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Finnish IT Policy Researcher Goes Behind Scenes in Global Technology Development

Technological Revolution or Political coup d' etat?: That is the question of an article that recently appeared in the well-known Finnish intellectual journal "Finsk tidskrift" (8/2004), founded in 1876 by C. G. Estlander.

1 December 2004

Internationally noted administrative scientist and space law expert Gunnar K. A. Njålsson is now on the trail of an elite possibly behind the trajectory and priorities of the current national and international technology trends. In the article, Njålsson asks: "How is one to know whether or not the supposedly independent global development of information and other technology so described by futurologists like Manuel Castells or Benjamin Barber is simply a case of self-fulfilling prophecy, in a word, the conversion of the dreams of a few powerful dreamers into our future reality?"
If a powerful elite is in essence shaping the future, as Njålsson's article would seem to suggest, then many questions need to be asked and the answers will be crucial to any democratic discussion, whether this be purely academic or a major debate in the mass media and society at large.
In addition to scientifically rigorous attempts to identify and classify different groups of elites, Njålsson's articles pose a serious challenge to the lores of popular futurologists, often viewed by laymen and opinion builders alike as gurus on the subject. Njålsson identifies the methods and approaches of futurologists like Castells, Barber, Peters and Bell as "speculative policy anlalysis", as opposed to two other categories of policy analysis which he identifies: normative and objective policy anlalysis.
"In essence, they are combining objective facts with statistical extrapolation and pure intuition", says Njålsson. This is something that more researchers need to take into consideration, not to mention the media and ordinary citizens.
The Finnish technology policy analyst is calling for a clear differentiation in terms between the three types of policy analysis, believing that it is pertinent that also the mass media should appreciate the diffence between them.
Njålsson's observations are bedded in a comprehensive study of the historical development of science and technology, something he accredits to his academic supervisors at the Universidad nacional de Quilmes in Argentina. "Quilmes equipped me with much or most of the analytical tools I've needed to pierce throught the often historically ignorant hype around technological development in the West" Njålsson states. The added value of this special training was most evident in the understanding of how states prioritise and have the power to make or break different research programmes through the "power of the purse" which they exercise.
The article "Technological Revolution or Political coup d'état - Analysing the Interest and Power Aspects of Technology" has evoked a broad discussion in Finland on the existence of a possible power elite behind current technological development while several international academic journals have requested information and articles from Njålsson relating to the subject.