The turtle in the knowledge age

On my way from Cluj to Iasi I stopped at the Carrefour supermarket in Brasov. On the scroll of the commercials cable TV near the cash registers, one could see the latest news: the oldest being on Earth, a Galapagos turtle, died at the age of 250”. In geology, my job, 250 years could hardly to represented on the scale of time, but for the human beings it represents something – but what?

I think that a correct answer would be: the changes of states turned to stone in an overtaken project. When the Galapagos turtle was born, France was under Ludovic the XVI’s, “le Bien-aimé”, absolute monarchy and, in Iasi, Constantin Racoviţă was the Principle of Moldavia. In both situations the interest in Galapagos turtle was null. When the Galapagos turtle died, the informational society has been sending the news worldwide, in real time, and the high technology and the scientifical research, which both could have told us even the month when it was born, have remembered us that we already were in the knowledge age. Prof. François Peccoud asked us to replace our theoretical digressions with personal experiences through a notice sent by Internet to all the participants at the round table. As the changes become faster and faster, the changes of a person’s life may become useful to the young generation, which is tempted to believe that many of the contemporary society features have always existed. Under one condition: for us to accept that interesting is not what we have lived, but what we have learnt from that. 

I was born in the year when the Second World War burst out. I lived under a royal dictatorship, under an extreme right military dictatorship, under a communist dictatorship with soviet occupation, under a national communist dictatorship, I have participated in a popular anti-communist riot and I hope to live the rest of my life in a Romania integrated in the European Union. I have entered the University at 17 years not reached, and now I still am there; excepting 4 years, I never left that place, being all my life researcher and a professor. If million of historians deal with wars and political and social phenomena, the changes in research and innovation enjoy a sporadic attention. At 6 months I have extricated by miracle from scarlet fever. Only in 1945, when I was 6 years, Fleming received the Nobel Prize and the penicillin started to be produced at industrial scale.

When I was 1 year, General Electric launched the refrigerator with freezing compartment which would produce a food revolution. When I was 7, CBS made the first color broadcast in the US, but only when I was 17 I saw the first black-and-white TV. I was 11 years when Marion Donovan invented the Pampers nappies, but only my grandchildren have used them. I was 30 when the fist men landed on the Moon, but 59 when I received a little flag of Romania from NASA, which was held in space. I was 35 when there were made the first computers for big consumers, 42 when the PC appeared and 51 when I used one for the fist time. I was 41 when Motorola manufactured the first mobile phone and 55 when I had a personal one.

You will see that in all the cases I was talking about using them on large scale, as only that can bring important changes to the human society. One could also notice the time gap between the achievement of technological news and the moment they reach several places on earth. In this respect, we talk about the information society and the knowledge society. Starting with the antiquity, the Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Chinese then Arabic and Inca societies were each at its turn the knowledge Society? No, because when we talk about the knowledge society, we talk about enlarging the public knowledge space, especially due to the Internet. It does not mean the disappearance of cognitive fractures, but new chances for new actors.

The research and innovation systems encouraging a strong and sustainable development, both North and South benefiting from them, are at the crossroad of the scientific, economic and politic sectors. These are the conditions in which the science and technology can contribute to building a knowledge society, which should count on including and participation of a large audience.

In order to make a good use of the resources, it is necessary to make a difference between research and the routine fields, often taken as research: design, documentation, etc. Then it is necessary a strict evaluation of each field, depending on at least three criteria: modernity degree, competitiveness and excellence of each component, national and international success and acknowledgement chances, the importance of ulterior development of that field. And, finally, the necessary costs and means. Only at the end of this evaluation becomes possible to elaborate a sustainable development research policy. It is hard to conceive that Romania could develop all the research directions at real competition parameters without selection, as well as it is not conceivable that a ministerial and accountant bureaucracy still decide  upon priorities. The academic community is the only one able to ask these questions and to establish the directions and support degrees of different direction and programs. No doubt, these decisions should respect extremely rigorous and objective criteria, to have in mind the tradition and perspectives of each field. A strong cooperation within the Francophone Universitary Agency could lead to a better priorities evaluation and setting, related to top and perspective fields worldwide, and to assure a much detailed perspective than any other university upon the competitiveness degree.

I do not think I am wrong when I state that the training and developing the human resources is essential for humanity, as there is no technology to assure the development of women and men using it. We speak about convincing the political factors of an obvious fact, but often neglected: social costs of the lack of information are infinitely greater than those of a quality education. The meeting of today represents itself a sign of the educational problems globalization, which undoubtedly remain the most powerful action way in the field of human resources training. Therefore, I consider that two essential observations could be made: on one hand, the scientific and technologic transfer should not take place without a transfer of abilities to use them, but also of a values system which involves using them accordingly.  On the other hand, the endowment and technology differences are not coextensive to the human endowment gaps.

The situation of the South Eastern Europe countries in general and especially of Romania proves my point of view:  in spite of the local delay Romania was subjected to during the last half of the century, it preserved its formation networks, which allowed the survival of an intellectual and cultural potential, not connected to the material resources hardly touched by an aberrant politics, which offer them the chance of a faster development towards the European Union standards.