Staying Ahead: Innovation for the Day After Tomorrow
When developing countries do all the manufacturing and information technology gives their innovators access to all the knowledge and expertise that used to be ours, what will happen to us? How will we maintain our standard of living and compete " economically, educationally and technologically " on an increasingly level playing field? Is globalization a major threat to our way of life? And is there anything we can do about it? The speech looks at the origins of technological innovation, at the historical effects it has had on society, and at why, therefore, we urgently need to change our way of thinking. Contrary to the generally-accepted view, success in the future may not lie with the country or organization that has the greatest number of scientists and engineers, but with the country or organization that has the ability to predict technological and social change far enough in advance to stay ahead of the game: to innovate for the day after tomorrow. So how do we learn to predict? And how do we teach the skill? And how will life change as a result? At the end of his speech, Mr. Burke will discuss and demonstrate his latest project: an interactive knowledge web, to be used as a teaching aid, a business management system, a tool for innovation, and a predictor.
The Future of Education: Preparing for the Knowledge Economy
We stand at a critical time in education and training. Students are losing interest in science and engineering as early as junior high school. We have the technology to bring radical change to teaching and training, but do we have the political and professional will? Are we teaching out-of-date curricula with out-of-date methods and goals? If so, what should we do about it? How do we better prepare students for the mid-21st-century, when the market playing field is level and America is competing with China, India, Brazil, and the other "threat economies"? Do we need a new approach to who-knows-what, and how-they-know-it? This speech looks at the historical development of innovative thinking in the West, at the present division of knowledge into separate specialist disciplines, and examines ways in which we might need to reorient our entire approach to innovative thinking. Does the secret of economic success (and the maintenance of our present standard of living) lie in the "no-man's land" between the disciplines? And if so, how do we train students to investigate these areas? Is there a way to second-guess which parts of the no-man's land will yield the most productive opportunities for innovation? In other words, can we teach students how to predict and then invent for the day after tomorrow? And if so, how will life change as a result? Burke will discuss and demonstrate his latest project: an interactive knowledge-mapping system to be used as a teaching aid, a management system, a tool for innovation and a predictor.
The Future Ain't What it Used to Be: How Abundance Will Change the Rules
Why do things seem to be going down the tubes? We have financial meltdown, rampant pollution, over-population, starvation, desertification, asylum-seeking, failing schools, oil depletion... and technology going faster than anybody can keep up with. How did we let these things happen? Because we move forward, looking backward.
Every modern social process and institution was established in the past, with the technology of the past, to solve the problems of the past. And nothing's changed since then. CEO's are modern stone-age hunt commanders. Banking hasn't altered since the moneylenders in the Temple. Representative democracy was the answer to lousy eighteenth-century roads and illiterate voters. Law was first invented to protect Stone-Age grain stores. Each institution, in essence, was set up to deal with a shortage.
We continue to act as if we still lived in that 'culture of scarcity.' However, in today's massively-interconnected world, our single-purpose institutions are obsolete. Also, we no longer need specialists to analyze one problem at a time, with no thought to the ripple effects of their actions. Education needs to train generalists who understand the world as dynamic, interactive system. That's the only way to deal with the great challenge ahead: what to do when nanotechnology solves the problems?
Nanotechnology works at the atomic level to create machines that will organize atoms in molecules, then bring those molecules together to make iron, water, flour, wool, food, uranium... anything. When nanotechnology can do this, it will put a machine in your house that will make whatever you want, using the atoms found in air and dirt.
This is not science fiction. The first steps toward a molecular self-assembly unit have already been taken. The machine will be in existence within your lifetime. And it will make obsolete every aspect of our lives: money, jobs, commerce, government, education, crime, disease, hunger, pollution, war... everything.
However, when we have all we need, what will happen to our institutions, standards and value systems... all born of scarcity?
How do we prepare for abundance?
Creativity: The Coming Renaissance
Why do we regard creativity as a rare gift? Is it because the tools have been scarce throughout history? Was Da Vinci great because he was rare, and rare because access and tools were rare? Was Mozart a genius only because there was only room for one of him? The information revolution is turning the old culture of scarcity on its head, daily empowering us more and more with the means of self-expression. How will we use those means? Will we generate entirely new forms of expression? Perhaps most intriguingly, will the new arts act, as did the arts of the 15th century, to stimulate scientific discovery and technological innovation? Will there be a new Renaissance?