Science and the Economy
Can you spend science? No- it's not an actual form of currency. It does, however, have economic value. Science has long played a major role in world economies, but as we become more reliant on various forms of technology, this becomes even more true. Who knows? Science may just become the currency of the future.
Science and Technology
Let's start with perhaps the most obvious impact of science on the economy: technology. Scientific discoveries lead to the development of new technologies, which then enter into international markets as highly desirable products.
While humans have always traded technologies, the relationship between technological development and economic growth really dates back to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. This was the first time that products were being produced on a massive scale, and it was new technologies in steam engines that allowed this to happen.
As people produced more goods, they developed more complex networks of economic exchange across the world. In fact, our modern ideas about free-market economies and capitalism actually date back to this same time period.
Our modern technologies and our modern economies developed simultaneously. We couldn't have one without the other. Today the United States' economy is very largely dependent on the exportation of communications and digital technologies. Its place in the global economy is not defined by its agriculture or raw products, but by its technologies.
Science and Production
Of course, the invention of new products is not the only way that science impacts the economy. Scientific processes and discoveries have been used to greatly impact the productivity of economic networks.
Through scientific, methodical experiments and research, researchers have found problems in transportation networks, rates of exchange, types of investments, and the efficiency of factories. By identifying these issues, they can find new solutions that allow economic networks to become more productive.
This concept doesn't just apply to technological production. Scientific solutions can increase productivity in a range of economic sectors. One of the best examples of this is something we call the Green Revolution. From the 1930s through 1960s researchers developed new, scientific models for agriculture. This included the management of crops and soils, as well as the introduction of new plants that thrived better in certain climates.
These changes were so effective that agricultural production around the world increased exponentially. Not only did this greatly benefit the economies of agricultural nations, but scholars estimate that up to a billion people around the world may have been saved from starvation.
Science and the Culture of Production
So, science can increase productivity and strengthen economic networks. That's great, but there is a darker side to this. As cultures become more reliant on science to maintain their economies, there has been a trend across history where production becomes a new morality.
One place we really see this is back in the late 19th century. Factories were becoming larger than they'd ever been, the economies of industrial nations were more powerful than ever before, and people started thinking about their entire society purely in scientific terms.
One thing to come from this was the concept of scientific management, which claimed that every aspect of production could be scientifically controlled for maximum productivity. This included control of the workers. Everything from their physical positions to the number of bathroom breaks they were allotted, every minute of a laborer's day was controlled. They became part of the machine, and therefore treated as less than human.
We need to be aware of risks like this, but that doesn't mean that we need to try and separate science and economics. Recent studies have continually demonstrated that approaching the economy with a scientific mindset creates more educated consumers, smarter investments, and healthier overall networks of exchange.
Our economies are too reliant on science for us to separate them, so we just have to pay attention to the consequences of our actions on all members of society. By keeping our science rooted in both the economy and our humanity, we can keep our networks strong and our society even stronger.
Modern economies are almost entirely reliant on science. Capitalism as we know it emerged as part of the Industrial Revolution alongside new technologies that allowed for greater production and transportation of goods.
Today, nations like the United States maintain their role in the global economy by introducing new technologies, so science is important. However, science is also used to manage economies, allowing for more efficient production and exchange of goods.
In the past, this concept has led to theories of scientific management that treated workers like part of a machine, but also the Green Revolution that maximized agriculture and saved billions from starvation.
Science can help our economy run more smoothly, function more efficiently, and help us make better economic decisions. It's not a formal currency, but it's just as much a part of our economy as basic dollars and cents.
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