Science, technology, innovation … and you!
Let’s resist the temptation to see science as a laboratory-based discipline studied under microscopes and Bunsen burners. Science is about investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. So rather than being confined to a lab, Science actually impacts all aspects of lives and is a critical thread in the fabric of society - it is transboundary as it crosses geographical, political, sectoral and cultural boundaries.
The scientific method (Bacon, 1620) is used to address problems faced by populations. Once these problems are identified, scientists gather information and propose a “hypothesis”, which is a possible explanation or solution. Next there is “experimentation”, which are tests or procedures to find out if the hypothesis is correct. This is followed by “analysis”, where you record and assess what occurred during the experiments. Finally, there is the conclusion when you review the data and check to see if the hypothesis was correct.
This method can be applied across any discipline to solve many of the problems observed in our industries, organisations, and even areas we don’t usually associate with science, such as culture. Art imitates life, according to The Doctor Beenie Man, and so is culture – our tacit body of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices – influenced by science, technology & innovation and is in turn influenced by same.
Building the Cases
In more recent times, it was the cultural needs of 19th century society in the demand for mechanised services that inspired innovations in science and technology, such as the steam engine, printing press and electricity. The initial discoveries were then rigorously refined by great scientists until it was made accessible to the common man. This in turn revolutionised culture in many ways.
Fast-forward to the modern era when technological innovations like the Internet, which facilitate data exchange in a monumental way, have reshaped culture, personally and professionally, in a profound manner. Arguably, it was our cultural demand for instant information and gratification that has driven the development of mobile technology which has evolved to bring the Internet to our fingertips.
As there are numerous other examples of culture influencing science, technology & innovation it can be safe to say that the relationship between culture and science, technology and innovation is mutually influential, cyclical and synergistic.
Sports and Athletics
The Jamaican excellence in sports from track & field, netball, and more recently, swimming and boxing, all require and depend on speed and endurance. Sports and athletics have climbed to the forefront in latter decades and scientific study must be pursued to underpin and maintain this excellence.
It requires applications of psychology, nutrition, biology, environment, business and law in the understanding of performance and the total resources and infrastructure required for sustained success on the world stage.
The popular genre of reggae, dancehall, calypso, and soca has captured the world. Reggae, in particular, is amongst the only 3 music forms that are listened to the world over being joined by the ballads of the USA and the orchestral genres of the UK. The only new musical instrument introduced in the 20th century was the steel pan. The sound engineer is one of the key personnel in the science of creating and editing music. Advances in technology allow for sampling and splicing of older music with more modern forms, such as a Bob Marley remixed with Lauryn Hill in Turn Your Lights Down Low, and for Tupac Shakur’s concert performance with Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg at Coachella 2012, a mind-bending 16 years after his death – thanks to holographic technology!
Augmented reality is now being incorporated into visual art to enhance viewing impact. UNESCO and UNCTAD figures suggest a current value of the creative economy at US$1.6 trillion. (2014).
Well-being and that extraordinary plant
When it comes to well-being, the world happiness index has placed the Caribbean people as among the happiest in the world. This no doubt is contributed to by the climate, the foods and the method of food preparation, such as jerk, stews and soups and the traditional healing properties of our plants and waters. We gave birth to and now embrace the religious faith of Rastafari during the 20th century and this philosophy is steadily taking root and having its presence felt worldwide. The sacramental plant, cannabis, used in Rastafarianism for meditation, is proven to have multifarious scientific applications as medicine in therapeutics and healthcare in general. Not to mention the boost to the economy from the business end of this development.
Climate Change andResource Demand
A greener way of living has emerged in response to cultural demand and is facilitated and propelled by science, technology and innovation. The adaptation of an effective mechanism to promote sustainable development in the Caribbean is another critical factor which can promote growth.
Arguably, rapid climate change is induced by man and in the same way that the demand for energy and other resources has had negative impacts on the environment, man is adapting to a greener way of living. Innovations such as photovoltaics, wind energy, waste to energy recycling, etc., provide clean energy and continued refining through innovation will increase generation capacity and provide sustainable, environmentally-friendly solutions.
As a solution to the world food problem, genetically modified (GM) foods were created to increase yield and stronger, more resilient hybrids of plants and animals mainly for consumption. Now, there is a culturally induced demand for organic foods and science is responding.
Wellness spas are emerging to treat medical afflictions with ancient remedies in urban areas in response to the fact that, in most countries, the most stressed and overburdened population is most densely concentrated in urban areas. Short, intense treatments with out-patient models are employed in those wellness spas to preserve and restore health through detoxification and rejuvenation using homeopathy – a cultural practice with roots tracing back several centuries to the East Indies.
Construction & engineering methods have evolved to provide safe, fast, low-cost solutions to meet the growing demand for housing. Science and technology has developed MagWalls (magnesium oxide walls) to replace traditional prefabricated walls which can allow for assembly of a complete house in half the time.
The Internet, with all its nuances, has facilitated data exchange in a monumental way. It has reshaped culture, personally and professionally, in a profound manner. According to Neil Patel (Entrepreneur Magazine, June 2014), “Humans are hardwired to want things – NOW. It’s called instant gratification, and it’s a powerful force. It can make people convert, as long as you’re doing the right things.” Culture demands instant gratification and science created mobile technology in response, providing the world at your fingertips- thus perpetuating the cycle of influence that these entities exert on each other.
There are many other examples of culture influencing science, technology and innovation. The relationship between culture and science, technology and innovation is mutually influential and synergistic. People create the demand for innovations and science and technology through research and development (R&D) provides the supply.
WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN?
Science: The knowledge accrued by the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of our environment through observation and experiment.
Technology: The use of instruments and equipment to solve practical production problems.
Innovation: The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value.
Usain Bolt’s speed due to Trelawny yam consumption & why the Reggae Boys should be able to beat Mexico.
l A prevailing hypothesis is that speed is nurtured from infancy by the type of diet.
l The staple diet in Jamaica is predominantly tubers (such as yam and sweet potatoes) that are rich in phytosterols, which can readily convert to the steroid hormones known to build muscle and speed fibres.
lThese phytosterols are the precursor of the building hormones which through the staple diets combined with organised early training programmes might very well be contributing to the development of speed and muscle tissue in our youth, and may very well account for Usain Bolt’s prowess on the track, given that he is from Trelawny, the parish best known for yam cultivation.
l Mexico is the home of the ‘wild yam’, which is also very rich in phytosterols, and the predominant staple is corn. Both are relatively rich in phytosterols and the Mexicans are also noted for speed and quick reflexes particularly in football.
l Same diet and similar genes coupled with training at higher altitudes gives the Mexicans their prowess. By similar token, with the new masks that simulate higher altitudes, athletes are able to simulate the same training conditions without going to the Azteca.
The Reggae Boyz should be able to beat El Tri! Thanks to technology!