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Q&A: Global Dominance

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5. Science & Technology

Revised
8 April 2015

The third type of activity that is needed for global dominance, in addition to appropriate policy and efficient economic activity, is scientific research and technological development. All great empires in history were based on certain key technologies. Irrigation, was one of the earliest technologies that allowed the emergence of the powerful "hydrological societies" of Egypt, India, China, and Indonesia. Without maritime navigation and sea-going vessels Great Britain would not have been able to control the Commonwealth. Europe's domination of the World in the 18th and 19th century would not have been possible without its industrial revolution, that was based on key technologies - from the steam engine and the loom, to the steel vessel and combustion engine. In the 20th century the Soviet Union would have been a toothless tiger without nuclear power and long-range missile technology and the United States now dominates the world with military, space and information technology.
To initiate and support a vital research and development sector three elements are essential:
Large talent pool
A large reservoir of smart, well-trained people is the most valuable asset for a country or region. It is people, not money or organizations, who produce new scientific ideas; it is people, who have the engineering talent to develop new technologies. Without a sufficient number of bright minds no country or region can become a major player on the world stage.
Conductive cultural & social environment
A social, cultural, and organizational environment, which encourages science and technology. Widespread religious fundamentalism that contests and combats rational thinking can threaten science and technology. Innocent ignorance of basic concepts and tools in science and technology among a population can be equally detrimental to scientific research and technological development. If the great majority of a population has no clue what the scientific and technological elites of their country are doing, public support will wane. Also necessary, but certainly not sufficient, is appropriate financial support for fundamental and applied research.
Risk capital, copyright protection & standards
Science can only generate economic growth if certain arrangements and institutions are implemented for transferring basic scientific research into consumer technology. This includes, among other things, organizations and financial institutions for allocating risk capital to the development of marketable products. Countries also need effective copyright procedures to protect investments into new technology. And finally, only countries that have reasonable standards and regulations will allow new technologies to flourish, such as telecommunication standards or food safety regulations.
Links to comparative analyses (in preparation)
In these analyses we will compare China, Europe, and the USA and ask, which of them has the most conductive cultural values to promote science and technology, the largest talent pool, the most appropriate copyright protection and technological standards and the easiest available risk capital. These will be our criteria to asses each country's or region's comparative advantage in science and technology
Links to on-line articles
 

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McGinn - Science Brynjolfsson - Second Machine Age NAS-NIH - Science, Evoultion and Creationism Hanushek - Knowledge Capital

Robert E. McGinn (1990)
Science, Technology and Society. Pearson

Erik Brynjolfsson / Andrew McAfee (2014)
The Second Machine Age. Work, progress and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies.
W. W. Norton

National Academy of Sciences / Institute of Medicine (2008)
Science, Evolution and Creationism. National Academies Press

Eric A Hanushek / Ludger Woessmann (2015)
The Knowledge Capital of Nations. education and the economics of growth.
MIT Press

 
Isaacson - Innovators Thiel - Zero to One Temple - Genius of China Needham - Science and Civilisation

Walter Isaacson (2014)
The Innovators. Wow a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution. Simon & Schuster

Peter Thiel / Blake Masters (2014)
Zero to One. Notes on startups, or how to build the future. Crown Business

Robert Temple (2007)
The Genius of China. 3,000 years of science, discovery, and invention. Inner Traditions

Joseph Needham (1954)
Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 1 to 7. Cambridge University Press


Most authoritative account of science and technology in ancient China

 
Jasanoff - Designs of Nature      

Sheila Jasanoff (2005)
Designs of Nature. Science and democracy in Europe and the United States. Princeton University Press

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Creative Commons License

"China-Europe-USA" by Gerhard K. Heilig is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. First published: 2004; Completely revised: 2015