Today more and more locations are becoming viable for world class research and development. Today the following have significant ability: USA, Europe (many countries), Japan, Canada, China, Brazil, Singapore, Israel, India, Korea and Australia (I am sure I have missed some this is just what come to mind as I type this post) and many more are moving in that direction.
The continued increase of viable locations for significant amounts of cutting edge research and development has huge consequences, in many areas. If paths to research and development are blocked in one location (by law, regulation, choice, lack of capital, threat of significant damage to the career of those who would choose such a course…) other locations will step in. In some ways this will be good (see below for an explanation of why this might be so). Promising new ideas will not be stifled due to one roadblock.
But risks of problems will also increase. For example, there are plenty of reasons to want to go carefully in the way of genetically engineered crops. But those seeking a more conservative approach are going to be challenged: countries that are acting conservatively will see other countries jump in, I believe. And even if this didn’t happen significantly in the area of genetically engineered crops, I still believe it will create challenges. The ability to go elsewhere will make those seeking to put constraints in place in a more difficult position than 50 years ago when the options were much more limited (It might be possible to stop significant research just by getting a handful of countries to agree).
Debates of what restrictions to put on science and technology research and development will be a continuing and increasing area of conflict. And the solutions will not be easy. Hopefully we will develop a system of diplomacy that works, but that is much easier said than done. And the United States will have to learn they do not have the power to dictate terms to others. This won’t be an easy thing to accept for many in America. The USA will still have a great deal of influence, due mainly to economic power but that influence is only the ability to influence others and that ability will decline if diplomacy is not improved. Diplomacy may not seem to be a science and engineering area but it is going to be increasingly be a major factor in the progress of science and engineering. Continue reading