Knowledge and Innovation for Development

Knowledge and Innovation for Development

The Sisyphus Challenge of the 21st Century

Francisco Sagasti

This text provides a comprehensive introduction to the many different issues related to the Sisyphean task of building science and technology capabilities in developing countries. It attempts to answer crucial questions including: how can knowledge be utilized to improve the human condition, and how can we bridge the growing knowledge divide between those who produce and use modern science and technology – and those who do not?

Chapter 3: The Knowledge Explosion and its Manifestations

Francisco Sagasti

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, innovation and technology, innovation policy


The triple crisis at the beginning of the 21st century is closely associated with the simultaneous transformations of speculative thought, the technological base and the structure of production, and with an explosive growth in the generation and utilization of knowledge based on scientific research. This has led to the emergence of the ‘knowledge society’, the twilight of the Baconian age and the transformation of scientific research, highly complex and systemic innovation processes, a change in the structure of production activities and a transition towards a new techno-economic paradigm, and to a recognition of the importance of traditional knowledge, techniques and production. Each of these will be discussed in turn. 3.1 THE EMERGENCE OF THE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY Scientific advances and technological innovations are at the root of the complex processes of social change that have taken place during the second half of the 20th century. An inflexion point in the growth of human capabilities to understand the biophysical and social context, and to devise effective responses to the challenges posed by them, can be identified around the time of World War II. Throughout history the capacity to generate and utilize knowledge has been associated, to a significant extent, with the conduct of war. Yet, the scale and impact of the mobilization of science for military purposes during World War II was extraordinary and unprecedented. Major advances in physics and engineering led to the construction of the atomic bomb, the development of radar and other electronic...

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