Scanning Retrospective, No. 2

Foresight Snippets – No. 2

[Originally published] 27 November 2000

  • Cellular Phones: Are They Safe to Use?
  • You’re Hired — Now Stay Home!
  • Lasered Lawns

​​Cellular Phones: Are They Safe to Use?

Resolving the question of whether cellular phones are safe has been complicated by conflicting information about electromagnetic fields: no danger; yes there is danger; well, we don’t know. This has been unsettling for the public and has put pressure on health policy decision makers to act. But can they take action based on the biological data now available? This area of research did not evolve as biological research normally does [and has been] corrupted by conflicts of interest, research based on implicit assumptions that make little sense biologically, and research inappropriate because of erroneous notions. As a consequence, we don’t have a credible body of biological data involving electromagnetic fields on which to base public health decisions. What must be done to provide the decision makers with a biological input? The key fact is that the mind-set of those who control the funding determines what is looked at and thus what is found. And this must change if we are to obtain the biological data necessary to decide if cellular phones, with the characteristics they have today, are safe to use.

Source: The Scientist

​You’re Hired — Now Stay Home!

Telecommuting is now being offered by more employers as a lure for top talent. In a recent Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey, 62% of human-resources executives said telecommuting was being held out as a “carrot” both to attract new workers and to retain valued existing employees. “Parents want more time with their children,” observes John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the outplacement firm. “A growing number also want to home-school, too. Employers find they can accommodate workers with the telecommuting option, part or full time. This apparently has been successful in attracting and retaining skilled employees.” Challenger predicts that in some industries the “invisible” (telecommuting) work force may soon equal or outnumber the on-site workers. “That will eventually impact corporate real estate needs and, potentially, municipal transportation requirements,” he notes.

Source: ’24 Trends Reshaping the Workplace’ in The Futurist, September-October 2000
Available through the ProQuest Online Journal database

​Lasered Lawns

A laser lawnmower has been causing a stir at Germany’s garden shows. The garden equipment maker Wolf-Garten has built a prototype machine fitted with an array of four lasers that cuts grass to an accuracy of 1 millimetre. Powerful lasers evaporate water from the grass and chop the dried residue into tiny particles. A stream of air then blends the cuttings with fertiliser before depositing the mixture onto the lawn. The mower also includes mobile Internet access and a CD player to entertain you as you cut the lawn.

Source: New Scientist, 14 October 2000

Foresight Snippets are interesting, intriguing or weird things we find during our strategic scanning which may or may not have direct obvious relevance to Swinburne, but which do provide signals about what the future might be like. Brought to you by the Foresight & Planning Unit.

An archive of the Foresight Snippets and a list of Frequently Asked Questions are available at [deleted].

Copyright © 2000 FPU and Swinburne University of Technology.
Feedback is welcome. Send feedback to [deleted].

NOTE: In all the posts in this series, the original source URLs are left exactly as they were when published 20-odd years ago. This means they will almost certainly be dead links (or good ol’ 404 errors). I do not have the patience or inclination to follow-up or find any archived or re-located versions of those web pages (because, well, life is too short). But, if it really bugs you, I invite you to see if you can find archived or relocated versions of those dead-link pages. And if you do, let me know, and I’ll update these posts with due credit to your detective work.

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