of its (the revolution's) claims at all level; but, in addition, they show that all those who adopted hasty specific, or semispecific, stands in the face of this extremely complicated phenomenon, probably relied, to a great extent, on very simple assumptions, or concentrated on the technical aspect of this multidimensional phenomenon, regardless of its native environment, so as to – intentionally or unintentionally – avoid getting into complicated social considerations.

Therefore, the fact that this phenomenon, despite its technological drive, is “first and fore most political, economic and cultural", because it is connected to the interaction of these three dimensions, and hence to “culture”, has lost much of its importance on the scale of priorities.

This takes us, directly, to the claims of this phenomenon from the social point of view, especially in relation to a recent saying about scientific production, which states that: “technology did away with geography, and will increasingly do so in the twenty first century, because it has also eliminated distances”.

On the basis of this affirmation,especiallyconcerning the “disappearance of distances”, an endless discourse about the “new world” and the “global village” began.

Hussein Maaloum -

Hussein Maaloum is an Egyptian researcher and writer.


Articles by this Author:

Balance and Imbalance In the Equation on “Differentiation – Continuity” Between Civilisations 4/4
“‘Following Scientific revolutions, and through an unexpected transfer, scientists are...
Balance and Imbalance: In the Equation on “Differentiation – Continuity” Between Civilisations 3/4
“‘Following Scientific revolutions, and through an unexpected transfer, scientists are...
Last Updated on Sunday, 23 August 2009 23:10  

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