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.

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