Scientific and Technological Progress

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Scientific and Technological Progress


the unified, interrelated, progressive development of science and technology.

The origins of scientific and technological progress lie in the manufactory production of the 16th to 18th centuries, when the convergence of theoretical scientific and technical activity began. Before that time, material production evolved slowly, mainly through the accumulation of empirical experience, trade secrets, and the collection of formulas. At the same time, equally slow progress took place in theoretical and scientific knowledge of nature, which was influenced by theology and Scholasticism and did not exert a permanent or at all significant influence on production. Scientific progress and technological progress were two relatively independent, although mediated, streams of human activity.

In the 16th century the requirements of trade, navigation, and large manufactories necessitated the theoretical and experimental solution of a number of specific problems. At that time science, influenced by the ideas of the Renaissance, gradually broke with the Scholastic tradition and turned to practical matters. The compass, gunpowder, and printing (especially the last of these) were three great inventions that gave rise to the strong alliance between scientific and technical activity. Attempts to use water-powered mills for the needs of expanding manufactory production prompted the theoretical study of certain mechanical processes. The theories of the flywheel, gyrational motion, and the channel were established, and the study of water head, resistance, and friction began. “During the manufactory period were developed the first scientific and technical elements of Modern Mechanical Industry” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 388). Galileo, Newton, and E. Torricelli, and later D. Bernoulli, E. Mariotte, J. L. D’Alembert, R. A. Reaumur, H. Davy, L. Euler, and many others, gave science the reputation of the “servant of production.”

The rise of machine production in the late 18th century was made possible by the preceding scientific and technical creativity of a large army of mathematicians, mechanics, physicists, inventors, and skilled laymen. J. Watt’s steam engine was a “fruit of science,” and not simply of technical design endeavor. Machine production, in turn, opened up new, virtually unlimited potential for the technological application of science. The progress of machine production was increasingly determined by the progress of science, and such production itself became for the first time an “objectively embodied science” (K. Marx, ibid., vol. 46, part 2, p. 221). All this signified a transition to a new, second stage of scientific and technological progress, characterized by mutual stimulation of the development of science and technology at an ever-faster pace. Special links emerged in scientific research that had the function of bringing theoretical concepts to technical embodiment (applied research, experimental design work, and production research). Scientific and technical activity became one of the broadest spheres of application of human labor.

The third stage of scientific and technological progress is associated with the present-day scientific and technological revolution. The range of scientific disciplines that are oriented toward technological development is expanding under its influence. Biologists, physiologists, psychologists, linguists, and logicians are participating in the solution of engineering problems. Many fields of the social sciences also directly or indirectly affect the acceleration of technological progress. Such fields include production economics and organization, scientific management of economic and social processes, specific social research, production aesthetics, the psychology and logic of technical creativity, and forecasting. The leading role of science with respect to technology is becoming increasingly apparent. Entire sectors of production, such as electronics, atomic energy, the chemistry of synthetic materials, and computer production, form as a consequence of new scientific orientations and discoveries. Science is becoming a force that continuously revolutionizes technology. Technology, in turn, also continuously stimulates scientific progress by raising new demands and tasks and by sustaining science with increasingly precise and sophisticated experimental equipment. A characteristic feature of modern scientific and technological progress is that it encompasses not only industry but also many other aspects of the vital activity of society, such as agriculture, transportation, communications, medicine, education, and everyday life. The unity of scientific and technical activity finds explicit embodiment in mankind’s penetration of space.

Scientific and technological progress is the foundation of social progress. Under capitalism, however, scientific and technological progress is accomplished chiefly in the interests of the ruling class, is used for militaristic, misanthropic purposes, and frequently is accompanied by regression of spiritual values and destruction of human individuality. Under socialism, scientific and technological progress is accomplished in the interests of all the people, and the successful development of science and technology promotes the solution of the body of economic and social tasks of communist construction and the creation of the material and spiritual prerequisites for comprehensive and harmonious development of the individual.

The CPSU considers the primary task to be that of accelerating scientific and technological progress in the USSR in all possible ways, “from the standpoint of both immediate and long-range prospects” (Materialy XXIV s”ezda KPSS, 1971, p. 55).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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