Scanning Retrospective, No. 10

Foresight Snippets – No. 10

[Originally published] 12 April 2001

  • Trends Affecting Education for the Next 10 Years
  • Dolly Cloners Abhor Human Tests
  • An Oath for Scientists?

Trends Affecting Education for the Next 10 Years

Some thought-provoking forecasts relevant to education in the next 10 years based on the continuance of current trends:

  • By 2005, the global population of Internet users will reach at least 300 million. By 2010, 95% of people in the industrialised world and 50% of those in developing countries will be online.
  • By 2005, nearly all college texts and many high school and junior high books will be tied to Internet sites that provide source material, study exercises, and relevant news articles to aid in learning. Others will come with CD-ROMs that offer similar resources.
    • [Note: This forecast, published in January, should be compared to the recent announcement by Massachusetts Institute of Technology that nearly all of their course material will be made freely available over the Internet — see the MIT news release.]
  • Internet links will provide access to the card catalogs of all the major libraries in the world by 2005. It will be possible to call up on a PC screen millions of volumes from distant libraries. Web sites enhance books by providing pictures, sound, film clips, and flexible indexing and search utilities.
  • Encyclopedic works, large reference volumes, and heavily illustrated manuals already are cheaper to produce and sell on the Internet or as CD-ROMs than in print form.

Source: “Trends Now Changing the World” in The Futurist, Jan-Feb 2001.
Available through the ProQuest Online Journals Database

Dolly Cloners Abhor Human Tests

In Snippets No. 7 (28/2/2001) we reported that two scientists had announced the intention of attempting to clone a human baby within two years. Now, the scientists who cloned Dolly the sheep four years ago have spoken up against this attempt because, they say, “procedures that have been used in cloning animals yield a very low percentage of viable embryos, and many of these die soon after birth.” Furthermore, “any human baby who survives may experience respiratory, circulatory, immune, kidney and brain abnormalities, and evidence is beginning to suggest other developmental and genetic defects.” They are also concerned that a failed human cloning attempt would create such a public backlash that other cloning research could suffer — such as cell cloning for use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. In this age of “sound-bite” science reporting, the danger is that such meritorious research might be equated, in the public’s view, with “Frankenstein” experiments by scientists trying to “play God.” This sort of polarisation can easily lead to a “debate” full of sound and fury signifying, and achieving, nothing.

Source: Wired News,1283,42706,00.html

An Oath for Scientists?

The whole human cloning debate is an example of a much broader question: just because we can do something, does it mean that we should? And here the debate tends to divide along the lines of “objectivity vs subjectivity.” That is, one argument holds that the search for objective truth should proceed in whatever way it takes us, uncensored and free from any constraints. Another is that morality and ethics (which are inter-subjective constructs created by people in a culture) should temper this search, rendering some areas of research excluded. Objectivity focuses on what is “true.” Subjectivity on what is “right.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science has suggested that scientists pledge an oath to a formal code of conduct — in effect asking them to exercise more conscious ethical and moral judgement when it comes to undertaking research. The notion of an oath for scientists is similar in spirit to the well-known 2,500 year old Hippocratic oath which inspired modern medical oaths. In a world where the products of science and technology are racing ahead of the ability of society to assimilate their ethical and moral implications, a renewed interest in ethical and moral issues may well lead to a re-invigoration of education programs with this focus, especially in technological universities.

Source: Nature Science Update

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 © 2001 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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