dependent upon the technical capabilities of their countries: economic prosperity and trade, energy security and a clean environment, innovation and the knowledge economy, global safety and security, and deepening democracy and meeting international challenges. While these themes could be said to summarize the challenges and aspirations of all nations participating in the globalized economy of the 21st century, they hold a special significance in the case of each. The nature of the U.S. relationship with every country depends on the unique characteristics of that country, its capabilities, its position in time and space, and the challenges it faces—factors that also shaped the U.S. response to the partnership. It was this uniqueness, Dr. Marburger explained, that is behind the necessity of his hearing what Minister Sibal had to say.
Scholars speak of two distinct ways of understanding human affairs: the “diachronic” or historical approach, which traces the origins of a situation, and the “synchronic” or snapshot approach, which seeks the structure inherent in a pattern of events at a given moment. During his remarks at dinner the previous evening, Minister Sibal had suggested that the historical approach did not suffice to describe or explain what was currently happening in India, particularly in regard to its relationships with other countries. He had urged his audience to look instead at the geography of international developments, as well as at the distribution of economic activity and its technical basis in space rather than in time. Change was occurring too rapidly, he had inferred, for guidance based on history alone to be reliable.
Dr. Marburger strongly identified with this point of view. Americans would not be able to see the course of their future relationship with India clearly by examining the trajectory of past interactions. The present differed too radically from anything known before, and direct, real-time interaction among parties was required. Just such an opportunity was being provided by the day’s symposium, and he thanked his Indian colleagues for taking the time to bring word of the extraordinary developments afoot in their part of a new global economic geography that they had done so much to create.
The symposium was also providing an opportunity, at an important moment in time, to get a synchronic snapshot and to ponder the patterns that it revealed. Scientists tend to equate innovation with new ways of looking at their fields or with new tools—new instrumentation—for broadening the opportunity for discovery. In business, innovation more often means introducing new ways to solve a problem, satisfy the needs of a market, or deliver a product more efficiently. Explaining the difference, Dr. Marburger said that scientists try to map out the structure and properties of nature, whose laws are relatively constant. “It’s not that nature stands still for us,” he said, “but at least it doesn’t change its face, particularly from day to day.” Once made, therefore, innovations in science can last for a long time. In contrast, rather than mapping out an unchanging nature, economic activity involves grappling with a continually changing social reality whose varying circumstances require constant attention. Innovations are not