Reflections on the relationship between science and society from the perspective of physics
Piccirillo moves from the premise that science, in any form and format, is a valuable enterprise. If this is accepted, then scientists should enjoy a substantial degree of freedom from various forms of restrictions. Financial restrictions obviously call into question wider issues about the morality of resource rationing. Other forms of restrictions, based on ignorance, fear or political or ideological credo, are harder to justify. Scientific freedom is not just a political or ideological matter. It is also a matter for scientists to actively deal with: it is the role of scientists to explain, in accessible terms, the importance of scientific endeavours that may appear either grand and remote, incomprehensible and detached from the life of many laypeople, or otherwise frivolous and trivial. Piccirillo takes on this role and discusses examples of seemingly grand and frivolous science, such as the Large Hadron Collider and the Markov chain, explains their purposes and importance and shows that there is a big added value to society from small and big science if they work together.
Never have the scope and limits of scientific freedom been more important or more under attack. New science, from artificial intelligence to genomic manipulation, creates unique opportunities to make the world a better place. But it also presents unprecedented dangers, which many believe threaten the survival of humanity and the planet. This collection, by an international and multidisciplinary group of leading thinkers, addresses three vital questions: (1) How are scientific developments impacting on human life and on the structure of societies? (2) How is science regulated, and how should it be regulated? (3) Are there ethical boundaries to scientific developments in some sensitive areas (e.g. robotic intelligence, biosecurity)? The contributors are drawn from many disciplines, and approach the issues in diverse ways to secure the widest representation of the many interests engaged. They include some of the most distinguished academics working in this field, as well as young scholars.