13 November 1987 - 15 November 1987

End of Century Tasks: Coping with High Technology, Industrial Transformation and Economic Interdependence

Chair: Lord Callaghan of Cardiff KG PC

This conference, the first with Soviet participation, was a new experience for Ditchley. As an innovation, it was confined to US, Soviet and British participants, and simultaneous translation was provided. All parties approached it with interest but some trepidation.

The subject matter proposed covered the implications of new technologies for management and industrial processes; for education and training; problems of the increasingly interdependent world economy; and threats to the environment which affect all inhabitants of the globe. The intention was to steer clear of current political and security issues, for negotiation on which Ditchley was not the right forum.

In another departure from Ditchley tradition, I decided that on this occasion, given the number of topics to be covered and the problems of translation, it would be necessary to remain in plenary throughout.

The first two sessions on the Friday evening, considered the impact of information technology (IT), a term taken to cover computation, telecommunications and control, on management and industrial processing. Discussion focussed on whether the introduction of IT tended to decrease or increase total employment - the consensus seemed to be that contrary to popular belief it tended to increase net employment, through the release of capital for alternative investment, although it undoubtedly engendered a shift in structure and in the skills required. Emphasis was laid, particularly by the Soviet side, on the importance of regarding the computer as a tool which must be adapted to man, not vice versa; and the conference agreed that as a tool it was at its most useful in the more mechanical or routine applications. The pace of technological change was stressed, with the resulting reduction in development time (it takes, we were told, 5 hours for Seiko to design and put into production a new watch). A need was perceived for a common computer language, as well as for greater provision for those whose mother tongue was not English. Some stressed the dangers of the increase in available knowledge - knowledge had always been power but was now wealth also - and there was talk by the businessmen and others of a need to restrict the flow of information if it was not to overwhelm decision-makers, and by some of the Soviet participants of the potential damage to the health of society and of the individual through uncontrolled dissemination. Knowledge, however, it was concluded, was not necessarily wisdom. That brought us back to the need to educate our citizens so that they could exploit and not be overwhelmed by IT. A reduction in employment in boring jobs would lead to more being employed in jobs which brought responsibility and worry - which not all might want.

This led into the session on education and training, a distinction which one speaker would have wished to abolish. Stress was laid at the start on the vital importance of training being provided by employers, at regular intervals, since skills tended to be overtaken in as little as seven years. This was generally accepted. However discussion mainly focussed on higher education, where the need was seen to produce fully-rounded persons, versed in the humanities, history, ethics, sometimes religion, as well as in the fundamentals of science - education in the fundamentals and in the history of the evolution of ideas best prepared citizens for learning and for adaptation to change. We needed not only to acquire new skills but a new cultural attitude to work. At least one however questioned whether we were right to dismiss the need for specialists: the problem was to ensure that specialists and generalists could talk to each other. Others argued that the imparting of the cultural and ethical background started in the family and, an interesting point, that at primary schools when children were most receptive to more routine learning, the emphasis should be on foreign languages and arithmetic, with literature and history, which called for greater maturity, reserved until later. Moreover, if children were to be familiarised with the new technologies, the teachers had to be taught as well.

In contrast to these exchanges of general ideas, the discussion of the world-wide market and of environmental issues took a more practical turn. The Soviet participants displayed great openness to ideas that would bring about closer cooperation with such international regulating bodies as the GATT, the preservation of whose apolitical role was, however, stressed by others. Convertibility, effective tariffs and the move from bilaterally balanced trade were discussed as well as pricing policies to reflect both costs and the market. Moreover, with a new readiness to shoulder a share of the problems of the third world, the Soviet participants showed interest in a cooperative approach to problems of debt. It was agreed that all these were matters for governments to follow up, with the proviso that private discussion of them, in the formative stage of policy, should precede publicity although public opinion could and should also play a part.

Similarly over environmental issues, the conference agreed that there was enormous scope for improved international cooperation (though the flourishing bilateral activity of the US and the Soviet Union was noted). Such action was necessary in the face of growing pollution and growing populations, if disaster was to be avoided, if not for the present generation, for our children. Various suggestions were made for future work, and for measures to improve the situation. The avoidance of pollution and the preservation of the atmosphere, the seas and the large areas of the world being devastated by the search for resources, cost money. Third world countries would need to be helped if they were to be persuaded to play a part. It was agreed that many of the issues covered could usefully be pursued in other fora.

In the back of everybody's mind throughout was the threat to mankind from nuclear war, but although reference was made to this, to the need to devote the new technologies to peaceful uses, and to initiatives which were not always to the liking of the military chiefs, the debates did not turn primarily on these issues which were, by design, outside the terms of reference.

In conclusion, all, I believe, judged the meeting an unqualified success. Certain specific follow-up action may flow, especially in the fields of finance, trade and the environment. The hope was expressed that the experiment would be repeated, either at Ditchley or in other fora, perhaps in Moscow, in the same spirit of candour that had informed the debates at Ditchley, a process which could do much to create and strengthen confidence and overcome the wariness with which East and West had for so long viewed each other.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Conference Chairman: Lord Callaghan of Cardiff KG PC
Life Peer (Labour); a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation


Professor Sir Hermann Bondi KCB FRS FRAS

Master of Churchill College, Cambridge; Professor of Mathematics, King’s College, London; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation
Mr R Q Braithwaite CMG
Deputy Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Samuel Brittan
Principal Economic Commentator, and Assistant Editor, Financial Times; Visiting Fellow, Nuffield College, Oxford
Professor Philip Hanson
Professor of Soviet Economics, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham
The Rt Hon Earl Jellicoe DSO MC PC
Chairman, East European Trade Council, Medical Research Council, Davy Corporation, London; Director, S G Warburg & Co, Sotheby & Co, Morgan Crucible, Tate & Lyle; Chancellor, Southampton University
Sir Curtis Keeble GCMG
Chairman, The Great Britain-USSR Association; a Governor, BBC; Member, Council, Royal Institute of International Affairs
Sir John Kingman FRS
Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol; Vice Chairman, Parliamentary and Scientific Committee; Member, Council, British Technology Group; a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation
Sir Ian MacGregor
Partner, Lazard Freres & Co, New York; Director, Lazard Brothers & Co Ltd, London
Sir Fitzroy MacLean Bt CBE
Writer on Soviet Union and Yugoslavia
Sir Austin Pearce CBE
Former Chairman, British Aerospace (1980-87); Chairman, Industrial Policy Committee, Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
Professor Aubrey Silberston CBE
Professor of Economics and Head of Department of Social and Economic Studies, Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London; Secretary General, Royal Economic Society
Mr Tim Webb
National Officer, Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs. Member, National Economic Development Office Electronics Economic Development Committee (Chairman, Manpower, Education and Training Committee)

Mr A James Barnes

Deputy Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Ambassador R Benedick
Senior Fellow at The Conservation Foundation
Mr William Filip
Director of Business Plans, Strategy and Business Development, IBM Corporation; Division Vice President, US marketing unit, IBM; member, Conference Board, Council of Planning Executives
Mr Richard Foster
Senior Partner and Director, McKinsey & Co Inc; committee member, National Academies of Science and Engineering, Conference Board, Industrial Research Institute; contributor to several journals
Professor Thomas H Lee
Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Mr William F May
President and Chief Executive Officer, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation; a Director, Manville Co., New York Times, Bankers Trust Co., BT Corporation, Phibro-Salomon Corporation; Member, Board of Directors, Lincoln Center and American Ditchley Foundation
Mr William A Nitze
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Environment Health and Natural Resources, Department of State
Mr Michael O’Neill
Writer and former Editor, New York Daily News; Member, Council on Foreign Relations
Professor Walter Rostow
Rex G Baker Jr Professor of Political Economy, University of Texas at Austin
Professor Eugene Skolnikoff
Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Academician K S Demirchyan

Deputy Secretary of the Bureau of the Department of Physical; Technical Problems of Power of the USSR, Academy of Sciences. Academician
Mr A Drovosekov
Deputy Chairman, Board of USSR Bank for Foreign Trade; Specialist in international financial questions
Mr G Gventsadze
Minister Counsellor, Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, London
Mr Yuri A Izrael
Chairman of the State Committee for Hydro-meteorology and Environmental Control (who holds ministerial rank)
Mr V V Kostyuk
Head Composite Department of Science and Technology of RFSFR Gosplan and a Member of the Collegium; Vice President, International Institute of Cold
Mr Y E Obminskii
Head, Directorate of International Economic Relations of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Professor Yu A Ryzhov
Rector, Moscow Aviation Institute; corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences
Mr V V Shustov
Head, Scientific Co-ordination Centre of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Academician K Skriabin
Chief Scientific Secretary of the Academy of Sciences
Mr B L Tolstykh
Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee for Science and Technology of the USSR; Doctor of Technical Sciences; Chairman, All-Union Co-ordination Council of the Scientific Technical Creativity of Youth

Dr N N Borisov

Head of the Directorate for Scientific and Technical Collaboration with Capitalist and Developing Countries of the USSR State Committee for Science and Technology. Member of the Committee. Graduated from the Moscow Higher Technical Institute named after Bauman. Candidate of Technical Sciences. Member of the International Institute of Cold
Mr N N Buzaev
Deputy Head of Directorate. Graduated from the Geological Faculty of Moscow State University
Mr A A Dynkin
Headof a Sector of the Institute of World Economics and International Relations of the USSR Academy of Sciences; Candidate of Economic Sciences
Mr D D Inashvili
Deputy Head, Department for USA, Canada and Great Britain of the Directorate for Scientific arid Technical Collaboration with Capitalist and Developing Countries of the USSR State Committee for Science and Technology
Mr P Ye Obolentsev
Chief of Staff of the USSR State Committee for Science and Technology

Mr Terry Garrett

Scientific Counsellor, British Embassy, Moscow
Sir Reginald Hibbert GCMG
Former Director of the Ditchley Foundation (1982-87)