Science & Democracy: David Edgerton

April 16, 2019 - "Imitation, Invasion, Innovation: What Really Matters in Global History of Technology" with David Edgerton, Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology, King’s College London.

The Program on Science, Technology & Society at HKS presents a lecture by David Edgerton, Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology, King’s College London, followed by a discussion with panelists Warwick Anderson, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University; Maya Jasanoff, Coolidge Professor of History, Department of History, Harvard University; and Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School. Moderated by Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.

In the last twenty or thirty years innovation has been central to the discourse on the economy. This  ‘innovation’ is disruptive, pervasive and fast, demanding new economic, political and social forms.  On the other hand, the world has seen unprecedented rates of imitation, not least of old forms. In our imaginations innovation and imitation occupy different geographical, economic and moral spaces. Innovation is seen positively and futuristically, as a feature of a few selected, creative, entrepreneurial places; it marches with time. Imitation is seen in more hard-headed,  economic ways; as a feature of developing countries, as a sign of imaginative inadequacy, and lack of authenticity; it moves with incomes not time. Breaking down these oppositions and taking imitation seriously is the key to understanding global technical change in the twentieth century.

Once a semester, the STS Program, with co-sponsorship from other local institutions, hosts an installation in its Science and Democracy Lecture Series. The series aims to spark lively, university-wide discussion of the place and meaning of science and technology, broadly conceived, in democratic societies. We hope to explore both the promised benefits of our era's most salient scientific and technological breakthroughs and the potentially harmful consequences of developments that are inadequately understood, debated, or managed by politicians, institutions, and lay publics.