Monday, July 11, 2005

The Big Bang: Putting Technological Change into Perspective

I can honestly say I was there. For the commercialization of the Internet, that is. You see, I go back to the days before color, before point and click, before graphics. Back to the days when the Internet meant text only. And to read that text required typing exotic commands before hitting the "Enter" key.

That's the past.

For a glimpse at the future, look at South Korea. Nearly 80 per cent of South Korean homes have broadband connections - and South Korean broadband is truly broad. Most connections are at 2 megabits per second (2Mbps) or higher (a typical residential broadband connection in Australia is 512kbps). The South Korean Government expects that 70 per cent of internet connections will exceed 20Mbps by the end of 2006 and that most will be at 100Mbps by the end of the decade.

At these speeds, and with this level of penetration, the internet pervades South Korean society to an extent unknown in the rest of the world. But with success come problems. In South Korea, cyber crime is out of control, and a quarter of all teenagers are classed as internet addicts, many with behavioural problems.

Over the next generation we will see the interconnection of all devices at bandwidths incomprehensible today. We will see the marriage of carbon and silicon, the merging of computers and organic life. Fancy a terabyte of data at the base of your brain?

How humankind adapts to these changes will determine the fate of our species. The past 10 years are not even a dress rehearsal. A good rule of thumb is - if you can imagine it, it will happen. The only question is: when?

Fine. The brave new world of technology will mean new products and new choices. Applying that technology to teaching and learning will mean new challenges. Change, change, change.

But somehow I'm comforted by the thought that some things won't change. Thinking will still be hard work, for faculty and for students, even with that terabyte of data at the base of our brains that the author of the article refers to. The need for grading will still exist, assuming employers still want to identify excellence in the student body. That will mean tests and test anxiety.

The other anxiety though, is associated with the need to keep up. We know that change induces stress and the futurists tell us that change will accelerate, which will mean even more stress. Adapting to change. Yep, that's the key. Hey, Who Moved My Cheese?


Blogger Anthrogrl said...

Change is both exciting and scary. I know when I first came to UTSA I was so nervous, having grown up in a small town.

However, if there's one thing Homo sapiens is good at, it's adapting to change. True, sometimes the changes brought about aren't always for the best, but human beings have a remarkable capacity for adapting to different environments.

I don't know what life will be like twenty years from now, but whatever happens, I like to think humanity will be all right (and hopefully a little wiser as well).

3:18 PM  
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9:38 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

If I think about it things have changed so much since I was in elementary with computers. It used to be you were lucky to get use the computer lab because there were only 10 computers! Now in school it is mandatory to use the computers and if you don't know the program for your assignment your in trouble. It scares me to think how much we will depend on computers in the future.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Carlos L said...

The increase use of the internet can potentially bring many good things. Crime on the internet will bring problems and mistrust, however. I think in the future we will see a stronger effort to prevent internet crimes and stricter controls on content of websites. Nevertheless it is the tool of the future and most people now can't imagine what life would be like without the internet.

12:20 PM  

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