Week 11.

This week’s lesson was on Technology Assessment and Forecasting, which is our final topic for the entire module. This topic essentially rounds up all that we learnt thus far, teaching us to assess our current situation and identify key opportunities to develop into future possibilities.

We started the class with a very meaningful quote, “Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” (African proverb). Essentially, the seeds of our future is present in the PRESENT. This quote reminds me that our actions today all play a part in molding our future, and that our future lies in our own hands. Small and big changes alike, one has to have foresight and a vision to progress. As Winston Churchill nicely puts it, The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.

Moving on, let us discuss about future opportunities. By 2050, 30% of the world will be older than 60 years old. Thus we would expect different needs in society, as well as different infrastructure to meet our needs. Envisioning the world as it is 30, 40 years from now, one would expect natural resources such as water to become more and more scarce, resource shortage such as clean water and energy (thus the need to source for renewable and sustainable resources), and further developments in mobility and healthcare. As portrayed by the Siemens video, a possible emerging technological development in the area of healthcare includes electronic patient files, which can store medical data of patients that can be updated readily and saves time and unnecessary costs.

And in the next 50 years, we would expect radical changes in our lives:

Augmented reality, a shift form paperbacks to fully multimedia textbooks, cloud computing, interactive mind gear, robotics.. the list is NEVERENDING.

As such, what we should do now is to prepare and work toward such developments into the future and plan strategically how to achieve these goals by envisioning possible issues and coming up with ideas to overcome these challenges. This is also what the lesson is essentially about: to access technology employed today and strategically forecast possible developments. Common foresight methodologies include backcasting, brainstorming and delphi.

An interesting question raised during the lesson for discussion was about the eradication of extreme poverty – Is it even possible?

My take on this issue would be from a positivist’s point of view. Yes, it is definitely possible. According to 1997’s Human Development Report, the eradication of extreme poverty is a feasible and affordable goal. However to achieve this goal, it requires strategies to expedite economic growth in more than 100 countries now suffering from economic stagnation and decline. It also requires implementation of poverty reduction policies and programmes to counter calamities that create and recreate poverty, such as HIV and AIDS.

According to the Human Development Report 1997, the eradication of extreme poverty in the not too distant future is a feasible and affordable goal. However, to achieve this goal requires strategies to expedite economic growth in more than 100 countries now suffering from economic stagnation and decline. It also requires implementation of poverty reduction policies and programmes to counter calamities that create and recreate poverty, such as HIV/AIDS.

In some developing countries, as much progress has been achieved in the past thirty years as the industrial countries had made in a century. Adult illiteracy has been cut by nearly half, and infant mortality has been reduced by nearly 75 per cent.

Many developing countries have been successful in reducing poverty,such as Chile, China, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand,Trinidad and Tunisia. A number of developing countries, including China with a population of over 1.6 billion people, have slashed in half the proportion of their population in income poverty in less than two decades, as measured by their own poverty lines. Ten other countries, including India with more than one billion people, have reduced income poverty by 25 per cent.

“The dramatic record of poverty reduction in the twentieth century shows that we should raise our sight, not downsize our vision, for human development”, says Richard Jolly, Special Adviser to the UNDP Administrator and principal coordinator of the report.

(adapted from the United Nations Report on the World Social Situation 1997)

To round things off, I would like to address Yali’s question that we discussed in the first lesson briefly. One of the reasons why modern men have more cargo than New Guineans, would be globalization. It creates the urban-rural divide between the haves and have-nots, and our goal is to narrow this divide.

I would rank this final lesson 8/10, as it nicely rounds up the past 10 lessons we had.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Week 10

Today’s lesson was on Emerging Technologies and the impact that they have on the world. As quoted from Prof Shahi, “when it comes to new and emerging technologies, we are limited only by our imagination (and lack thereof)”, which I truly agreed with. Creativity and imagination enhances innovation, and vice versa. Without imagination, the scope of innovation tends to be rather limited. And if we are able to consider possibilities that do not currently exist, we will be able to come up with new things.

There are two types of drivers for the development of emerging technology; Market driven innovation and technology driven innovation. Though the market that is market-driven tends to be more lucrative as there is a ready consumer market that is able to recognize  and work on the gaps and weaknesses, the technology driven market CREATES the demand such as nanotechnology. However, more startup capital and resources is needed for the technology driven market. Hence I believe a cost-benefit analysis needs to done to determine whether the investment in the given innovation is worth the time, effort and money.

Something interesting that was raised in class was Prof’s question on how to differentiate between sales and marketing. Sales is about “pushing” or promoting products, while marketing is about attracting consumers and “pulling” people to the given product or service. Mass media is a common tool in both sales and marketing, in fact how I would see it is that media changes our WANTS to NEEDS. There is a wide array of advertisements, both print and digital, surrounding us in our daily lives. One very successful company that has influenced the consumer market through effective marketing is Apple, which has seemed to create a need out of a want, as I mentioned earlier.

I think the idea of “augmented reality” is pretty fascinating, though there are both sides to the coin whether the benefits of such an idea outweighs the costs. Augmented reality employs technology to interact with the real world, and in a sense it creates a medium such that one’s perception of reality is modified and enhanced. Isn’t it cool to be “in” a mall shopping for clothes, when you are in fact just sitting behind a computer screen? While it makes greater convenience in this aspect, people may tend to be more lazy and reliant on such “mediated worlds”. One major problem that could possibly arise would be similar to that in the case of “Inception”, where the user would not know how to differentiate reality from the augmented one. Also, there may be health problems associated with long periods of inactivity, should the users end up being over reliant on the program.

One example of new technology that we discussed in class was on robots. A question worth pondering on is, “Is it possible to love a virtual person/character?” As robots become increasingly human-like these days, I would not be surprised to see robot-human relationships, however warped the idea may sound. In fact, with greater degrees of liberalization human-robot marriage could be legalized, and marriage vows could even be consummated! With Japan, being the land that simply cannot get enough of robot, and the presence of the I-fairy robot priest, this concept is not entirely impossible.

On a sidenote, this whole idea reminds me of the movie “Lars and the Real Girl”, which is about a delusional young guy who strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet. Sound crazy doesn’t it.

Lastly, I would like to end off this post with another quote by Steve Jobs, “innovation distinguishes the leader from the follower”. Innovation leads to positive change, to make someone or something better. It also results in increased productivity, which is the fundamental source of enhancing wealth in an economy.

It is indeed exciting to see how life in 30, 40 years’ time would be from now, especially in the areas of biotechnology, biometrics, GRID technology as well as plastic technology. Plastic technology can be incorporated in food packaging, such that prices on supermarket price tags can be adjusted with the use of remote control.

I would rate the lesson 8/10, as the emerging technologies we discussed in class is pretty fascinating and intriguing. The oral presentations were rather interesting as well. In fact, Marcus deserves a thumbs up his multiple change of outfits, in a bid to create different scenarios for us. Good effort!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Week 9.

This week’s topic is on Energy and World Change. Given that Earth’s natural resources are limited and energy supply is falling, this results in rapidly rising energy prices which leads to a fall in the economic outlook of many countries, especially that of oil importing countries. The issue of energy security is a challenge that many countries currently face, apart from climate change and the need for environmental protection, as well as inequality. For example, Singapore is a major energy taker due to the inability to produce its own energy source, thus it relies on trade and resources from abroad for economic development. It is important for our government to ensure that our supply is sufficient to meet our needs, and energy security is a major concern as our resources are all externally acquired.

The world energy consumption has been rising, apart from a slight drop by 1.1% in 2009 due to the global recession. According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy Resources for 2010 (Reading 1), the slight fall in energy consumption is by far the largest decline since 1980. Overall, the global consumption of energy is still on the rise. The energy sector is responsible for 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and urban air pollution, which is a major concern for global climate change.

Hence, there is a need to pursue energy sustainability, through investing in renewable energy sources and enhancing energy efficiency through the development of new technologies and approaches. It was mentioned in class, that more than 50% of the world’s resources is used for oil. This is an urgent call for more emphasis to be placed on renewable sources for energy, otherwise the world’s resources will eventually be depleted. Dominant players in clean energy investment includes countries such as China, US and UK, who are in the pursuit for energy sustainability through ambitious and versatile programmes, such as geothermal energy and solar ‘islands’.

I feel that solar energy as a renewable source of energy provides great opportunities to be tapped on. Up to 3850000 exajoules (exa = 1000000000000000000) of energy can be extracted from the Sun! Cherrie’s presentation on algae production as a renewable source of energy was pretty insightful, I agree with the Prof’s view that it has one of the greatest potential in the renewables scene. In fact, renewable energy as a whole, I believe, is a very promising area of energy consumption that deserves to be tapped on. As quoted by Prof Shahi, “The days for fossil fuels are numbered. Renewable energy will fuel the next Industrial Revolution.“.

I would rate this lesson 7.5/10. This topic is pertinent in our lives, and I feel that the range of new technologies being developed is pretty interesting, such as the development of solar grids and algae biodiesel.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Week 7

This week, we continued our discussion about the BioBusiness Revolution, on agriculture and environment.

We began our lesson with a quote by Prof Shahi,

“When we are able to grow the resources we need, we will finally be on the road to sustainability.”

Agriculture-based biobusiness tend to be low-value added,  and the application of new tools and agribiotechnology is expected to see sustainable growth in response to food insecurity problems. A growing and increasingly urbanized population, on top of limited and shrinking land and resources proves to be a double whammy to the issue of food insecurity. As mentioned during the lesson, the world population is expected to reach a plateau of 9.1 billion by year 2050, a huge challenge that the human race will face is how we can feed every single person. Given the rising demand for food, it is thus expected that biobusiness will expand further, from 25% to 60-70% of our economy. It is also necessary, for both developed AND developing countries to play a significant role in biotechnology.

It is of greater importance, that we tackle ways to increase food production AND food distribution. Food scarcity is far more prevalent in developing countries, where demand largely outweighs supply. In order to alleviate the problem of food insecurity, we have to nip the problem in the bud. That is, to ensure that food supply gets properly distributed to the people who need them most, by adopting policies to enhance access to food especially in rural areas, to fight poverty.

It is evident that there is a disproportionate distribution of food supply in the world, which contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty, where the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. Even with adequate food supplies and resources, hunger may still prevail in the absence of effective safety social nets and the lack of income opportunities for the poor. It is not impossible to eradicate world hunger, we DO have the resources and technology to do so. The main challenge is HOW we are going to implement the relevant policies, and the choice of policies. For example, on the topic of biofuel production to ensure sustainable development, such as the use of corn for bioethanol. Biofuel production raises the competition for food supplies between food for consumption and fuel for scarce resources. When demand for food crops increase and supply falls, this leads to a price spike which further worsens the problem of poverty and food scarcity between the developed and developing countries.

In response to food insecurity, some measures have been implemented to boost agriculture production and reduce poverty levels. One would be the genetic modification of crops (GM food), which Edison gave a pretty good presentation on, and breakthroughs in biotech crops, which Alvin presented on. My take on transgenic food is that it is definitely a possible solution to the global food crisis, however much effort is needed to spread the relevant technology especially in developing countries, to prevent inequitable distribution of food. In addition, it is of equal significance, to spread the knowledge that GM food is acceptable, so that people will be more receptive of the idea of transgenic food. Alvin’s presentation on the breakthrough in wheat genomes also highlights a further development in food production, to derive higher crop yield while minimizing our environmental footprint.

One interesting comment that Prof mentioned in class with regards to the methods to end world hunger, is the spread of vegetarianism. The figures are rather daunting- 60% of the wheat produced in US is used for feeding live crops, coupled with the competition between crops used for biofuel production and food consumption, that means that if the world were to turn completely vegetarian, much of the 60% can be used for food consumption itself! However, as we all know, this is highly unrealistic and the next best option would be to target a better distribution of food supply throughout the world population.

Achieving this, however, will not be an easy feat and it requires good governance, political stability and strong economic growth. According to Reading 7, ‘How to Feed the world in 2050′, a considerable number of developing countries have in fact been successful in improving food security thus far, hence it should be possible to meet the future food demand for the projected population even in 40 years’ time.

I would rate this lesson 8/10, as it was very engaging and the presentations were in general pretty good and informative.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How social media changes business

how social media is changing business

The infographic highlights 4 changes that social media has brought upon:

(1) Greater emphasis is placed on peer-to-peer connections than selling,
(2) companies are paying more attention to individual consumer,
(3) communication is now more transparent, and
(4) social media stretches a business’s presence wider and easier for consumers to reach

Something interesting I came across the web today (:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

on transliteracy.

In response to Syecindyo’s request to share more about Transliteracy, I decided to share a little more about this topic and also provide my own interpretation of transliteracy.

Where did the word transliteracy come from?
Transliteracies came first, introduced by the Transliteracies Research Project directed by Alan Liu, Dept of English, University of California at Santa Barbara.

“Established in 2005, the Transliteracies Project includes scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and engineering in the University of California system (and in the future other research programs). It will establish working groups to study online reading from different perspectives; bring those groups into conjunction behind a shared technology development initiative; publish research and demonstration software; and train graduate students working at the intersections of the humanistic, social, and technological disciplines.”

Sue Thomas attended the first transliteracies conference and was inspired to form the PART Group (Production and Research in Transliteracy, now http://www.transliteracy.com)

” PART is a small group of researchers based in the Faculty of Humanities but researching in the Institute of Creative Technologies. The IOCT, which opened in 2006, undertakes research work in emerging areas at the intersection of e–Science, the Digital Arts, and Humanities”. – Thomas, et al.

What is transliteracy?

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

How is transliteracy different from media literacy or digital literacy or technology literacy?

…because it offers a wider analysis of reading, writing and interacting across a range of platforms, tools, media and cultures, transliteracy does not replace, but rather contains, “media literacy” and also “digital literacy.” Thomas, et al

It also converges technological, economic, social, cultural, and global issues. While it can be easy to tie transliteracy to technology

it is important to note that transliteracy is not just about computer–based materials, but about all communication types across time and culture. It does not privilege one above the other but treats all as of equal value and moves between and across them. Thomas, et al

Is transliteracy new?

No, but it has just been named recently. We are not seeing any new communication styles, only new ways of capturing and sharing those communications.  We are now using video or audio equipment to capture content that could only have been witnessed live.  We are using computers and other technology to share information that we would have previously shared over the phone or face to face.  Getting information from people you know rather than from a reference book or librarian is traditionally information seeking behavior.

What we are witnessing today is thus the acceleration of a trend that has been building for thousands of years. When technologies like alphabets and Internets amplify the right cognitive or social capabilities, old trends take new twists and people build things that never could be built before. – Rheingold (pdf)

Will all this new technology change how we think and act?

Probably. But even the bemoaning of the change in the format in which content or information is shared is new. Socrates beat us to it when he complained the the written word is

an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality. Pluto, The Phaedrus

(adapted from Bobbi Newman’s post about transliteracy)

It is interesting how ideas will migrate across multiple social media platforms: podcasts, digital video, virtual worlds, microblogs, wikis, social networking, tagging, etc. Also, transliteracy is able to connect both past and present modalities. For example, in recent years we have begun to switch from searching for information in encyclopedias, indices and catalogues to querying the kinds of data collections that existed before books — through peer-to-peer Q&A. Via millions of forums and chatrooms we ask each other for advice about health problems, moral dilemmas, and we share those answers, elaborate upon them, and, in so doing, we aggregate them so that others unknown to us can use them.

An example that I highlighted was the Million Penguin Wikinovel, which is in essence a type of cloud computing. Described as “a global experiment in new media writing”, it is a collaboratively written fiction which is open to anyone to join in, write and edit. Unfortunately, it is unclear as to whether the experiment turned out to be a success.Due to the overwhelming number of edits, Penguin had to impose “reading windows” whereby they froze the novel so that the more serious editors could read over what had been changed and thus get their bearings on where the story was going. Optimistically, it is indeed a ground breaking and exciting project, however it soon became a platform for vandalism and thus I feel that censorship is still essential in all forms of public literary works.

In a nutshell, transliteracy is an opportunity to cross obstructive divides and it offers a greater analysis of reading, writing and interacting across a range of platforms, media and cultures. In the present Digital Age, we are often saturated with multiple media forms and modes of communication, and transliteracy helps us understand how they relate to one another.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Week 6

This week’s topic was on the BioBusiness Revolution: Healthcare and Biomedical Sciences (Past, Present and Future). BioBusiness? This term caught my attention while I was scanning through the course outline prior to the start of this entire course. Combining the economics of business and the understanding of development processes and applications of biotechnology, BioBusiness is likely to be the means by which we achieve sustainable development, and it is capable of transforming our lives and economies.

Biobusiness is an emerging market that seems very promising. Just take Singapore as an example; we currently have a major investment in biotechnology, especially in the healthcare sector. Changing demographics such as increased urbanization and affluence, and a greying population forces our government to shift the focus from disease management to wellness management. Thus, there is a growing emphasis on improving the quality of life through disease prevention and promoting good health. As portrayed by the video on ‘Biotechnology: An Introduction’, biotechnology has numerous implications on our lives. The knowledge that biotechnology generates can be applied in many different fields such as healthcare, clothes and materials, food and energy. In essence, biotechnology is THE summit of all opportunities.

I think it is interesting how biotechnology offers a vast range of opportunities in so many different industries, such as biomedical, medical devices, biopharming and bioenergy. Bioenergy, in particular, is a growing industry that is undertaking a shift from fossil fuels to sustainable development. For example, deriving biodiesel from algae is highly sustainable in the long run as it is non-toxic, non-biodegradable and has a rapid growth rate.

Prof Shahi also mentioned that new chemical entities (NCE) is a rising trend in biobusiness related activities, and elaborated on the exploitation of spiderweb protein in revolutionary fibre production. Ounce for ounce, spider silk is 5 times stronger than steel (!!!) and it can be used in many interesting ways, such as lighter bulletproof vests and even suspension bridges. 

One of the discussion topics about disruptive technology also caught my attention. Disruptive technology is an innovation that disrupts an existing market, usually by lowering the price of the product.  One such example is the Tata Nano car,a new “people’s car” that is sold for only USD $2500 and is targeted primarily at families in developing countries such as India.


Someone then raised a question, perhaps in jest, about whether the iPhone is a disruptive technology. In my opinion, the domination of the iPhone in the smartphone market nowadays testifies to the truth that the iPhone is no longer a luxury good. In fact, 1 in 3 smartphone users own an iPhone. To date, more than 1 million iPhones are sold in Singapore.  The numbers are telling, the iPhone is becoming a commodity in many developed countries around the world. This could be due to growing affluence these days coupled with the increased competition in the smartphone market with different mobile operators spoiling the market with lower cost iPhone bundles.

I learnt a lot from Elaine’s presentation on application of Nanotechnology in the field of medicine, as it is a very specialized type of technological science that is on the forefront of the biomedical industry. Addressing one of her discussion questions about how receptive our society will be towards Nanomedicine, there are both potentials and pitfalls of this rapidly developing research area. However, I believe that the potential positive externalities brought about by nanotechnology as a whole outweighs the current monetary costs of funding and developing this research. One example that our boys raised was nanobots. Nanobots are believed to be the next generation of nanomachines and they can be used in many fields, such as electronics and even telecommunication, in fibre optics.

Overall, I would rate the lesson 7/10. I believe that the biobusiness industry has much potential for growth and our discussions helped shed some light on this relatively foreign term. I’m looking forward to the second part of this topic which will be further discussed in the next lesson.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment