Science and technology: the basis of social well-being

None of us would choose to be in the situation the world currently is, caught between two fears – the accelerated contamination leading to a scenario of terror similar to that in Spain or Italy on the one hand, and of an economic crisis without precedents pushing us to unemployment and mass famine, on the other. Even worse is that one hypothesis does not necessarily exclude the other. What to do at such a time, when many of us are stuck at home, waiting for news, balancing, perhaps, between anxiety and discouragement? There is only one possible answer: to make this forced confinement useful in some way. And there is no better way of doing this than trying to slow down a bit and reflect. We seldom have spare time, putting all our efforts into life’s everyday urgent things, always postponing what is important in favor of doing what cannot be put off. But, different from normal situations when we would be compelled to go out taking action, we have now, during this moment of crisis, the opportunity to do something different, to use some of this time to think.

The justifiable concerns about our and our families’ well-being, the health of our loved ones, and the financial situation have gained a new and important component which shuffles the game and make us feel powerless in the face of a  global-scale phenomenon. This global scale must deserve our attention now. When we realize that we are not isolated, that events in any place in the world, and with any groups of people may well affect us, this is the only conclusion that helps us move to another level of civilization. What matters now, concretely, is that our next-door neighbor is not contaminated. And, just as decisive, is that Asia, Europe, Africa, and other countries succeed in fighting the disease, because, otherwise, it may return to our door.

Right now, looking for answers, we have to deal with such concepts as “research”, “public policies”, “health systems”, and “international relations”. What was too distant, too generic, too abstract, is at our door now. So, we can now see how science is done, how it effectively matters for our well-being, and how it cannot be rushed. Years on end, using grants we cannot be sure will produce practical results, taking risky decisions whose effectiveness no one knows for sure, with the painful combination of knowledge in areas of specialization that deal with the physical world, with forms of life and social organizations: that is what sound science is made of, the only one that may give us answers at this moment.

Therefore, may we at least reflect and emerge from this situation as soon as possible with the revaluation of the role scientific research should have in our country, with all its costs and uncertainties involved. And also with a renewed vision of what it means to live together on this small and beautiful planet.