Science and technology enable us to get constantly improve the efficiency of our systems. That can be great, as it allows us to do more with less. It also has dangers as it means exploring novelty, and by definition novelty can contain the unknown and the unexpected.
We are now able to support more people per Ha, over more of the planet, and give them more choices. That is the result of science and technology; a mix of gradual improvement and breakthroughs to new domains.
Science is the eternal process of asking questions, designing experiments, testing, observing and analyzing outcomes. Technology gives us the tools to aid us to do that process with ever greater accuracy and speed. And the more we do that, the more it seems that uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of every level of systems present in reality. Survival seems to require a context sensitive balance between the lawful and the chaotic, the known and the unexplored.
Science is also giving us the beginnings of an understanding of the levels of complexity of the systems we are dealing with. They are deeply, profoundly complex. Every level of system related to and influencing every other level.
Science has allowed us to gain some degree of influence over many levels of systems present. We are improving our abilities mitigate disease, predation, climate variation, etc. By many different mechanisms we are improving yields over both time and space.
The dangers are many. We may modify something the importance of which we don’t understand until it is too late. We may push systems over some tipping point into new configurations from which there is no easy recovery.
There is no escape from such dangers. The unknown is always there, always will be (infinities have that unsettling characteristic). Most of what we consider security is illusion.
The systems space is clear – complexity such as we are is fundamentally based in cooperation. Such security as we have comes from cooperation. Competition is the enemy of diversity and complexity. So we are in an extremely dangerous systemic space (with our competitive market based systems), which influences our agricultural systems as much as it influences every other aspect of the systems that are us and our many levels of culture.
The more we understand what we are, the greater the levels of influence we can have on what is, what we can be and what we become.