- from Shaastra :: vol 01 issue 02 :: Mar - Apr 2022
An insightful book argues that technology and science are inseparably related, and that revolutions are created by the two acting as one.
Core beliefs of writers often run across their work spanning decades. For Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Professor Emeritus of Technology Policy at Harvard, one core belief is the unity of fundamental and applied research. His book Cycles of Invention and Discovery: Rethinking the Endless Frontier, published in 2016, sprung from the belief that there was no real distinction between pure and applied sciences. He argued that creating two categories of research was artificial and harmful, and this practice grew from a poor understanding of the history of science and technology and the nature of invention.
It was not a new observation. In his Nobel Lecture in 1956, William Shockley, the co-inventor of the transistor, had derided the artificial division of research into the pure and the applied. Shockley was forced to say so because such a dichotomy was entrenched in the U.S. at that time, primarily driven by a report by Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Bush's report, called Science, the Endless Frontier, argued for a need to support fundamental research and to increase the flow of knowledge from basic research labs to industry. However, in the process, Bush had created an impression that the flow of knowledge was in one direction, from science to technology, and that technology was in a sense applied science. Bush's ideas became the foundation of U.S. science and technology policy. And, by extension, that of much of the world.