The Dynamics of Social Wishes…

From the Korea Institute for Science and Technology at a Japan-US-Korea co-sponsored workshop on convergent technologies, an interesting idea has been put forward by Professor Tanaka from Japan that there is a dichotomy between scientists who observe (and test hypotheses) and those who design (and create new artifacts). Both types work together to answer the “social wishes” of society.

But how do we determine those social wishes? And crucially, aren’t those social wishes disperate across different societies?

Of course they are. Although there certainly commonalities: we all, I think, want a sustainable biosphere that can support life on the planet. We all want that brain-created thing we call “happiness” (although that means such different things to different individuals).

My plenary is coming up in about an hour. I will be focusing on how dynamics the social wishes of society actually are–two decades ago, the personal computer was a central social wish for those of us involved in data analysis. The emphasis then was autonomy and general purpose computation.

These days, a smart phone and the Net represent quite a different social wish–one that emphasizes mobility, connectivity, and knowledge dissemination. Interestingly, our smart phones are far “smarter” than those early PC’s–but we take the computation for granted and we don’t particularly care about either autonomy….but that connectivity, that’s really critical.

Rare Earth Elements–the mother lode at the bottom of the Pacific

The report in Nature Geoscience is here. The geopolitical significance could be large. China has been adopting a neo-mercantilistic policy with regards to these commodities for some time. They are ubiquitous in modern gadgets of all sorts and until we have adequate resource substitution, technological supply chains will depend on a constant supply. Right now, the supplier is largely China. According to this report, that could change.

Ipoding academic lectures and the role of NSF in the net

There are two excellent articles in today’s Sunday NY Times business section. The first by Anne Eisenberg is about using ipods in academic settings. This is an excellent idea that now goes beyond simply recording the video of the lecture and making it available (as in much of what’s on I-tunes U). Rather the software indexes every single word during the lecture and essentially creates a very sophisticated database of the content to go along with the video (and slides). Read it, I think this points the way to the future in academic education.

The second, by NY Times veteran John Markoff is about the history of the public-private partnership that birthed the modern commercial Internet twenty-years ago. Centered in Ann Arbor while I was in grad-school (an outfit called Merit with IBM and MCI as collaborators), it was an incredibly exciting time. I remember the first time I was able to send an email from Ann Arbor to ChampaignUrbana over the Internet, it seemed incredible. This was long before the web. It’s a history of a great success: read it also.

Jim