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Curiosity is the main driving force behind scientific activity. Scientific curiosity, insatiable in its explorations, does not know what it will find, or where it will lead. Science needs autonomy to cultivate this kind of untrammeled curiosity; innovation, however, responds to the needs and desires of society. Innovation, argues influential European science studies scholar Helga Nowotny, tames the passion of science, harnessing it to produce "deliverables." Science brings uncertainties; innovation successfully copes with them. Society calls for both the passion for knowledge and its taming. This ambivalence, Nowotny contends, is an inevitable result of modernity.
In "Insatiable Curiosity", Nowotny explores the strands of the often unexpected intertwining of science and technology and society. Uncertainty arises, she writes, from an oversupply of knowledge. The quest for innovation is society's response to the uncertainties that come with scientific and technological achievement. Our dilemma is how to balance the immense but unpredictable potential of science and technology with our acknowledgement that not everything that can be done should be done. We can escape the old polarities of utopias and dystopias, writes Nowotny, by accepting our ambivalence - as a legacy of modernism and a positive cultural resource.
Seldom have the contradictions of our times been so penetratingly described and traced back to their scientific-historical causes.... Helga Nowotny has written a wonderfully worldly-wise book that eliminates the last remnants of trust in progress without completely sounding the death knell of the project of modernity.
- Ludger Heidbrink, Die Zeit
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Helga Nowotny, one of the leading European voices in Science Studies, is Vice-President of the European Research Council and Chair, Scientific Advisory Board, University of Vienna.
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