From Enlightenment to Enablement: opening up choices for innovation

Stirling, Andrew (2010) From Enlightenment to Enablement: opening up choices for innovation. In: López-Claros, A (ed.) The Innovation for Development Report: 2009-10. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 199-210. ISBN 9780230239661

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"From Enlightenment to Enablement: Opening up Choices for Innovation," by Andrew Stirling, provides insight into the "knowledge society" and the widespread notion that scientific and technological progress is linear and cumulative, that every possible or feasible path will be realized. Rather, Stirling writes, "whether deliberately, blindly, or unconsciously," societies pursue only a restricted subset of diverse possibilities, in which certain pathways for change are "closed down," while others are "opened up." The factors driving choice are determined by whether power is exercised deliberately and democratically, and whether public policy is open, inclusive, and accountable in dealing with links between technological risk, scientific uncertainty, social values, political priorities, and economic interests. Stirling analyzes the relationships between social and technological progress, on the one hand, and public participation and responsible precaution, on the other, and asks what are the most appropriate and practical ways, under different conditions, to "get the best out of specialist expertise," while "engaging stakeholders, learning from different experiences, and empowering the least privileged groups in society." Stirling analyzes the vulnerability of society from technology (biological, environmental, etc.), and its intriguing opposite: the risks for technology from society, such as when wise, feasible choices are foreclosed because of "market lock-in," prejudice, or the needs, preferences, values, and interests of restricted groups. After a discussion of the governance of these vulnerabilities, the author examines some of the unfounded assumptions about knowledge itself: that every marketable innovation is socially acceptable, or that the knowledge responsible for an innovation also encompasses its consequences, and reminds us that even apparently complete knowledge may be indeterminate in its implications, that facts and values are not necessarily interdependent. The article ends with a description of the "precautionary principle" which acknowledges both the potential for irreversible harm and the impossibility of scientific certainty, and opens up "directions for choice."

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Depositing User: Andrew Stirling
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:16
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2012 22:06
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