BUILDING HUMAN CAPITAL
In my last column (February 2003) we spoke about how modern science and technology helps to build a people. What does this mean and exactly how does the process work?
Science is a very common word but few people know that it only stands for the Latin expression “to know”. So all that science means is that it is a constant, unrelenting search for truth. But if you choose to go down this path, it also requires that in the end you have to be honest, utterly honest with yourself at all times. It means that you become uncomfortable (to say the least) when you cheat the law or when you mislead others or even when you attempt to deceive yourself. This is more than just the individual conscience at work (similar to Gandhiji’s “the voice within”), it is the institutionalization of it. This kind of consciousness gradually permeates the entire nation. It helps to build the principled self-dignity of the people of a nation as nothing else can. It is the unseen policeman or policewoman in every one of us. In respect of corruption, it affects both the potential giver and the potential taker of a bribe. As a national backdrop, it is the perfect tool with which to fight corruption.
How about technology? Technology is the child of science. It is nothing but applied science. But technology also doesn’t just stop there. Technology transforms culture. Let’s say that when you first taught yourself to ride a scooter or drive a motorcar, you did so, like all the rest of us, with a certain amount of nervousness and trepidation. But once you learned how to do it, it gave a tremendous boost to your confidence. Now you said to yourself that if you could do this as well as anybody else, you could achieve anything you set your mind to. This is true whether we are speaking about a bicycle, a telephone, a camera, a television set, a mobile phone or any of the hundreds of pieces of technology, large and small, that surround us today. Technology builds self-esteem, spurs creativity and provides drive. If technology goes awry or if there is an excess of technology, science should be at hand to act as a control or governor.
Modern science and technology acting together thus not only help to increase the production of goods in short supply (our first premise) but also work as a strong bulwark against corruption and a great preventative of corruption. We have looked at this matter in cross-section. Looked at in the collective, to quote Francis Fukuyama in his “The End of History and the Last Man”, this is how it appears:
“The logic of modern science can explain a great deal about our world : why we residents of developed democracies are office workers rather than peasants eking out a living on the land, why we are members of labour unions or professional organizations rather than tribes and clans, why we obey the authority of a bureaucratic superior rather than a priest, why we are literate and speak a common language.” And it also explains, might I venture to add, how nations can gradually but surely be rescued from corruption and at the same time carry within them a built-in antidote against temptation in the future.