The Human Project

Saulo Faria Almeida Barretto; Renata Piazzalunga
Instituto de Pesquisas em Tecnologia e Inovação, Brazil

The Human Project is a proposal for a model of human development for regions with high social and economic vulnerability, based on the relationship between art, science and technology, having culture and environment as cross cutting elements. This model is being deployed by the Instituto de Pesquisas em Tecnologia e Inovação (IPTI) in the municipality of Santa Luzia do Itanhy, one of Brazil’s poorest regions, but that holds an important environmental and cultural heritage. In practice, what we do is to apply this art, science and technology relationship in the development of Social Technologies, with focus on education, public health and employment and income improvement (creative economy), basic pillars of the development in such regions, with a systemic and evolutionary perspective.

Social Technologies are defined as “products, techniques and/or re-aplicable methodologies developed in the interaction with the community and that represent effective solutions for social transformation”. In practice this concept implies an approach to science and technology quite innovative, especially because it puts the community as an active part in the research process and is no longer just mere beneficiary. For it is clear that there are issues related to technology ownership and autonomy, essential for subsequent re-application, which can not be resolved in labs, not from theoretical models.

One of the aspects we observed as very relevant to the application of The Human Project model is that it not only allows the generation of innovative Social Technologies, but also provokes the initiation of innovation in contexts destitute of any apparent possibility. This is due both to the inclusion of a challenging way of construction of thought, in which researchers are motivated to act jointly and interactively with the three main drivers of the THP, and to the possibility of including community members in an effective and active manner in projects through the intuitive knowledge that comes up by means of the stimuli of perception and senses activated by the bias of the aesthetical, always present as a methodological premise in any IPTI interventions. Finally, another relevant aspect of this model is that it is very effective to minimize the difficulties that arise in scientific projects designed to be applied directly in the communities due to the large knowledge gap between the research team and the local people.

However, establishing a relationship between art, science, technology and society runs into several obstacles, starting with the traditional view of the scientific community to think less on issues such as technological appropriation and more on scientific publications and patents that are still essential for the development of any academic career. This is largely due to the way national systems of science and technology evaluate researchers and institutions, always based on scientific production. In the case of Social Technologies, the most significant result should be the number of reapplications, i.e. the number of communities that have adopted the technological innovation, rather then how many scientific papers had being published or conferences attended.

Through the practical results of various projects related to The Human Project we hope to contribute to strengthening the relationship between art, science and technology as a strategy for promoting human development, but also to contribute to a reflection and necessary improvement of the current mechanisms for evaluating the scientific competence of institutions and researchers that better meets the real demands of society.