The socioeconomics of prospective technologies: people and priorities
This paper is concerned with the decisions and processes that generate mechanical, biological, and chemical technologies that have an impact on life in the semi-arid tropics (SAT). The author makes these assumptions: that such technologies, separately or combined, influence social relations and the distribution of benefits within societies; that in much of the SAT, rural populations are increasing and will continue to do so for decades to come; and that there is room for maneuver in setting research and development priorities and in decisions taken during the research and development (R & D) process. The central issue is how to optimize decisions and action that affect and are part of R & D. It is contended that modes of thought, values, and criteria need to be re-examined. In much of the literature of agricultural development, including agr i cul - tural economics, people are treated as resources rather than users of resources — a s means rather than ends. And thinking about research priorities often starts with a crop or a farm system or a mechanical technology rather than with the poorer people in a rural environment and their interests and future. The author suggests that decision-making and research might be improved through expanding environment-specific research, conducting more of it in collaboration with rural people, developing cost-effective methods for rural appraisal, changing professional reward systems, enabling profes - sionals to become individually more multidisciplinary, and learning from the true multidisciplinarians, the rural people themselves.