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What we are doing is to encourage the developed countries scientists in the developing countries to train ecologists and to find out to encourage people to stop as it is making such a mess of our planet. The privacy of individuals and corporations trying to guard their secrets have completely disappeared. Who is to say for example whether your experiments on changing the heredity of a person or changing the characteristics of the fetus are used to decide whether this can be done or cannot be done. Science without boundaries. One program in the series the circumstance of science exploring the forces of contemporary science and technology and their possible effects on society. Science today has little respect for national boundaries. The magnitude of new technology makes science an international concern. In this program you'll hear legal economic and social viewpoints on the international implications of today's
science and technology. We talked with scientists social scientists legal scholars and government officials about scientific cooperation and regulation on an international scale. Here is Dr. Walter Roberts director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I suspect that there is a need for some kind of coordination of effort and coordination of law in respect to the pollution the degradation of the environment particularly in areas dealing with large lakes that border on different nations and the oceans but especially in respect to atmospheric. The atmospheric environment I travel nearly every spring now over to Geneva and Switzerland and I'm always impressed as I fly from England down over France and then over
into Switzerland to see how the great hall of atmospheric pollution that builds up in one country drifts across into another. Not only industrial but just from the from for example the automobiles of of London and Paris so that it seems to me quite clear that the problem is no longer a problem of the proportions of a nation. It's the problems of the proportions of a continent or a natural geographical region and in some instances I have noticed there are air she adds. Natural. You might say lakes of air that share their pollution each with the other than embrace as many as eight or ten nations. And for effective control there must be some centralization amongst these 10
nations not only of knowledge but of control. We asked Dr. Donald Hall I think the president's adviser on science and the director of the Office of Science and Technology if we should attempt to centralize all of the knowledge about the impact of science on world ecology I don't really believe in the centralization of any information least of all that I think it should. You asked me whether we should have an information system which would make it possible for anyone to get any relevant information on that respect from the system without undue work. I'd say yes but my concept of either a world or a national information system is one I've wholly a network of systems all of which can talk to each other a little bit for the radio where you know you can dial from New York to San Francisco on your call may go through 10 telephone companies on route but the you know you don't have to ask anything about that. But if I don't hear it isn't that simple. System with a single
gigantic exchange for the whole United States. We talked with Mrs. Sally Shelly an information officer with United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. We ask if you ask I was interested in the type of program interior secretary you doall has suggested an early warning system to help us predict and deal with the consequences of science and technology. We're extremely concerned about this in fact I was reading a book that you Nesco published on the study of biology recommended to young people to teachers on how students today should learn about the planet. And in that book. An educator warned that the way things are going now in our economy we are using up oxygen through particularly the burning of fossil fuels at a faster rate than photo photosynthesis is putting oxygen into the atmosphere. So unless some very serious thought is given to the
oxygen budget we are going to be again in in dire trouble by the year 2000 perhaps not so soon as the year 2000 but certainly into the 21st century. We are going to have to look for and invent new sources of energy. Now you Nesco of course being an intergovernmental agency is not actually doing the research on this. What we are doing is to encourage the developed countries scientists in the developing countries to train ecologists ecologist being people who study the total environment and what happens to it which would be input the output and so on and to find out. To encourage people to stop as it is making such a mess of our our planet and realizing that we have to create a much much happier balance between some of these factors of this of course includes pollution. Now we know today that science plays a very important role in accomplishing political and
social goals. Many of the larger countries in the world have developed extensive systems within their own governments for advice and science when it involves decision making. Does you Nesco how such a system in its structure for advising policymakers on science issues. Well we have of course a system worked out in New Mexico Incidentally it was the U.S. delegation to Yunus goes early conference that set up the proper preparatory conference of the Nasco. It was the U.S. delegation that put science into us go as it was originally was going to be education and culture and then the U.S. said science is becoming increasingly important. And what happens is that on all of these questions like water like oceanography areas that we needed expert advice on we try to get the world's greatest scientists together from many regions to give us a view of what they think should be done in this area. For example one of the
areas could very closely connected with. The border problem of course is arid zones and what you're going to do with deserts and what you can do with saltier say lines soils where you can make the desert bloom again. And we in fact had a 10 year study that is still picking up impetus all over the world to try to actually convert areas such as Tunisia making experiments with plants so that they could grow in say line soils. And this of course will have an effect on that and many of these countries which are extremely poor if we can find calm day ponds for example that can grow in salty soils and where way ahead of the game in terms of economic benefit. Dr. Barry Commoner the director of the Center for the biology of natural systems at Washington University believes we must carefully examine the consequences of introducing new technology in the underdeveloped countries of the world. We tend to introduce a new technology in order to gain some
narrow benefit often not looking at the consequences. A good example is the last one time in Egypt. The notion here was to develop new technology that would allow irrigation power development and so on. But apparently no one considered the fact that it would intrude on the ecology of the Mediterranean waters that support fisheries. What I mean here is that the dam will prevent the flooding of the Nile in many ways and will prevent the movement of nutrients from the Nile Basin into the Mediterranean. These nutrients have until now supported a rather important fishery at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and it now appears that the swan dam is going to disrupt that particular and fairly important economic system. This is an example of the way in which
our intrusions into the ecology of underdeveloped countries causes unforeseen developments. There are many other such examples in Pakistan for example of the development of irrigation has caused the water logging of millions of acres of land and much of this is now being lost to agricultural production. It seems to me that the entire problem is accentuated in underdeveloped countries because again we artificially introduced technology on a much larger scale than here to fore much more rapidly and again without understanding the full consequences. Now there's some priority areas that we should be concerned with now on this international scale. Yes I think the most important thing is to understand the ecological consequences of new technological intrusions into underdeveloped countries. I think we have
to introduce the idea of maintaining the environmental balance in these countries while we introduce modern technology. This idea has not I think been fully appreciated by the people who are concerned with international development and I would hope that in the next few years this will be brought home to them so that we can avoid making the kind of state mistakes that have been made in the past about one year ago all the commission to study the organization of peace. A distinguished group of Americans who are attempting to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms published a study a report entitled The United Nations and human rights commission and its comments dealt extensively with future problems created by science and technology. We discussed the report with two of its authors Dr. Louis piece on Bemis professor of international law at Harvard and Dr. Donald and Michael a program director and professor of psychology at the Center for Research on the utilization of scientific knowledge at the University of
Michigan. The commission wrote it is wise to anticipate as best we can the sort of dangers for human rights that may emerge and to begin to prepare to meet them. We asked for some examples. First Dr. Michael there are problems of the right to what to personal inviolability. If you will to not be invaded either psychologically or physiologically. I mean put that less in less abstract terms. Modern technology of course provides ways of being killed through and maimed and destroyed through warfare whether it's from that plant or gases which addled the brain or or upset the stomach where that's a fairly obvious example but modern technology also invades the what the
physiological right of human beings by forcing them to absorb pesticides and radiation. Oh and words to invade their right to decide what they'll take into their body. So that would be one way that human rights are threatened by technology. A new problem of this sort took courses. Looming one of the sonic boom from the ss t. We get enough invasion of our privacy of our rights to tranquility from the sound of jets but the sudden shocking sound of the forthcoming supersonic transport I think is a very good example of invasion of human rights and of course I think one of the things that's especially important there is that so far even when we've preoccupied ourself with that invasion we've thought in terms of again of large percents that is the argument is made that well will fly the
supersonic transport over areas where there are very few people or over the oceans where there are very few people or other lands and the like. Point is it isn't a matter of how many people there are it's a matter of the rights of those people whose privacy and tranquility is invaded whether they represent a thousand of 1 percent or 50 percent. So there is another aspect of it of this problem of rights invasion and then I think a third kind of growing technological capability that is both. An important and valuable and very threatening is the the what the denial of autonomy through the manipulation of individuals through our increasing knowledge of from social engineering from the behavioral sciences our knowledge of how to influence opinion how to affect the behavior of people in groups. Notice again this is one of these two edged swords. We
this can be used very productively for the increasing the dignity and opportunity of people. But use the wrong way and these things are used the wrong way very often. It's a device for callously manipulating and exploiting individuals and invading their right to autonomy. Dr Donald Michael professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. We also asked Dr. Lewis song professor of law at Harvard for some examples of dangerous to human rights from science. One is nuclear weapons of course disputes who are know the most important inventions of technology of this generation. And you saw they quickly did it starts when you started testing the nuclear weapons. Mothers had to protect dead babies and start to fight to those stakes tests to be abolished and finally succeeded at least to a large extent. And next problem is the electronics again. A branch of science that
has been tremendous new development in recent years. But one of its inventions our microphones can be hidden everyplace ways of hearing things through. Pretty soon even perhaps it is a vision that could see through us and to privacy of individuals and corporations trying to guard their secrets have completely disappeared. One of the most often quoted portions of the report is the statement There is a cumulative danger involved in the merry march of technology and science without adequate consideration of the social effects of their findings. Do explain the rationale for that conclusion. Well the I think you know we have so many examples of how these developments have come about without thinking of the social effects. Probably one of the well known
one is the use of medical science to increase the number of surviving babies in the emerging nations and to delay death. And without thinking through the social consequences in terms of providing food and shelter and possibilities for family survival and individual growth that I think that problem I think can be generalized even further in that we really haven't begun to think through the terrifying consequences of the accelerating growth of technological progress in the developed nations and the growth and the corresponding gap between me emerging nations emerging areas and the developed ones. This is a gap not only in terms of standard of living but a gap in terms of how you see the world. You know on the one side you have societies increasingly using computers
and sophisticated mathematics for defining their reality on the other you have these billions of people living in a world where you don't even read. And this is a. This is a gap in the meaning of reality which is getting greater and has on untold social consequences. I think we always try to apply every discovery and on his own met its own needs and probably an efficiency basis in the if it works well and it's useful we do it. We don't look at the fact that the application of too many of those discoveries can destroy completely our environment. I mean still you have a problem of air pollution is a good example in which each particular discovery Caras new ways of fighting factories and so on or dozing So each of by themselves. Good and useful but put together seem to be disastrous. And we have the same feeling
that discoveries in various fields of science put together are going to be very dangerous to the future of human days unless somebody starts thinking about it as a whole and try to see the implications of each new discovery or its practical application in the whole area of human rights and. And if you chose the human race the report mentions dangers from technocratic government. How is this term defined and what are the implications. Well I we've been talking about a technocratic government on and off here. I think that you know putting it in a sort of general way increase use of technology both of hardware and social engineering for the planning and conduct of government activities on the one hand
again as I've said several times we have to do this in order to get ahead of our society to control it for good and to prevent disasters but on the other hand given the power and motives of members of governments of bureaucracies of corporations and the like. This this kind of power in a technocratic government can be very dangerous and undermine the very democratic processes that it could be enhancing to meet dicto Cratty government means government by people. Selected for dissent if you achievements rather then by proper electoral processes. People are that being governed by scientific problems that other then by social and political approaches. One of the major implications of that of course is that a technocratic
government is he did not respond to the people he knows better than the people do what is necessary and does it. We can find the following statement in the report. One of the important features of a democratic government is the doctrine of separation of powers which makes it difficult for any branch of the government to jeopardize the fundamental rights of the individuals. Are you saying in effect that government efficiency could lead to danger to human rights. Oh yes very much so because government efficiency does two things One it means that increasingly the various parts of the government have to share the same information and shame the same knowledge. And this means they tend to work jointly in order to get the most from that knowledge in its application and thereby you lose some of the political process which in the past on some occasions at least has protected the individual of course that same political process in the past has also jeopardize the individual so
here too we run into this question again this problem again that that shared knowledge of that inefficient government provides can work both ways. The second way this efficiency criterion of can can but need not necessarily jeopardize the fundamental rights of the individual is that it results in. Government plans that deal with people in the aggregate general purpose plans and general purpose efforts so that the individual as such becomes of secondary interest in the group or the mass becomes of the primary planning activity. And if that's where the values are then in the society and in the government to make things efficient which means of dealing with
large numbers effectively and efficiently then it's going to be hard for the individual to get a hearing when they disagree or want things altered to meet their needs so you know this is always been a failing of bureaucracies. And it will continue to be a failing in some senses it may be worse. On the one hand on the other hand of course these same efficiencies in government widely used would make the government in part more responsive to individual needs. But it remains to be seen how that will be done in the past we depended more on the separation of powers in the government and the political resolution of conflict between these to protect the individual. And as I said earlier didn't always do that. But now our increasingly we won't have that separation and will have to invent some new form to protect the individual.
I think this was a basic principle of United States government to found us a country realized it an efficient government is a dangerous government default. They strongly provided for distribution of powers between federal government and state government between those branches of the federal government. You know that to protect us. If you put loads of policies and information in which power is based in the hands of one small group. It would be extremely dangerous. There is also a mention of new biochemical discoveries which could lead to scientific manipulation of man in light of these new discoveries and future ones. What should we keep in mind about human rights. Oh this is going to be one of the most difficult moments of truth. The society is going to have to face because of the biological area of course is much more intimate and immediate to us than any other kind of technological fact and
how we decide what truly constitutes the person and the being. And what the person in the being is entitle to protect or in the larger expand is something that we're going to have to think through and understand very carefully. Something that now we just don't have the ethical basis really for doing. For example when a person is changed by virtue of having heat or mechanical or someone else's organs in them are they the same person and when they're changed by virtue of using no experience whitening chemicals or intellectual brain you know a cognitive stimulating chemicals that make them increase their IQ. Are they the same person. Who is entitle to these kinds of experiences. In terms of their role in the society who is to say for example whether your
experiments on changing the heredity of a person or changing the characteristics of the fetus. Who's to decide whether this can be done or cannot be done. It works both ways it isn't just a matter of saying well I have to make decisions about when not to do these things will have to decide when to do them as well that their real question arises about the entitlement of any particular generation to radically affect the potential of the next generation to be themselves whatever that means. It is very dangerous to me for the future of the human days if. If you people can make the decisions what children should be born into whom what kind of distinct issue then should have if those exclude be mine you predated also
thinks like drugs which can make some make at this point some say caustic patience doest side but in the future you can make it a whole population DASAR again dismissed both individually and people as a group have to be protected against giving it to the government the power to do those things. Can you see any ramifications in this area from the human heart transplants that have been taking place recently. I think that's another area in which perhaps in order to save a gentleman. You are less reluctant to see gentleman B die and take his heart to help Mr A. We've talked about some of the problems that can come about by technology and science. What suggestions were made in the report to deal with the problems that may arise.
I guess the basic suggestion we have made is that we really don't know enough about those things that we need a group of people coming from the various branches of sciences and social sciences and law to get together and try to work out the proper procedure of evaluating human inventions. The application providing safeguards and against day-I views and we felt that the problem is by now and not on a national problem but international one and therefore either the United Nations or UNESCO's United Nations Educational Scientific and culture organization should establish a Study Committee which should start working on it with speed and then its report would be studied by various national committees and together you might arrive at some solutions. Dr. Lewis song professor of international law at Harvard and also Dr.
Donald Michael professor of psychology at the University of Michigan with comments on the report. The United Nations on human rights published by the commission to study the organization of peace. You've been listening to the 12th program in the series the circumstance of science exploring the forces of contemporary science and technology and their possible effects on society. A transcript of this program is available without charge from W. K. our new State University East Lansing. This series is prepared under a grant from the Louis W. a nod Hill Family Foundation of St. Paul Minnesota produced by Steve new fav for Michigan State University Radio. This is NPR national educational radio.
The circumstance of science
Episode Number
Episode 12 of 13
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Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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The Circumstance of Science. Documentary series. No information available.
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Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-23-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:53
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