Don’t wait for science to ‘settle’; decide what society needs

SMART Infrastructure Professorial Fellow Prof. Graham Harris writes in The Conversation:

If you listen to the debate between science and society in most of the West, you get one version or another of the linear model. Science comes first. When it is “settled”, society will know what to do. This is as true in the climate debate as it is in innovation. First comes the “breakthrough” and then the widget gets commercialised. Much of the economic development of the West has been driven by this “knowledge based” worldview.

It worked quite well when the problems were simple and the benefits easily captured – from steam engines to early antibiotics – but the world is changing. Now, the interaction between society, the economy and the environment is much more complex and recursive. Growth and development have changed the world and knowledge of that change is, in turn, changing our response. Knowledge and society interact.

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