Monday, March 17, 2008
So, I read a number of blogs and other things on neuroscience, psychology and economics. I also try to keep up to date, if I can, with little things going on in the Science world. Anyway, one of the things that piqued my curiosity was this article on Chinese-Indian cooperation in science.
The main thesis is that China and India collectively have about 38% of the world's total population. Moreover, they both have scientists educated domestically and internationally who are capable of improving their domestic scientific output. Both China and India are well aware of this fact. The governments of both countries are supposedly trying their best to ensure that as many as possible (though still not enough) of their compatriots who are educated abroad return home. Moreover, if they can achieve a state of cooperation in the sciences between China and India, then they will have a hub of software and hardware driven research that could rival the best anywhere. American isn't respected for much in China, but the article says that it is still respected for its science. While the US cuts back on government-based investment in S&T (according to the article, but not according to the NYTimes - it was cut last year in December, but a new budget for 2009 was proposed with a different agenda), China and India are promoting increases in government spending on both. Scientists in both countries hope that this will aid in the eventual peaceful resolution of political border antagonism between the countries. Who knows?
What is more important to me is that there are better ways to resolve political problems than we often consider. Moreover, there are also ways to try to increase progress in countries, and as a consequence speed up development, that do not require the sanctioning by government of the activities of individuals. What I mean here is that there may be intercountry antagonism (such as the Sino-Indian border conflicts) which may be circumvented and possibly prevented in the future by reinforcement of cooperation elsewhere. Which is very cool in my mind.
It reminds me how we need to get back on track in South Africa. South Africa, which was previously a leader as a developing country, is now falling behind numerous South East Asian countries that have invested far more in education and the sciences than South Africa has. (Which, if I remember correctly is in this paper). South Africa desperately needs to increase investment in the physical and engineering sciences. Not only this but high school graduation rates of mathematics (at higher grade), science and chemistry need to improve rather than continue on the downward spiral that has been seen (ok, this may be hyperbole). One of the things I worry about is that South African education officials state that education is improving, without noting how there aren't dramatic improvements in the sciences. Sadly, growth is not driven by the arts, or the social sciences. Growth is driven by entrepreneurship and the sciences. I don't necessarily agree with how the mechanism works (i.e. philosophically), but there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that increased growth goes hand-in-hand with development in science and technology graduation rates (and also with the high school math and science grad rates I commented on previously). These aren't highlighted in everyday policy discussions in newspapers, though some do admittedly bring them up. Anyway, I could rant on about this more, but I'm going to leave it for the moment. Suffice to say that I don't think JZ would necessarily take cognizance of this and I don't believe he would surround himself with people conducive to such ideas. Intriguing indeed.