Chapter 96

Global Challenges


Since the industrial revolution, the economic importance of technological change has been widely accepted,1,2 and science is now being viewed by many as a “vital precondition,” rather than a luxury, for economic development.3 Alongside this shift in thinking, over 180 UN member states adopted the 2000 Millennium Declaration to free the world of extreme poverty. These nations pledged to meet certain goals, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by the year 2015 (Box 7.1).4 The goals are designed to address extreme poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion, while promoting education, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. To date, significant progress has been made in meeting some MDGs, such as poverty reduction, increased primary education and gender equality, and lower child mortality. However, less progress has been made in fighting global disease and improving environmental sustainability.5 Malaria and AIDs rates are increasing in many areas,6 and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.7 Historical and economic evidence suggests that science and technology (S&T) can contribute to all of the goals, and there is increasing attention to the need to link MDGs with global agendas for S&T.8

However, there are significant challenges to this linkage. Technology does not chart its own course toward social good. It is often developed by the private sector, whose main goal is to increase profits. ...

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