Future Promising or Foreboding it Term Paper

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While on the one hand many are concerned that scientific discoveries like the atomic bomb could mean the end of civilization, others like the inventor Ray Kurzweil argue that, "to relinquish technologies because they could be used for ill means giving up their good uses -- and it also means totalitarian control." (Creating a More Intelligent Future) in other words if we focus on the many creative aspects of modern technology this opens up a very positive picture of the future.

There are many aspects that could be considered here. One of the many advances in modern technology is the fascinating creation of "interfaces" or a more intelligent interaction between technology, like computers, and human beings. This would mean that technology would no longer be "alien" or a threat to humanity but would become more acceptable and adjusted to the human environment. As some experts argue, "...it becomes possible to develop models which stress the interface between technology and human beings, thereby enabling machinery to operate most effectively. In this sense, the values inherent to technological rationality can be merged with those at a particular workplace." (Murphy & Pardeck, 1986, p. xix) This would refer to the potential of research on artificial intelligence and robotics. There are indications that substantial advances have already been made in these fields.

In the area of genetics there has been an enormous leap in scientific understanding of the human genetic code in recent years. This has the potential to lead to breakthroughs in modern medicine in the future. There is no doubt that new technology such as cloning and stem cell research hold many potential dangers both for society and for the individual. There is an ongoing debate in modern society on these issues. On the one hand a many critics state that these new technologies have the potential to destroy society in the near future.

Some critics go so far as to project a vision of the future where cloning will have a negative impact on the very nature of what it means to be human; with terrifying prophesies of cloned babies that are sold commercially. "Embryo cloning is the technology that would make the creation of eugenically engineered 'designer babies' commercially feasible." (Darnovsky M. 2002)

On the other hand the development of a technologies like stem cell research can lead to enormous health benefits for humanity and may in fact eradicate many of the diseases that we experience in our present age." Many biomedical gerontologists medical experts believe that future breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation with stem cells... will eliminate all aging and disease as well as allow for complete rejuvenation to a youthful condition." (Anti-aging Medicine Test for Measuring Functional Real Age)

Education

While some educationists claim that there is a decline in educational standards in many developed countries and that this will lead to future problems, others claim that there is a "skills revolution" under way in which "people everywhere are getting more education.... " (World Question Centre)

According to experts like James N. Rosenau, Professor of international affairs at George Washington University, "Television is exposing more people to ideas and skills they were never exposed to before..." (World Question Centre) There are also a growing number of commentators who are of the opinion that the Internet will be used to a greater extent in the future. "...technologies such as the Internet allow people to search for obscure ideas. These forces interact and accelerate the pace of the skills revolution, which is bound to continue with new generations." (World Question Centre)

The future of education also looks bright in the light of the various new and more holistic approaches to the present problems of education. One of the leaders in the field of education research is Professor Howard Gardner. He envisages a future where new scientific techniques will be used to eradiate or treat learning disabilities and deficiencies. He states that in the near future, we will be able to use neural imaging techniques to determine which infants or toddlers are at risk of having problems in reading, writing, calculating, spelling, mastery spatial relations, mastering social relations, and the like. (We may even have genetic markers for these risk factors). And I believe that the more specific the detection of the disorder (i.e. which kind of reading problem, what sort of social deficit), the more likely that we can ultimately devise interventions that directly address a particular problem.

World Question Centre)

Views like those expressed by Gardner and others therefore provide an optimistic outlook and suggest that the developments in science and technology can benefit fields like education in the future.

Conclusion

There are many other aspects that can be included in a more optimistic prognostication of the future. This could include aspects such as the changes in social discrimination and other social factors that are improving as a result of more accessible communication and technology. What I think has been made clear in the above research and discussion is that one can view developments and facets of the modern world from both a negative and positive perspective. The pessimistic view of the future of humanity has tended to dominate in the common perception of the future. As one commentator states, " Paradoxically, one of the biggest reasons for being optimistic is that there are systemic flaws in the reported world view. Certain types of news -- for example dramatic disasters and terrorist actions -- are massively over-reported, others -- such as scientific progress and meaningful statistical surveys of the state of the world -- massively under-reported. "(World Question Centre)

On the basis of the research and with reference to the many expert who are of the opinion that there is hope, I believe that there has not been enough attention given to the potential that modern civilization shows for a positive and hopefully future. An important point is made by Colborn (2007) who suggests that whether we experience a positive or negative future depends largely on our attitude towards that future. "Our attitude toward the future could spell the difference between succumbing to disaster or triumphing over the odds. Attitude has critical implications for survival..." (Colborn, 2007) in this light it becomes important therefore to develop a more optimistic attitude towards the future of our world.

References

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Barnes, S. (2004, November). Human-Built World: How to Think about Technology and Culture. History Today, 54, 85+. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5007705860 www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001244814

Barr, S.M. (1999, April). What Remains to Be Discovered: Mapping the Secrets of the Universe, Origins of Life, and the Future of the Human Race. First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life 46. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001244814 www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5018738696

Colborn, M. (2007, January/February). How Attitudes Shape Our Future: Our Feelings and Attitudes about the Future and Its Risks Can Lead to Either Triumph or Disaster. Using Global Warming as a Case Study, a Psychologist Explains Why. The Futurist, 41, 68+. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5018738696

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Darnovsky M. Embryo Cloning and Beyond. Retrieved March 27, 2007, at http://www.genetics-and-society.org/resources/cgs/200207_tikkun_darnovsky.html www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5008425933

Davidson, J. (2004, November). Optimism in an Era of Uncertainty. Public Management, 86, 22+. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5008425933 www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=81930447

Murphy, J.W. & Pardeck, J.T. (Eds.). (1986). Technology and Human Productivity: Challenges for the Future. New York: Quorum Books. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=81930449 www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5007600283

Wagner, C.G. (2004, November/December). Creating a More Intelligent Future: The World Future Society's 2004 Meeting Focused on Improving Our Foresight, Enhancing Our Intelligence, and Developing Partnerships with Each Other and with Our Rapidly Advancing Technologies. The Futurist, 38, 48+. Retrieved March 27, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5007600283

What future will we choose. Retrieved March 27, 2007, at http://www.earthsky.org/blog/50773/what-future-will-we-choose

World Question Centre. Retrieved March 27, 2007, at http://edge.org/q2007/q07_1.html

Worse than we thought. Retrieved March 27, 2007, at http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleId=297895&area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__international_news

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