Bulletin Spring‧Summer 1980

Higher Education in a Changing Worid by Lord T o d d , O.M., P.R.S. (This lecture was delivered by Lord Todd, an overseas Council member of this University, at United College on 1st February, 1980.) Ten years ago I delivered a Presidential Address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science entitled “A Time to Think" in which I discussed in a general way some of the problems facing society in a rapidly changing world. I discussed trends in education in the light of technological progress as well as the universal problems of pollution, destruction of the environment and the growing menac e of overpopulation. I came across that Address a few weeks ago and I re-read it with interest, wondering how relevant it would seem today as we stand on the threshold of a new decade. Somewhat to m y regret I found that I could repeat it today without more than a very small fraction of it seeming irrelevant or outdated. I am left with a feeling that while it is possible that people have been thinking (although there are times when one is tempted to doubt whether more than a very few have), there is regrettably little evidence of action. Here in South-East Asia one is perhaps particularly conscious that war, injustice, poverty and starvation are still rife in the world and that the gap between the rich and the poor, the developed and underdeveloped countries, is still there and is if anything widening. This is all the sadder because the staggering advances which have been made in science and in the technologies based upon it could, if wisely and humanely applied, have created a world in which all could live in peace and in comfort. And now at the beginning of the eighties we face new problems arising from technological progress as well as those which I discussed ten years ago and which still await solution. Truly this is a time not just to think but also to act. Two hundred years ago the steam-engine was invented and with it the Industrial Revolution began, which has transformed the world. I have often stressed the importance of the steam-engine, which gave man for the first time access to well-nigh unlimite mechanical power after millennia during which he had to depend o n muscle power aided by a modest amount of water and wind power. A whole new world was thereby opened to him; distance was overcome by better communication and industry revolutionized. Not only that, but the greater wealth and improved standard of living triggered off an increase in world population vastly greater than anything that had gone before. This increase in affluence also led to an upsurge in science and in the middle of last century to its application to practical problems of industrial, agricultural, medical and military importance——in other words to the appearan of science-based technology. It is, of course, the fantastic advances made through science-based technology which have brought us to the point where we can extract power from the nucleus of the atom and can explore, if we wish, extra-terrestrial space and visit the moon and the other planets of our solar system. Society, alas, has failed to keep pace with all this progress and it is indeed this failure which is responsible for most of our current difficulties. It is difficult, indeed, to assess the degree of 1 0