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 Assunto da Mensagem: The role of academia towards a type 1 civilization
 Mensagem Enviado: Segunda Out 02, 2017 6:46 am 
investigador em formação
investigador em formação

Registado: Quarta Dez 09, 2015 8:17 am
Mensagens: 49
Universidade/ Instituto: Minho
In the end of his book “History of the world” Andrew Marr quotes the astronomer Martin Rees on the fact that in the next two decades the challenges faced by Humanity involved a 50% risk of survival. He said that the Planet cannot sustain 9 billion inhabitants with the current consumption and pollution patterns. Meaning that each and every one of us have a responsibility to become a sustainable citizen. The physicist Kaku (1999) wrote about the two trends he saw in the world. The typo zero civilization in that we are today and the type one (in the Kardashev scale) that we aim and hope to become, “a multicultural, scientific, tolerant society”. He wrote that “the European Union is the beginning of a type one economy… these European countries, which have slaughtered each other ever since the ice melted 10,000 years ago…they have banded together, put aside their differences to create the European Union”. Michio Kaku also mentioned that our major problem is to successful be able to make the transition from typo zero to type one civilization that could take around 100 years.

The text above is to say that Universities are crucial in facilitating the transition from a sectarian society into a “multicultural, tolerant, scientific society”. Terrorism being the major threat against the development of a type one civilization because they fight to impose a “monocultural, intolerant, theocratic society”. And Universities should already had tried to find the reasons why such a destructive message was able to attract so many young Europeans. For instance history Professor, Benjamim Stora of University Paris-XIII said that part of the problem lies on the fact that Universities are excessively entrenched on their own academic agendas paying little interest in such public problems. That is just an example of a very serious issue that technology alone will not solve as it happens with other problems (another example on tech limitations will be given in the second section of this document).

Also Universities will not be able to fulfil their mission as long as they keep trying to replicate corporate practices. Corporate live by the motto “show me the money” a motto very different from the several ones that universities around the world say they live by. And even corporate in countries that are known to have ethical standards well above average were not able to avoid being pull to such practices like it happened with the emissions scandal at Volkswagen. Unfortunately, that was not an exception. Not to mention that corporate have a long tradition to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Not only that but they also have a well know appetite to try to influence Governments to favour their own highly profitable agendas. That´s why Academia must be a repository of the moral values that sustain Western societies. And the rampant number of scientific misconduct acts on academia are no doubt the most visible consequence of such corporate replication approach. And every time one of such acts take place they are just another brick in the wall of the tomb where the credibility of Universities will rest.

Universities were initially founded in Medieval times with the mission of founding Truth, Good and Beauty. With time they evolve to a more utilitarian mission. Some were able to found a balance between the two but most did not. And if they continue to follow that path they risk ended up not being Universities nor enterprises. In my vision Universities have a special role in inspiring, in giving hope, and in forming the sustainable citizens needed to built that new type one civilization, multicultural, tolerant and scientific society. Citizens that are expected to defend such society because we only have what we are willing to defend and the future that we deserve will not come easily without effort and persistence. Of course I know very well that Europe is the only area with a social model that offers education, health care, minimum wages, payed annual holydays and retirement plans and that model can only endure as long as Europe keeps on being economically competitive. And also that for instance the 2017 average youth unemployment rate in EU is around 17%, including very different realities like more than 40% for Greece and less than 7% for Germany.

Back in June of 2015 the Final Report of the High Level Expert Group on Key Enabling Technologies mentioned that Europe is confronted with a structural erosion of its manufacturing base risking losing its competitive manufacturing capacity. The decline that also took place in US is due not only to a shift to services but also to the fact the investment on that area is falling. The EU investments decrease around 14% while the investment in the group of countries of China, South Korea and Taiwan have risen 92%. No wonder then that in the global manufacturing map Asian countries have become the major players while Europe lose ground. Still the idea that increasing investment in the manufacture sector will allow Europe to create several million new jobs as it is wrote in the above report is a short sided vision because forgets two things.

First that the destiny of Europe is to become a beacon of a type one civilization not to compete with Asia for manufacturing supremacy. Second that in the medium term almost all manufacturing industry will be computerized. The good news is that Europe has already groups dedicated to that problem, the bad news being the fact that Asian countries also have it. A computerized industry will in future create many challenges not only concerning unemployment and the discussion on a universal basic income but most important about how unemployment could be an opportunity for everybody to discover the purpose of their existence. Of course such discussion transcends the subject of this document. In the cited report the universities were mentioned almost only in what respect patent applications and also about the need of industry to engage in more effective partnerships with them. Recently the High Level Group on maximising impact of EU Research and Innovation Programmes, also know has the Lamy report as per the name of its Chair Pascal Lamy, President Emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute made 11 important recommendations but more important pointed out to several European constraints including again the underperformance patenting activity:
The EU trails well behind many trading partners when it comes to innovation. It spends less than half as much on business R&D as a share of GDP compared to South Korea...The EU produces three times less quality patent applications than Japan. The amount of venture capital available in the EU is at least five times lower than in the US; the number of fast-growing start-ups, so-called unicorns, is equally five times lower

What the Lamy report does not say in that phrase is what´s the contribution of public and private contribution for that gap. However, in page 11 of that report it´s recognized that it is the lack of private sector R&D that has prevented Europe to reach 3% of gross domestic expenditure on R&D as percentage of GDP. The same can be said about the patenting activity of Europe that only fall short when compared to Japan due to the fact that private sector in Europe has a much lower patenting activity than Japan´s private sector. This means that makes little sense that the solution encompasses asking universities to try to produce much more patents than they already do in order to compensate the private sector shortcomings on this respect. Just because that would change their mission in an irreversible manner. As to the venture capital available, well, it is rather obvious that universities can do nothing about that. Concerning the reports comments about the so called unicorns its worth remembering that Salim Ismail, one of the founders of Singularity University, recently said that the problem of European entrepreneurs is the lack of ambition. They dream to create a company for local or regional market instead of dreaming of creating global enterprises. Fortunately for Europe the situation of Asian countries is not as bright as some reports have been showing. For instance China may have a fierce determination backed by the power of a State with a high investment capability. However, they have an educational system that promotes conformity and obedience not creativity and innovation that are needed in the present and in the future (Chu, 2017). It´s truth Asian students have good scores in Pisa tests but that´s not a proxy for innovation and even less for creativity.

Several decades ago Alvin Tofler spoke about its visits to Asian countries and he said that their idea of innovation was a bizarre one, encompassing to force students to memorize a multiplying table from 1 to 100, instead of the one from 1 to 10 that was used in Western countries. And only recently we could hear Jack Ma, the founder of the well-known Alibaba group, saying that the Chinese education system focusing on calculus and memorizing exercise is a mistake because it only serves for manufacturing jobs (Ma, 2017). Of course it´s also truth that while during the early 20th century, the US, Germany, and the UK created 95% and collected 97% of the world’s citations, these two shares were decreased by about half as of the 21st century, to 46% and 58%, respectively (Dong et al., 2017). Still although China and other Asian countries have raised their publication pattern they have also being caught on a publication trap (Quan et al., 2017).

Hu (2017) recently mentioned that in spite of three decades of reforms the Soviet influence is still felt on Chinese universities. That´s why that what concerns major scientific awards like Nobel prizes, Field medallists and Turing awards they are still and will continue to be dominated by Western countries. Not to mention that the rise of China manufacturing industry to the world top position that frightens Europe so much has been responsible for major environmental problems that no projection on the rise China has account for. And sooner or later China will have no solution than to deal with it. So in a medium term China will not be able to keep up with the internal tensions caused by its own development model (economical, technological and even political) and this means Europe still has a window of opportunity to strengthen its economic advantage.

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