Friday, June 2, 2023

Scientific temper

When it comes to the disruptive character of technology, one thing is quite clear: not only has the cattle bolted, but it is also gone halfway down the road and taken the form of a stampede. As of now, no one can say for certain where it will come to a halt and with what consequences. The benefits of technological advancements are undeniable ~ it has reshaped our lives, sparking discussions and concerns about the potential takeover of jobs by Artificial Intelligence, automation, and robotics. In certain cases, the language as well as the tone is apocalyptic. But it is crucial to acknowledge that while these technological shifts are indeed real, job opportunities will continue to expand. The key imperative lies in equipping individuals with the necessary skills to succeed in the evolving economy. Digital skills have become the currency of future societies, transcending their relevance in the technology sector to be in high demand across various industries. Here is a not-so-well-known but interesting feature of the Indian Constitution. The Article 51A (h) of our Constitution mandates every citizen to foster scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. It is said that this concept of ‘scientific temper’ is uniquely Indian, formulated by Jawaharlal Nehru. In his famous book The Discovery of India, Nehru defines scientific temper as the refusal to accept anything without testing and trial, the capacity to revise conclusions based on new evidence, and reliance on observed facts rather than preconceived theories. Thus, the Indian scientific temper is, in essence, a way of life. It is important to make the distinction between science and scientific temper. Scientific temper represents a mindset that involves critical and rational thinking, questioning information presented to us and rejecting answers solely based on authority. Therefore, it is a quality inherent in all individuals and holds significance not only in scientific endeavours but also as a social and political tool. As Nehru pointed out in his book, scientific temper embodies “the spirit of the free man”. Hence, applying the methods of questioning and rational inquiry in our everyday lives is at the core of scientific temper. Meanwhile, to harness the opportunities brought by the digital revolution, it is imperative to prioritise the foundational skills required to excel in this new landscape. Expanding the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) talent pool is essential. India’s tech sector has been actively focusing on building its digital capabilities and up-skilling its STEM talent and the industry is rapidly establishing itself as a global digital solutions partner. There are enough materials to educate that this transformation is facilitated by evolving business models, including the creation of a global talent pool of domain and tech professionals, the establishment of innovation centres in key markets, acquisitions of new technologies and creative designs and collaborations with start-ups. The industry is also committed to skilling and re-skilling initiatives on a global scale. These efforts range from research partnerships with leading universities worldwide, STEM programmes at universities, internships, state-level engagements, scholarships, and societal initiatives. Skilling remains a top priority for the sector. As we navigate the changes around us ~ technological advancements, evolving business models, a hyper-connected world and the intensifying demand for new tech skills ~ the Government and private sector must foster partnerships that unlock growth and create new opportunities. Collaboration between these sectors will be crucial in preparing individuals for the future, empowering them with digital skills and cultivating a scientific temper. By aligning efforts and investing in skill development, we can ensure that individuals and businesses thrive in tandem. Looking ahead, it is essential to embrace the transformative power of technology while nurturing the scientific temper within ourselves and our society. By equipping individuals with digital skills and fostering a mindset of inquiry and critical thinking at the same time, we can navigate the evolving landscape with confidence, paving the way for a thriving and inclusive society. More importantly, it is a constitutional mandate.