Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Scientiae Studia]]> vol. 12 num. SPE lang. es <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[Editorial]]> <![CDATA[<b>On the status and role of instrumental images in contemporary science</b>: <b>some epistemological issues</b>]]> The controversy over imageless thought versus picture thinking (especially via mechanical models), with the recent reconsideration of model-based reasoning in the physical sciences is briefly examined. The main focus of the article is on the role of instrumentally elicited images (scopic instruments, cameras, CCDs) in the sciences, especially in the physical sciences, with special reference to optics, experimental particle physics and observational astronomy, against the background of the civilization of digital images, though to some degree every scientific discipline is implicated. Imaging, today chiefly in the mode of electronic digital visual imaging, reaches into every phase of scientific inquiry, observational, experimental, simulational, even in mathematical research. The combination of algorithms and image-intensive science with the plethora of big data results in an epistemic pattern of "mathematical imagism". The epistemological issues regarding the image-intensiveness as of data-intensiveness of scientific research deserve further probing, in pursuance of the discussions of the ideal of mechanical objectivity in machine vision (an ever greater proportion of scientific visualization) versus trained judgment in the selection and assessment of scientific images: as for now tacitly we depend on conventions regarding what we called "warranted imageability". <![CDATA[<b>Scientific research, technological innovation and the agenda of social justice, democratic participation and sustainability</b>]]> Modern science, whose methodologies give special privilege to using decontextualizing strategies and downplay the role of context-sensitive strategies, have been extraordinarily successful in producing knowledge whose applications have transformed the shape of the lifeworld. Nevertheless, I argue that how the mainstream of the modern scientific tradition interprets the nature and objectives of science is incoherent; and that today there are two competing interpretations of scientific activities that are coherent and that maintain continuity with the success of the tradition: "commercially-oriented technoscience" (CT) and "multi-strategy research" (MS). The greater part of this article is devoted to discussing what is involved in MS, by pointing to its positive research program in three areas ("social technology", agroecology and food sovereignty), and its critical stance towards the innovations of CT, especially insofar as it makes use of the Precautionary Principle. In this way important dimensions of the agenda of science and technology for social justice, democratic participation and sustainability become clear. <![CDATA[<b>Riscophrenia and "animal spirits"</b>: <b>clarifying the notions of risk and uncertainty in environmental problems</b>]]> This article seeks to clarify the concepts of risk and uncertainty, restricting its focus to environmental problems and to three strands of reflection. Firstly, I suggest that we should apply the label riscophrenia to the tendency to envisage most environmental problems excessively in terms of probabilistic risk, erecting the concept to a core dogma of certainty based on the image it offers of (alleged) safety and control of the random. Looking at the most serious environmental problems of the twenty-first century through the prism of "animal spirits" is above all an exercise which shows that unpredictability and uncertainties are constituent elements of human existence and social life. Secondly, I argue that the assessment of uncertainty has political and normative implications. I hold that uncertainty may make it possible to invoke precautionary, not just preventive, measures, and that alternative "contextualised" research strategies, open to a variety of points of view, are possible. Lastly, I claim that the language of risk and its excessive application is generally laden with a type of ambiguity which tends not to emphasize society's current problems, and so facilitates the continuation rather than the questioning of our society's dominant technocratic and technological model. <![CDATA[<b>Technological risks, transgenic agriculture and alternatives</b>]]> After discussing the transformation of age-old agricultural practices that has been occurring since the mid nineteenth century, and its impact on the natural environment, I identify four features of technology that point to the ambiguity of the idea of "technological progress". These are linked to the intrinsic unpredictability (and uncertainty) of technological applications and have implications for evaluating technological risks. I then show that large scale technological applications and innovations - such as expanding the practice of smallpox inoculation in the second half of the eighteenth century - occur in states of 'technological exception'. In them, values are suspended and rules, limits and security norms are absent; and, in the face of risks, losses and harm to health and environment that are occasioned by technological applications introduced in the name of economical progress (development), normal social inhibitions become suspended in the name of furthering the values of capital and market. In addition, I show that maintaining technological exception has favored, on the one hand, the development by large corporations of antiscientific practices that threaten the moral integrity (ethos) of science by impeding the proper use of the scientific method for evaluating the consequences of using technologies that are protected by patents; and, on the other hand, under the cover of ignorance, continued deterioration of the environment that threatens the very survival of the human species. <![CDATA[<b>Towards a philosophy of energy</b>]]> Transition to a sustainable energy regime is one of the key global societal challenges for the coming decades. Many technological innovations are in the pipeline, but an uncritical appraisal of anything and everything called green innovation lacks methods for testing both the necessity and the sufficiency of these developments. We propose to develop a philosophy of energy to fill this lacuna. Its task is to explore and clarify the space in which the so-called energy transition is taking place. This article sketches the fundaments of such a philosophy and suggests how it might be built upon the work of twentieth century critics of the functioning of energy in society, including Mumford, Bataille, and Heidegger; but not without empirical analysis of contemporary energy systems. Via the example of flux and potentiality - two apparently opposing conceptions of energy - we propose that a philosophy of energy allows for a broader perspective on specific problems in energy transition, and illuminates implicit and problematic assumptions behind these problems. <![CDATA[<b>Technology and basic science</b>: <b>the linear model of innovation</b>]]> The concept of the "linear model of innovation" (LMI) was introduced by authors belonging to the field of innovation studies in the middle of the 1980s. According to the model, there is a simple sequence of steps going from basic science to innovations - an innovation being defined as an invention that is profitable. In innovation studies, the LMI is held to be assumed in Science the endless frontier (Sef), the influential report prepared by Vannevar Bush in 1945. In this paper, it is argued that: (1) the LMI was introduced with critical purposes, as part of the questioning of the conception of science and the proposals for science policies put forward in Sef; (2) at a first level of analysis, the LMI appears as a straw man, defended neither in Sef, nor anywhere else; (3) the LMI is a weapon against the importance attributed to basic science in Sef, and its defense of the financing of basic research by the state; (4) the LMI is a component of the process of commodification of science promoted by neoliberalism. The last section of the paper presents a qualified defense of basic science and basic research. <![CDATA[<b>Scientometrics</b>: <b>the project for a science of science transformed into an industry of measurements</b>]]> This paper discusses the intellectual justification of scientometrics through the claim that it is part of the quest for a quantitative science of science. Initially, I will make a brief description of scientometrics' historical background. Next, I will explain that those disciplines that have been satisfactorily mathematized always contain two distinct basic components: an axiomatic, defining the operations that can be realized with the available data, and an interpretation of their meaning. Counting papers and citations is a way to collect statistical data about scientific activities, and therefore the axiomatic basis of scientometrics comes from statistics. Regarding the interpretation of scientometrics, I will argue that the meanings attributed to their key concepts are usually borrowed from economics. Then I discuss how the promise of a science of science becomes a too well adjusted historical narrative that apparently justifies the economic concerns of governments and private corporations. <![CDATA[<b>Complexity and information technologies</b>: <b>an ethical inquiry into human autonomous action</b>]]> In this article, we discuss, from a complex systems perspective, possible implications of the rising dependency between autonomous human social/individual action, ubiquitous computing, and artificial intelligent systems. Investigation is made of ethical and political issues related to the application of ubiquitous computing resources to autonomous decision-making processes and to the enhancement of human cognition and action. We claim that without the feedback of fellow humans, which teaches us the consequences of our actions in real everyday life, the indiscriminate use of ubiquitous computing in decision-making processes seems to be beyond the reach of any clear ethical control. We argue that the complex systems perspective may help us to foresee possible long-term consequences of our choices, in areas where human autonomous action can be directly affected by informational technologies.