Endings have been fashionable for more than a decade now. We all know that we are allegedly approaching The End of Science, The End of History, The End of Faith and have reached The End of Theory, or generally The End of the World as We Know It. The Internet too has an end - been there, done that, what's next?
So let me share with you an ancient German proverb: Everything has an end, only the sausage has two*. Or to put it differently, what all these folks proclaim as an end is actually a sign of beginning.
I read yesterday in Kevin Kelly's Speculations on the Future of Science: “This will be a century of biology. It is the domain with the most scientists, the most new results, the most economic value, the most ethical importance, and the most to learn.”
Well, I totally disagree with him. This won't be the century of biology, it will be the century of the social sciences or there won't be no next century. Our social systems, political systems, economic systems have reached a level of so high complexity we are constantly faced with emergent phenomena that are beyond our individual understanding. Unfortunately, they are also beyond the understanding of current scientific research. This is pretty much disastrous. We either figure out how to deal with that, or we won't be able to keep up this high level of complexity and tumble back down towards a lower level.
As Homer-Dixon masterfully argued out in his book The Ingenuity Gap, we need two types of ingenuity: Technical ingenuity to find new scientific insights and develop applications. But that alone is not sufficient. We also need the social ingenuity to not only implement these insights in a practical and timely manner, but also to foster an environment that is supportive to their development to begin with.
It is important to realize these both types of ingenuity are not only necessary for improvement. They are necessary to simply to remain on the level where we are, for we constantly cause new problems that we have to solve. When we fall behind in either category, we will eventually be overrun by problems. Thus, it is about time we finish the scientific revolution, and realize that for sustainable progress we need insights from both the natural AND the social sciences.
* It is in fact a seasonably popular song by Steffen Remmler Alles hat ein Ende nur die Wurst hat zwei that is dusted off annually for Carnival and ranks in the same category as Klaus und Klaus' An der Nordseeküste and the unavoidable, ugh, Polonäse Blankenese (don't get scared when the audience jumps at him, that's the point). So much about German “culture” ;-p