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THE FUTURE OF HIGHER (LIFELONG) EDUCATION:
For All Worldwide, A Holistic View

(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)

 

 

Return to Chapter 2.2 | Go to Chapter 2.4

Volume II - Chapter Three

(Last Updated Mar. 5, 2008)

PLANETARY TECHNOLOGY COORDINATION?

Cyberspace is one of the principal challenges of the coming century. -- Pierre Levy

The coming explosion of activity could create a world of interlinked computer grids...a seamless computational universe                                                         --Mitchell Waldrop    

See: "Imagining Tomorrow's Future Today" in Educause, Nov./Dec, 2007 on the Web. Google APPS, video,  mobile learning, visualization, etc.

 Open source harnesses the distributive power of the Internet (and) parcels out work to thousands...where the collective intelligence of the network supersedes any single contributor. -                                                                                     --Thomas Goetz

It can be supremely hard to think creatively about a new technology.---Jason Pontin, MIT Tech Review

We have already seen significant global collaboration in the areas of climate
 change, radio astronomy and meteorology, bringing together the best minds
 around the world to tackle the global challenges that we are facing.                               -- ----Viviane Reding, European Union
 

THINK BIG about coordinating many different kinds of technologies. It is interesting that thousands of interconnected personal computers can be as powerful as a supercomputer. Tim O'Reilly in 2003 noted that humanity is at the end of the personal computer age, that now increasingly "a handful of special access devices" can suck whatever is needed from an "emergent global network." <http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/27>. O'Reilly in 2004 reported that Google was enabled by 100,000 Linux servers. A great deal on development use of information technology can be found at: <http://www.apdip.net/publications>.It has a tremendous potential for `local people-empowerment.' Also see the Jhai Foundation <http://www.jhai.org/jhai_remoteIT.htm> on rural community ICT  in Laos.

Content is being made available to the developing world and local scholars and universities are developing the capacity to adapt it to the local culture and language. So the highest priority, at least for the poorest, is developing standards for mass production of basic equipment so that it is affordable. A 2007 conference to build infra structures and capacities to reach out to the whole of Africa planned to develops advanced telecommunications technologies http://www.comminit.com/africa/events_calendar/2007-events/events-4614.html

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia announced in April 2005 that universal access and Internet connectivity was being extended to all of the tens of thousands of rural kebeles (districts) "over the next two to three years". The government has begun laying 10,000 kilometers  of fiber optic cables so that information technology could be used for "e-schools," improving governance and e-healthcare. The government is launching "schoolnet," which will provide 450 secondary schools around the country with Internet access and will link up all regional and district government offices. "Healthnet" will connect all referral hospitals around the country as the     basis for a nationwide tele-medicine infrastructure. Students at several other countries in South Africa now have web access to MIT courses: <http://www.distance-educator.com/dnews/Article13344.phtml>.

One of the most transformative technologies for the developing world is the.MIT `bits and atoms center's fab lab'  <http://cba.mit.edu>.that is already doing remarkable things; <http://chennai.usconsulate.gov/wwwhpr040902.html>as it helps rural developing world fabricate tools they need from cheap locally available materials in places like Ghana and Costa Rica where it is exciting school children  This new technology builds `from t he bottom up' instead of from traditional `top down' methods. <http://cba.media.mit.edu/publications/articles/03.05.zhang.mattod.pdf> Also Naone (2008) reports on the way software can move from the desktop to the Web, so that programsc an always be up to date and instantly available. 

We are likely to have more technology than we can manage, according to Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias. This chapter, however, is not for technologists but for those who want to think about how converging technologies--and powerful new ones yet to come--can be used and  coordinated to facilitate global-scale research and problem-solving, especially in dealing with all of the human problems and crises that affect lifelong education and heath care for everyone.. Here we can only point to some examples and ask some questions, without being sure what daunting complexity and technological surprises the next three decades may bring. We focus on technologies that now  are coming into existence but also need to keep in mind the sort of possibilities and surprises (Bass 1998) that lie around the corner.

The technology to provide Internet connections to every rural school in the developing world is not yet ready, but now is the time to plan. <http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue9_4/press/>. Crucial for providing education for everyone is the development of global standards for interoperability of technology, like having auto tires that fit cars in all countries. The IMS Global Learning Consortium <http://www.imsglobal.org/>.It has been seeking to develop common terminology and computer language for learning and teaching, crucial for global distance education, and interoperable software and other technology for e-portfolios, web standards, learning modules, and much more.  A second crucial need, especially for the developing world,  is for cheap technology for access by cell-telephone type wireless internet access as , for example by suggested by m-learning <http://www.m-learning.org/background.html>.(mobile learning). 

Some isolated schools are served by technology on roving motorcycles (Samuel 2--5) or trucks. CawdNet is a network which has its roots in rural  Nigerian communities helps underserved people in rural/remote areas with e-mail, Commonwealth of Learning online courses, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture and the Oke-Ogun Community Development Network. One project is `Teachers Talking’ for rural teachers typically working in  poorly resourced schools with few books, no electricity, and no  expectation of getting computers in the foreseeable future."
<http://teacherstalking.xwiki.com/xwiki/bin/view/Main/TeachersTalkingCourse.>

In a way we should here combine the next five chapters in an effort to bring together and see the interrelationships between emerging powerful technologies that can make it possible for humanity--in research and education--to accomplish what has never been possible before. The cellular telephone, digital radio and computerized digital television and TV quality netcasting huge interoperability, high resolution image transfer, the TeraGrid/Internet/Web (Waldrop 2002), interlinked supercomputers, interactive graphics and films, communication satellites and sensing systems, space satellites and much more are becoming commonplace. Their convergence into more powerful, galactic-age research instruments is seen, for example, in the space and weather research systems. (Standage 1999). Research strategizers need to take a much more active role as partners in the creation of technology for specific larger purposes. Except for the fortunate scientists who have adequate funds, or the bold minority who have been very creative and adventurous, most academic researchers have been limited to using technology much of which was created for other purposes. The technologist creates a computer-driven instrument for a business office or for medicine and the others can buy it and see what we can do with it! Alan Kay has said that often this is like trying to adapt an adding machine so it can be used to play music .Also there is the problem of adapting technology for the poor of the developing world, see: <http://www.lincproject.org/toolkit/linux/

Schultz (2000) described a glimpse into that future. Data on heat flow from the Earth's core, creating volcanoes and earthquakes, was so complicated that it required creation of an array of PCs that could present tens of millions of history in visual detail, a hundred million years of developments passing by in ten minute.  For a list of some new technologies see: <http://www.futuretech.vuurwerk.nl/ftrintro.html> Olsen (2002) has reported that using Internet2 backbone network, called Abilene, an astronomer, rather than traveling to Hawaii or Chile to use one of the massive new telescopes  (and then finding atmospheric conditions bad when he got there,) could from his own office use twin telescopes in Hawaii and Chile.<http://www.gemini.edu>."Using them in tandem permits observation of the entire sky." The project involved collaboration among seven countries and more than 4,000 scientists. Many scientists at once can observe a project.

Harnad (Nyiri 1997) gave the name `scholarly skywriting' to the scientific interchange of data and ideas rapidly among colleagues in other lands, a term which suggests that it is going to be far more significant in the future. What might be `written in the sky' is the subject of later chapters. Those non-technologists--who are going to be partners in the creation of galactic-scale instruments  for education during the next decades--need a clear vision of what needs to be done. It was bad enough to try to improve transportation with better buggy whips. It is worse to continue such efforts in the space age. Communication convergence (Briody 2003) will allow broadband access anywhere, anytime, from any device. On blogs see. <http://www.hebig.org/blogs/archives/main/000877.php>.:

We now have many technologies that can be components of mega-research instruments: the emerging computer grid, electronic networking of people and thousands of super-computers, modeling and simulation systems, digital radio communications, vast interconnected databases, graphics, software for collaboratory teleconferencing, satellites, brain scanners, space telescopes, and what next?)  Foster (1996), for example, tells how radio astronomers at the Naval Research Astronomy Laboratory have been working on a system "to solve large-scale scientific problems." Tomorrow, he says, these new tools may be used "in other applications in as-yet-unimagined ways." Such efforts are also underway at Los Alamos and many other places. So those discussing the future of research should examine what is now happening and what may spin off from it.

Now also there are an increasing number of inexpensive technologies that can be brought to together of a rural developing world person to begin to use to obtain the wealth that is knowledge. It may begin with CD player and radio, add cell telephone with wireless Internet access, in time add video and iPod type recording of lectures and modules for replay and further study. This facility may first be only one in neighborhood village school, available seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day and much of the `softward' and `power' can be on the Internet.

2.3.1 CONVERGENCE AND MORE COMPUTER POWER

Kurzweil (2005) has decided that as computer power grows exponentially in the next decade or so, "changes will be so real and its unique impact so deep" that human life--including education and learning "will be irreversibly transformed," including three great revolutions. (1) genetic information, already underway; (2) the `nano' revolution, also with profound implications for learning; and (3) understanding the principles of human intelligence. (The University of Pennsylvania, for example, and IBM  already have scanning tool that already have created math  models of nearly half of the human brain that, as computer ower grows will make possible "a deep understanding of ourselve.".

High-performance computing does not necessarily require access to supercomputers, Foster says. The "brain power of...thousands of fast processors linked together" can be used to deal with some of the most difficult problems. He rightly pointed out nearly a decade ago  that researchers would soon have systems that link together many thousand processors-- each of which would approach the power of a Cray I supercomputer--into a vast new kind of scientific `laboratory machine.' Astrophysicists, who wanted to study globular clusters of stars in ways that no existing computer was powerful enough to do, created GRAPE IV (short for Gravity Pipeline) at the University of Tokyo on a very limited budget. (Discover 1997) Bailey sees this as leading to a new and larger science, as already true at the beginning of the new century. . For a glimpse at who is working on larger-scale research see: <http://www.futuretech.vuurwerk.nl/ftrsites.html>  

Cetron (1997) pointed out the difficulties, as yet, of parallel processing in which a large problem is broken into many smaller parts that can be assigned to a different computer. In time, however, converging technologies can greatly reduce costs and can make it possible for scientists in developing countries to participate, using their personal computers connected to the Internet and to more powerful computer systems.

 Researchers at the Grid Forum have been convinced that "the grid is the future of collaborative problem solving" and the Internet's next evolutionary step, opening up transaction power as the Web opened up content. It opens doors for a new world of research. <http://www-itg.lbl.gov/GPA/> Wulf (2003) has described grid computing as "a collection of resources --computer power, storage, instruments, and processes for accessing the resources--organized in an environment that enables resource sharing and coordinated problem-solving in dynamic multi-institutional collaborations." A 2003 conference began with the assumption that grid computing "has evolved from the earlier days of merely sharing distributed resources for solving big computational tasks" to developing the Grid as "a service-oriented architecture to support transparent and reliable distributed systems integration' as  Web Services are combined with the Semantic Web. Grid complements provide the infrastructure "to handle large-scale distributed enterprises information systems." Some related areas for research were listed:  web intelligence solutions for knowledge grids; data mining and knowledge discovery; text and multimedia content analysis and indexing; self-organizing systems; distributed problem solving; collective, self-organized intelligence; modeling, coalition forming, conflict resolution and negotiation; security, privacy and agents.

Meanwhile computer-empowered research tools have already enabled researchers to work together internationally in areas like medicine, space exploration and related astronomy research, and in international earthquake and weather projects. "To map the radio universe," (Foster 1996) astronomers "combine computer power with the `Very Large Array' of radio telescopes in New Mexico to "transform faint radio signals into beautiful maps." That Very Large Array of twenty-seven telescopes scattered across the desert has used enhanced computer power to make possible detailed observations with one hundred times more efficiency than was possible in 1980. Computer empowered satellites also now photograph the earth in beautifully minute detail. Tools now exist to make it possible to study and manage vast detail that otherwise would take centuries to accomplish. (3.P.2)

Perhaps social science and all areas of research will be more conclusive when no longer based on a few hundred cases and use vast amounts of data, checking across billions of academic web pages. See: <http://www.aoir.org/links/html> Smarr (2003) anticipates nanocomputers that will  "make it possible to embrace the world with intelligence, and they will no longer "cloister themselves in disciplinary guilds" but will easily use the tools of many disciplines" in the microcosmos. BBC News reported in May 2005 that digital maps of Bangladesh are proving invaluable in the fight against sleaze and corruption. The Local Government Engineering Department created the computer-based mapping system called Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and it can be used to fight corruption by showing priority needed roads that connect to markets, rather than to a politician's house, for example; and showed how a power plant was crippled by lack of water because it  being built in a politician's constituency rather than close to a river. GIS maps, available over the web, can now help prevent such errors. Since completed in 1996 the maps offer an accurate and detailed geographic guide to the country that provides accurate data for planners.

2.3.2  HIGH-SPEED INTERACTIVE NETWORKING

A major technological shift in the 1990's enabled a quantum leap in research--via computer networks--by threading together personal computers with many other technologies. Just a few years ago the Internet and the World Wide Web were just dreams and possibilities. Now they are expanding to empower research also in developing nations. Braverman (2004)  has reported that "just as the Internet is a tool for mass communication, the grid is a tool for amplifying power and storage space." This makes possible such projects as mapping the positions of 100 million celestial objects in the sky and Argonne's Access Grid for remote group collaboration. It by 2004 had more than 250 rooms on five continents connected for joint work. Already electric power lines are being used to bring broadband to unserved rural areas. <http://www.digitaldivide.net/news/view.php?HeadlineID=58>. 

 The USA National LambdaRail high speed computer network is interconnecting s cholars and schools and "it should enable extraordinary discoveries." Scientists can easily connect to vast quantities of calculations and information that will continue to explode at an "almost disruptive rate, to enable experimentation, data visualization, full-motion remote connections for scientific dialog using `multamedia" and`telepresence.' Next it will enable  access to supercomputing centers, library. scientific instruments (at a far distance) and other high-technology equipment. It provides the "backbone" and hubs to link other networks, including research networks in many countries. In 2003 plans were announced to build a hundred million dollar infrastructure (Olsen 2003)  "for experimental research on operational networks and other types of advanced scientific, engineering and medical research," the type of global cyber-infrastructure' critical "for future advances in science."  Next computer networks converge with 3-D animation, Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). multimedia, simulation modeling and powerful new software to empower individual scientists.

Floridi has pointed out that the intellectual community is almost totally unprepared for what will follow; nor is the political community. The Internet's possibilities, he has said, multiply every day. It fosters the growth of knowledge and reveals massive ignorance. It is tearing down the walls between researchers in different countries, between researchers and students, among different types of universities and research institutions, between individual scholars and teams, between disciplines and professions, and more. Pesce (1996), at a Paris international World Wide Web conference, spoke philosophically, not about web technology but about "the social forms that emerge from it." He said that it will continue to grow until it becomes something as historically important as was the invention of languages. It enables the emergence of collective intelligence. (2.4.5) He compared its development to the way biological systems "reorganize themselves in response to information flow." Rheingold )2--3) said that "the personal computer and the Internet would not exist as they do today without extraordinary collaborative enterprises in which acts of cooperation were as essential as microprocessors".

A next step in the evolving of the Web (Frauenfelder 2001) is the Semantic Web "that not only links documents to each other but also recognizes the meaning of the information in such documents," providing a Web that is richer and more customizable. The truthfulness of information can then be more verifiable. The present Web is perhaps primitive compared to what will be created in coming decades. Meanwhile, grid computing will make access to information as easy as access to electric power, linking resources all over the world into an integrated system to enable the solving of large-scale problems. <http://www.globus.org/research/papers/anatomy.pdf

What can be possible if thousands of `laboratory machines' link with tens of thousands of human-researcher minds on a grand scale? Watts (2003) has said that "surely the interactions of entities  which are themselves complex would produce complexity of a truly intractable kind" and requires "a different kind of specialized knowledge. This calls for a larger networking of scientists who learn how others think. For networking will involve "a Byzantine mishmash of overlapping networks, organizations, systems and governance structures, mixing private and public, economics, politics and society." 

2.3.3  SOFTWARE FOR MEGA-RESEARCH

What is needed, radio astronomer Foster said, "are powerful software tools that can be used and shared across all high performance platforms and over networks of distributed computers." In many instances, he said, the "fulfillment of the promise of high-performance computing remains cloudy, primarily due to the lack of good software." This lack led to an application crisis in radio astronomy. Many needed computations "are now larger than can be accomplished. . . because of a lack of good tools to support cross-platform development." The tools that enable radio astronomers to improve their performance "will help individuals all over the globe." Entirely different kinds of software may be needed to deal with the complexities of environmental management, for complex problems in biology and for economic forecasting. Bailey (1996) pointed out that "our information processing capacity is a trillion times greater" than human intelligence alone. He worried that we may lock ourselves into programs and smoothly varying data that human minds prefer. Sequential thinking will not then be adequate for "the jagged terrain of the real world," for the parallel thinking that the computer revolution is enabling.

Some researchers are suggesting that software should now be greatly simplified, reversing the trend toward greater and greater complexity. They want many easy-to-use components that do one thing well. Rather than being installed as part of a fixed, complicated system in one's computer, these simple components might be available for use with many types of combinations possible for different uses. Common standards would be essential, however, before interchangeable software components could be brought together into changing systems for mega-scale tasks. (See Mann 2002 on why software is so bad and probably ought to be redesigned from scratch.)

Also there may be entirely new kinds of as yet unanticipated software, suggested for example by the work of David Gelernter's Oxford Press book Mirror Worlds that would enable a researcher to see the world in greater depth. He used the metaphor of the `crystal ball.'  Or will there be learning instrument implications in Silberman's (2003) description of a confluence of technologies coming into `virtual cinematography' that brings reality into virtual worlds? Meanwhile, m ost important in 2003-04 was the enlarging of open source software development (Goetz 2003) The world's largest open source software design workshop had by 2003 hosted 69,554 projects and had over 20,000 participants. For more detail: <http://sourceforge.net/>. 

A case for free, open-source software for developing nations, nationally and locally,  is made at:
 <http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_12/ghosh/index.html>.

2.3.4  BANDWIDTH AS COMMUNICATIONS POWER

Helping Africa out of its misery may best come from extending bandwidth capacity. Meanwhile, communication speed--a hundred times faster than available in the 1990's--can begin to reduce costs. "As communicators move up spectrum," some have suggested that `all-optical networks' may reshape the  worlds of research and learning. The cost will be reduced by a factor of ten and the bottlenecks are now disappearing, allowing "communication at the speed of light."

Larry Press <http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue9_4/press/> has issued `a grand challege' project to complete global connectivity, pointing to the International Telecommunications summit on the Information Society.  Unfortunately, he reported, there is virtually no connectivity in rural villages of developing nations. To end that isolation he suggests following  the strategy that the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) used in subsidizing Internet connectivity for research and education institutions during the 1990s., eventually linking 28 research and education networks in 26 nations."

Bandwidth and open source software are needed to send interactive multimedia and video into every scholar's office and laboratory worldwide at much more modest cost. This can be done through the air from satellites and terrestrial wireless systems, through fibroplasia threads and cable TV and even through telephone cable. This (and thousands of channels) could open many new doors for scientific collaboration from all locations. New software then can focus on managing documents on the screen, popping up needed information from databases, performing simulations or visualizations and otherwise enhancing the conference." Wireless will in time serve where there is no cable.

Since network speed will be faster than most existing personal computers can manage, more and more of the computing will be done on the network, much as the telephone company does for the home phone. This can reduce the cost of upgrading software in the developing world. The fast network becomes the computer. Online management of `video on demand' should make it possible to access a library of CD-ROMs--or rather the successors to CD-ROM--which could contain all desired texts and videos to show how to do things. A researcher's laptop will tap databases and libraries worldwide as easily as one can use a hard disk or CD-ROM drive. The convergence of computers, communications and empowering software can `unleash creativity,' Gilder has said, and "unprecedented hope to the people that the industrial age passed by."

Telephone wire and cable systems have been expensive to install and maintain, prohibitively expensive in developing countries and rural areas where there are few people. Now, however, satellites and new smart digital radio connections, Gilder proposed, can bring the World Wide Web to researchers anywhere in the world at affordable cost. And this radio technology will be as effective as any other, except perhaps for fiber optic cable that can "use infrared light frequencies for long distance communications." However, it will take years and money to provide every developing world research lab and university with "three million six-megahertz high-definition television channels" via fiber optics. So Gilder has proposed digital wireless radio as the more affordable and better way to make possible the active participation of developing world scientists in the global research community,

The number of wireless phones may early in the 21st century increase  to five hundred million. New kinds of affordable wireless receivers /senders appeared to serve many homes in in Indian villages  in 2001.  Also digital radio can enable any scientist to work on location anywhere in the world. Briefcase-sized digital base stations with smart antennas and broadband digital radio should reduce the per person cost of equipment for access from over $5000 to around $14 dollars with long distance charges of a penny a minute. Surowiecki (2006) examined the possibilities of cell phone vs.$100 computer connections to the Internet in poverty area schools. It appears likely that in the next decades there will be varieties of experimentation, including electronic textbooks on CD, etc., in bringing  quality learning to everyone on our planet. 

Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) members have shown that often it does not take a huge organization and vast funding to have great ideas and develop them in poor nations. VITA was the first private voluntary organization to apply advanced microelectronics and space technology for communication with the developing world for humanitarian and development purposes. It did so by using a Low Earth Orbiting Satellite, a series of independent short-wave radio systems, and an electronic wireless computer messaging system for use in time of disasters, for health education and information, vehicle tracking, data gathering and sharing and much more. Rather than waiting for more sophisticated communications, VITA has worked with whatever systems exist to promote decentralized, usable communications, including battery or solar-powered inexpensive ground systems. See also <http://www.ninthbridge.org/wplanning.html> on connectivity in the developing world through older technology and piggy-backing

2.3.5 DATABASE AUTOMATION

Enlarging interlinked data bases are crucially important parts of a global-scale research system. The Human Genome Project (HGP), for example, created such vast amounts of data that it had to automate the organizing and managing of it wherever possible. Its system can provide easy access to data, for information exchange and links among databases and "to consolidate, distribute and continue to develop effective software for large-scale genetic projects." Large-scale DNA sequencing required new types of genetic markers (microsatellites); whole-genome low-frequency maps for detailed analysis of `a million bases.' And user-friendly tools were needed to collect, organize, analyze and interpret, manage and distribute huge amounts of data. An HGP robot sorts out and finds data in ways that would earlier have taken a large team to do. Automation thus makes it possible to cope with millions of units of complex information, such as "high -density gridded arrays of transformed bacteria or DNA to support...sequencing, gene-hunting and chromosome-mapping, fluorescent labeling and detection of DNA in high-density arrays." Scanners can be used to input information, and analysis software can be used to query a database for quickly supplying information, thus enabling large-scale research at reasonable cost. Later chapters will provide more illustrations of databases as components of global-scale research systems.

2.3.6 LARGER MODELING AND SIMULATIONS (2.5.1)

Other components of many global-scale research systems are computer simulations, modeling and gaming as described and illustrated in chapter five and seven. Obaidat (1997) reported how modeling and simulating is used to improve the functioning of computer networks/systems, in comparing alternative designs, including cost-effectiveness. Modeling can be used for research on "designs, protocols, services, management and applications." It can examines way to enlarge the power and scope of networks will greatly reduce cost. Simulations can be used in converging research systems to to discover the consequences or results without risk. Simulations and modeling can be used to design new worlds, as seen in Oyarzun's "Europa's Ocean: A Dream Come true" which might be examined in relation to Arthur C. Clarke's word pictures in 3001; The Final Odyssey. Modeling can be used to examine the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. However, Arbib argues that the most useful simulations "must be based on hard data and not on general predictions made on very rough models." This is why even the best models for weather or economic forecasting can (as yet?) predict only what will happen for a short time in the future. This is also true of many problems facing local communities.

It is relatively easy to create a model to predict the behavior of a space ship, Arbib said, because Newtonian mechanics produces the necessary tools. Social world models, however, are much more complex. Built into them must be a process for continual revision and for the unexpected, such as something in the future comparable to the invention of nuclear weapons. Predictions made a few years ago must constantly be compared with what is actually happening today. Model validation is a never-ending process. Since models are always inadequate, computer modeling can best be used to try out alternatives as a help in decision-making by a group of human beings. This requires testing the computer simulation against reality--the seasoned judgments of leaders, professionals and the public--to avoid the dangers of oversimplification; that is, believing that such technology can magically solve human problems, or on the other hand that it can lead only to evil. Despite their limitations, modeling and simulating can be valuable components in a mega-research system. Arbib illustrates with a system that can help decision-makers by providing information and new ideas for consideration; and which can be changed to take any new information or situation into account. But what about blueprints for planetary management, for considering alternatives for a just, sustainable world that would provide a good life for all? And gradually there will be larger models of the whole universe. For example, note the ten year project to create `a virtual atlas of the entire sky' and create "a huge virtual observatory." (Hogan 2003).

2.3.7  SMALL TOOLS AS COMPONENTS

Big science, as well as art, also need small technologies. The United States army, for example,  in November 1996 received delivery of a portable, battery-powered DNA data analysis system that can revolutionize tests of food and water in remote locations, providing rapid sensitive DNA testing. This machine can easily be used in the most isolated corners of the world. It makes millions to billions of copies of DNA from traces of blood or other animal, plant or germ cells. Analysis and identification of a virus, for example, can thus take place on the spot, anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes, testing for disease not only in human beings but also in animals.

Like many such new tools now being created for varied research purposes, this portable tool can, through wireless communications, be connected to Internet access. This can also add tremendously to the cost effectiveness of field research because telephone connection rates have often been prohibitively expensive or unavailable. Radio may for some time be the best and most affordable way to connect large numbers of developing world scholars with each other and with the rest of the world. The fuel cell empowered phone may be next. (Voss 2001)

India and other developing countries are beginning to produce standardized mass-produced communications equipment--simple and easy to use--that can be manufactured locally at lower cost.<www.amidasimputer.com>. Various efforts are now underway to develop 2.17, 2,18) a portable research/ computer/Internet device that can be used almost anywhere, now that various kinds of wireless connections are becoming available. For example, a research project in Mongolia obtained direct Internet access via satellite, using DirecPC--with a one meter dish--thus bypassing slow and outdated telephone lines. And SatelLife HealthNet has been using low earth satellite communications in sixteen African nations. <http://www.healthnet.org>

The `learning device' perhaps begins as a simple stripped-down portable computer with modem, wireless cell phone) connections to the Internet, with the capacity for other features to be added as they become affordable to scientist in a developing country who cannot afford a trip to Europe or North America. Some scientists are already experimenting with palm pilot-type devices, created with rugged components from various systems and computer companies so that it can work in outdoor humid conditions without air conditioning. Like a `digital hard hat' for construction workers --invented at the University of Illinois (News 1997) some models might be outfitted with camcorder and digital equipment for collecting and documenting information, for communication with colleagues, and to retrieve data information as needed on the spot from data bases. (Bass 1998).

It is anticipated that wireless (see Wi-Fi) will bring both economy and reduction of possible hazards.

2.3.8  CO-LABORATORY TECHNOLOGY (2.6.1)

Communication technologies now enable collaborations among distant colleagues so as to create online virtual " research centers, institutions without walls, and `co-laboratories' (IBM 1990). They can use orbiting satellites, telescopes in space and creation stations (specialized computer systems for creating art, films, television and music for global-scale concerts.) There can be virtual reality laboratories where widely separated researchers "don goggles and data gloves" to work with colleagues in other countries. Researchers at different universities will be able to put on `tele-immersion' headsets to enter a shared work space, for example for CAD (computer-aided design) as in architecture. There can be a `user profile' of each participant in a mega-research project so that any partner can access the records that research colleagues wish to share.

One issue is `quality of service' that will allow time-sensitive transmission, such as video from an electron microscope or data from a bank of telescopes orbiting in space. Some see research potential in the  MUVE (Multi-User Virtual Environments See Dede 2003.) <http://pages.ivillage.com/edmoo/edmoo>, MUD (Multi User Dungeon) and MOO (Mud Object Oriented software first developed for games.) Participants in many countries can meet and work together. They can explore and extend a virtual world with a special emphasis on collaboration. MediaMOO, for instance, was established to be a text-based, networked, virtual reality environment designed to enhance professional community among media researchers. It has been a place for brainstorming and sharing ideas as well as for scholarly conferences. Only serious researchers have been welcome; for example, in AstroVR, a professional community for astrophysics researchers. It has provided access to many astronomical databases in a collaborative environment. Foreman (2003) reported that text-based MUDs and MOOs "have evolve into massive multiplayer online communities" .in which hundreds of thousands of players simultaneously interact in "graphically rendered immersive worlds."

Existing mega-scale projects and the emergence of global-scale tools suggest this question: suppose we could do anything what should we do? One estimate suggests that a global research system of networked supercomputers and data bases might cost .01 percent tax on world communications. Asking what could be done with unlimited financial and personnel resources can lead to ideas which are possible with existing resources. Many researchers and others in higher education have been so overwhelmed by the `glut of technologies'--and the potential of their convergence--that they have neglected `human convergence.' Digital terrain data is being mapped for the entire world. When, however, will there be an overarching Integrated Global Observing Strategy? <http://www.oss.net>. Kelly (1995) asked what happens when virtual reality converges with other technologies) "weaving itself into the social fabric and influencing the cultural practices of the people who build worlds." He wonders about linking biological, spiritual and virtual worlds to explore entirely new possibilities for human society. We explore some here in Volume II.

Next we ask what can be done to enlarge and enrich human thinking and better enable large-scale planning together. Increasingly, our research problem is not what to do about a crisis, but how to get it done. The next chapters expand this brief sketch of some technological developments, asking how converging technologies may empower larger-scale research projects to deal with human crises. Next we explore the idea that computer networking can enlarge collective intelligence What, for example, will succeed such virtual community and collaboration tools as the Macromedia Flas Communications Server <http://www.macromedia.com/software/flashcom/productinfo/features/> that, for example,  creates virtual conference rooms for real time and recorded conversation, video and data, polling, messaging. shared whiteboards, chat, audio and streaming visual sharing and much more?

Now in the first decade of othe 21s century plans are underway to pro vide  for networking among African education, research and outreach communities, and for linking with global scientific and medical collaboration projects.
<http://international.internet2.edu/resources/events/2005/2005FMMAFRICAINFO.html>
 <http://event-africa-networking.web.cern.ch/event-africa-networking/program.html>
The Association of African Universities was working on an African Research and Education Network
Infrastructure. The principle aim "is to bring together a critical mass of African expertise to develop a road
> map which integrates the many initiatives that are developing." <http://www.aau.org/tunis>
<http://web.idrc.ca/en/ev-86675-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html>
 

Return to Chapter 2.2 | Go to  Chapter 2.4


Bibliographical Notes

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Bass, Thomas. 1998. "Dress Code." Wired, April.

Braverman, A.M. 2004. "Father of the Grid." University of Chicago Magazine, April.

Briody, Dan. 2003. "Goodbye 3G - Hello Wi-Fi Frappuccino." Wired Special Report, May.l

Cetron, Marvin et al. 1997. "Smart Toasters." Futurist, July.

Discover  magazine 1997. News report, June

Dede, Chris. 2003. Multi-User Video Environments." Educause, May/June.

Foreman, Joel. 2003. "Next-Generation Educational Technology versus the Lecture." Educause, July/Aug.

Foster, R. B. 1996. "Imagining the Universe." Educom Review, Jan.

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Jenson, Brad. 2002. On DEOS listserv, August 10.

Jonassen, David et al. 1999. Learning With Technology. New York: Prentice Hall.  

Kahney, Leander. "Fast Track for Scientific Data. Wired News, Nov. 17."

Kelly, R. V. 1995. "Virtual Culture." Virtual Reality, Sept

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Obaidat, M. 1997. "Modeling and Simulating of Computer Systems and Networks." Simulation, April

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Samuel, A. 2005.  "Leapfrogging Technology." Toronto Star, Janl; 17.

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Surowiecki, James. 2006. "Philanthropy's New Prototype." MIT Technology Review, Nov-Dec:

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Watts, Duncan. 2003. "Unraveling the Mysteries of the Connected Age." Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 14.

Wulf, W. 2003. "Higher Education Alert: The Information Railroad is Coming." Educause, Jan./Feb.

 

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