George E. Brown, Jr.
From: Past and Prologue: Why I Am Optimistic About the Future.
William D. Carey Award Lecture, 23rd Annual AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy, April 29, 1998.
By George E. Brown, Jr.
We have created a wondrous understanding of our universe, opened new vistas of opportunity for every human on Earth, and, at least for the moment, managed to end a period of global confrontation between the United States and the former Soviet Union that had endured, and endangered the human race, for the last 50 years. We are perched on the edge of a new millennium, with society enjoying previously unheard of advances in human knowledge that science and engineering helped create. . . .
[But the scientific] enterprise seems to be resting on its past success, idolizing its current organization and operations and hoping that inertia will carry it into the 21st Century. We employ a passive, post-hoc justification for our activities to compensate for the lack of a valid system of performance metrics. We take a narrow view of our responsibility to society in the transformations that we cause. We have no foresight or planning operation in place that would tell us how to define, measure, or achieve greater success. We have no real sense of how to conceptualize social and economic systems or subsystems and describe their linkages. And we have no clearly defined values for our enterprise that are sufficiently visionary to justify the public confidence and support that we seek for our science and technology efforts.
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