Scanning Retrospective, No. 12

Foresight Snippets – No. 12

[Originally published] 15 May 2001

  • The Hot New Medium: Paper
  • The Antibiotics Crisis
  • Homeopathy — Thanks for the Memory

The Hot New Medium: Paper

The oldest interface in the book is poised to redraw the map of the networked world. Of the three fundamental techniques for gathering, storing, and spreading information — voice, computer, and paper and pen — the last one is finally set to go digital and wireless, like the others. Digital paper is set to become the hot new medium; and at about the same cost as ordinary paper. The paper itself is only half of the technology; digital pens work in conjunction with it to provide digital data via the very familiar analogue technique of handwriting. Each pen contains a Bluetooth chip that communicates with any other Bluetooth device within 30 feet, which could be a mobile phone, PDA or network access point. With Bluetooth technology set to roll out as a new wave of wireless network access, digital pens and paper may be on our desks within a very few years.

Source: Wired Magazine Online
See also: The Official Bluetooth web site

The Antibiotics Crisis

Decades of using antibiotic interventions for almost everything (including growing animals for food) may finally be coming home to roost. Modern Western approaches to medicine have engaged disease-causing microbes in an escalating arms race, so that as soon as drug developers launch a new weapon — an antibiotic, for example — the microbes respond by mutating or acquiring survival-enhancing characteristics in the process of exchanging DNA with other microbes that have already developed resistance. Overuse is only part of the problem. Improper and inadequate use just multiplies the numbers of microbes which survive to swap DNA. Sequencing the genomes of disease-causing microbes is emerging as a new tool in fighting them. But will it be enough, especially if we do not change our habits?


Homeopathy — Thanks for the Memory

In the mid 1980s, a French biologist suggesting a mechanism for how homeopathy might work (that the water retains a “memory” of the therapeutic agents it once dissolved) was so pilloried in the scientific world that he lost his funding, laboratories and reputation. A consortium of four independent European research laboratories have recently conducted experiments which suggest, however, that he might have been right all along. One of the researchers, Professor Madeleine Ennis of Queen’s University Belfast, joined the consortium in order to prove the biologist wrong. Now, it seems, the results suggest that homeopathy may actually be sound — almost heresy to many scientists. In the face of these results, simply ridiculing the claims of homeopathy is no longer enough. “Despite my reservations against the science of homeopathy,” says Ennis, “the results compel me to suspend my disbelief and to start searching for a rational explanation for our findings.”

Source: The Guardian,4273,4152521,00.html

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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