The Virtue of Scientific Knowledge - Ad Infinitum
By C. Sebastian Mamani Cuenca*
“Thus, the lore of the country’s richness is not confined to the tales of the famous Cerro Rico in Potosi”
According to studies, Bolivia has the largest reserves of lithium in the world. This is not the only ‘virtue’ to project the country as an emerging power, it also has the largest iron deposit in the world; almost 50% of its surface is covered by forests; significant hydrocarbon reserves; a great mineralogical potential, placing it as the fourth world producer of tin and eleventh of silver; besides having gold, zinc, lead, antimony, and other minerals that have not yet been quantified or qualified systematically. Thus, the lore of the country’s richness is not confined to the tales of the famous Cerro Rico in Potosi but it practically is a ‘goldmine’ vis-a-vis natural resources which needs to be developed scientifically to result in the progress of the country.
“It can be defined as a product of the human process of science in its social content.”
But then do we have clarity on the term ‘scientific knowledge’ and its rather magnanimous use as a panacea of all things ‘right’. Quite simplistically put, it is the knowledge acquired based on methods that can be accurately validated. It can be defined as a product of the human process of science in its social content. Thus extrapolated further it is the only path in its actualities and not mere notions that would lead to a forever sustainable economic developing of participating cultures and thus is free from ethnocentricities.
When we look at the Bolivian society scientifically, we can theorise that Bolivian families usually wish well-being and academic improvement for the future actors in the economic and social stage with an assumption that this has been the missing link that has hampered due progress. Thus, in rural areas it is cause for celebration and pride upon the conclusion of secondary studies of the next generation, as it is the case in the main cities, for students obtaining professional degrees. The scientific inference would then be that the country will have an increasingly significant population of professionals in the medium and long term in the years to come.
“scientific development promotes the dynamics of advanced technologies”
Relating these two factual aspects that the most basic processes of extraction of natural resources require investment and skilled labour; which in turn requires an environment of industrialization backed with strong investments and specialized human resources. The synergy of these conditions is supported by favourable internal policy regulations, which encourage both private and public investment.
In the global sphere, scientific development promotes the dynamics of advanced technologies that are applied to the provision of services, and value additions and processing of the natural resources wherein the human resources require more specialization through theoretical and practical knowledge. Whereas in non-industrialized countries, the option is to initiate the economic ladder beginning with the mere extraction and export of raw materials. Due to this glaring difference in their scientific levels, the highly developed countries have a monopoly on the transfer of these technologies in their different dimensions. There is also a mismatch in the capacities of acceptance of these technologies by the developing world depending on their strata of capabilities and skill levels and also their attitude of acceptance of the accompanying technologies.
“taking into account that almost 2/3 parts of the exports correspond to the extractive sector”
In Bolivia there is a spirit of resistance to an international configuration wherein it is assumed to be an exclusive extraction region like the annals of yore, which has left deep pain of exploitation and economic deprivation as documented in the Spanish system of the Potosi Mita. While the private sector supports its economic structure in agriculture being the primary economic sector, prioritizing its economic benefits at any cost; the public sector invests in projects of different kinds like infrastructure, petrochemical industry etc, and sometimes parallel to the private sector and others with the desire to make analogy to the success of some developed countries and replicate their model of growth and ‘prosperity’. However it is seen, both sectors are not propitious enough to guarantee in the long term the development of the economy, taking into account that almost 2/3 parts of the exports correspond to the extractive sector and that this is the main nuclear core sector and source of offsetting all other sectors. However, there would be no basis to give any criterion on technologies, by means of this manuscript, if the appropriate terrain of the Bolivian economy does not exist.
When making an investment in the sectors implicitly mentioned, the private sector has the natural advantage of its success, thanks to its notion of the what and the know-why of executing a project. With adequate capital, it is easy to hire the services of qualified personnel, that have the know-how, responsible for the operation of production assets. In the meantime, there is a lack of coordination between these two premises, which make a successful projection in the public sector difficult. In general, the permanent focus of the private sector is the profitability of the investment, while for the public sector, multiple issues come into play not necessarily looking at the profitability as it also gives credence to the social welfare concepts.
“technology is being transformed in all its dimensions”
On the other hand, technology is being transformed in all its dimensions and production methods are being unified. Universities and research institutes allow the development of complex knowledge through experimental and semi-experimental projects such as the nuclear reactor for the generation of energy from thermonuclear fusion and fission technologies; nuclear batteries for space navigation; the magnetic levitation trains; the innovation of agro-industrial mechanization; concurrently, no less important is scientific research in the social sciences such as economics, translatology, geopolitics, education, philosophy, among others that give meaning, support and dynamism to technological progress; for the objects of study are closely related to the former.
Returning to the tale in question, and retreating the passage of time, about 9,000 years ago in America, it was possible to domesticate, with scientific technology of that times, potatoes and corn; products that necessarily require the hand of man for their existence, unlike rice, which can be found in the wild and is also domesticated in Asia. Thus, we can infer that both corn and potatoes experienced a more complicated scientific domestication than rice thus making a case in point that there was enough breeding ground in the Americas for scientific process of experimentation.
“Traditional crops decline due to the changed pattern of usage with the western notions of development”
At present, the agro-industry, has had much inputs sourced into it due to its high economic profitability and basic industrial mechanization required; produces more of sugar cane, sunflower, soybeans, transgenic soybeans, quinoa, sesame with the main purpose of exporting them. The Bolivian population's consumption is based more on sugar, rice, chicken, oil and dairy products, which are products of industrial origin. Traditional crops decline due to the changed pattern of usage with the western notions of development without giving a thought that they are based in the genetic constitution of the local population; that's right, even potatoes and corn need to be imported!
A conducive and inclusive economic environment allows the State to invest in projects. Any of these that involve at least one specialized component - unknown in its comprehensive understanding- requires a transfer of technology; that is, a movement of knowledge, skill, organization, values and capital from the point of generation of this technology to the site of adaptation and application of it.
Under this concept, the transfer of technology is complex than the simple transfer of purchase and sale of a good; nor is it limited to the simple operation of it. Universities and research institutes will act as beacons that can guarantee the process of a technology transfer.
In a clear transversal intertwining of knowledge, experimentation, and its subsequent results, Research and Development centres termed as ‘Dry run centres’ can not only study the whole materials used in the transferred product, analyze its qualities, its composition, its design, but can also propose an innovative and improved alternative, which the ingenious can take advantage for their subsequent application, while investors lay down an actionable and profitable path for its industrial application. This relationship among the State, universities and entrepreneurs is not a hypothetical but an essential approach.
These Dry run centres offer the opportunity for the academics of our universities to carry out tests and experiments on everything proposed in classrooms or learned in libraries; these centres replace these traditional spaces and would be scientifically and gradually their main source of information, this being a unique and ambitious approach.
At one extreme, private individuals, not exactly wealthy, thanks to their academic success, build garish buildings that is characterized by the dearth of a ‘simple’ mechanism that may provide convenient temperatures facing adverse weather seasons; under the same incoherence, the public sector builds extravagant squares with dancing water fountains, despite the water supply being limited. Glaring in the above exemplification is that even though there is a substantial income to dispose of, but the quality of life is minimally improved.
At the other extreme, apparently positive, projects with modern approaches are executed. The interesting thing is that they are overwhelmingly accepted because they satisfy some needs and to a certain extent popular expectations. The technology used is an acquired mystery, where the protagonists are politics, trade, financial institutions and appeasement policies.
“the transfer of technology that generates further spin-off technologies”
It is important that we at least distinguish between two fundamental types of technology transfer. First is the purchase of technology for industry, extraction and services; where the specialization of the human resources is necessary, although scarce, to guarantee its successful operation. Secondly, the transfer of technology that generates further spin-off technologies; where the specialization of human resources is vital, which also includes, necessarily; Dry run centres, a cohesion with universities, application of theoretical scientific knowledge into practical industry, all these efforts with the aim of generating scientific research that, in turn, guarantees the provision of technology for industry, extraction and services.
With these actions, the cognitive gaps between schools, colleges, institutes and universities are exposed and thus pose a great opportunity, which if exploited would have an exponential benefit in a technological-scientific development. It is important that the universities are characterized, among other objectives, by a clear scientific technological development approach.
Science does not stereotype, does not discriminate, does not segregate, does not exterminate. Science, like nature, gives living beings equal opportunities to experiment and theorise and come to conclusions. Educational institutions require transformations, resisting change is accepting the current conditions of uncertainty.
"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast." Leonardo da Vinci.
*By C. Sebastian Mamani Cuenca
I am a candidate for a Master in International Relations at National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Moscow Engineering Physics Institute). 20.05.2019