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All around I see evidence of the impact of science on society. This is so obvious and so well known fact that little more remains to be said about it. Science and the technologies it has spawned form the basis of all human activity, from the houses that we live in, the food that we eat, the cars that we drive, to the electronic gadgetry in almost every home that we use to remain informed and entertained.
Yet, despite these technological innovations, the paradoxes that I noticed when I was young are still with us: In advanced societies an increasing proportion of national wealth is now spent on health and recreation and large sums of money are devoted to military enterprises, while in the underdeveloped world famine and pointless wars still exact a terrible toll of human lives, malnutrition and disease are still rife, and even the basic necessities of life such as food and shelter cannot be provided for all. There is no doubt that great advances could be made in the treatment of diseases like malaria and other parasitic diseases that afflict more than half of the world's population, but the people who have these diseases also have another disease called OCD--Obsessive compulsive Disorder. There are many problems that science and technology, by themselves, are unable to solve given the economic structure of the world that we live in. So when we speak of the impact of science on society we are speaking about the more advanced countries, and when we speculate on the future, it usually concerns the same areas of the world.
I do not know whether I want to speculate on what impact science will have on society in the next 150 years. I wish I could say that we will banish hunger and war, and I wish I could reassure readers that we will still have a planet to live on. As everybody knows, this does not depend on science alone but on economic forces and political wills, something that scientists do not control.
However, there is another subject that drives my thought the impact of society on science, the inverse of the general idea. Much like the evidence for the impact of science on society, the evidence for the impact of society on science is all around for everyone to see, mainly in the form of the large (but never sufficient) funding that science enjoys in the more advanced countries. Society and its arm of action, government, understands that science has developed powerful methods for solving a large number of problems. What distinguishes science from all other kinds of problem-solving activities is the demand that the answers it discovers work in the real world. It is why rulers gave up slaughtering animals to examine their entrails: Magic does not exist in any world at all. However, in stimulating and supporting science, society, as the paymaster, has taken a much shorter term view of research than most scientists would like. There has been much discussion about the different kinds of science. a distinction that I find particularly obnoxious because one can almost see the word "idle" in front of curiosity. Actually, the answer to the question of which type of science to fund is quite simple: Since all science is problem driven, it should be judged by the quality of the problems posed, and the quality of the solutions provided.
We need to take these matters seriously, otherwise science will lose the independence of thought required for innovation that it has cherished for centuries.
I have presented and published several papers in international and national Conferences.
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