We live in a world that is full of promises, because it is changing a lot and in any change there lies opportunities.
>>> half time knowledge today is 5 years and getting shorter. In 5 years time what you know today will be of marginal value.
>>> You are likely to have 5 different jobs in your life and 4 of them have not yet been invented yet.
>>> Universities should teach for creating people able to change the world, since the world will be continuously changing and university should create the leaders of change, not the followers!
Three main forces are reshaping the world:
- Technology: Moore’s law doubling every 18 months, meaning in the next 18 months we will see changes of the same magnitude of what happened in the last 50 years. You were not here 50 year ago but believe me, it was quite different! The equivalent of SMS was telex and it cost a thousands fold as much and took a day to be delivered.
Moore’s law will hit physical barriers in 400 years from now… Nothing to worry about “now”! However, the real barrier to Moore’s law are in economics. It is costing more and more to go smaller and smaller on silicon. We are actually seeing today a slow down (a delay of 2 years in the shift to extreme ultraviolet light for etching wafer.
At the same time we see a faster than Moore’s law evolution in genome sequencing, 2 times faster and accelerating. And make no mistake: this is the new ICT.
The genome code is even better than Java: you have a library of applets that has been refined over 3 billion years of testing and experimentation…
Hybrid of bio and silicon are already being used.
- Economy: the cost of invention and innovation is going down. Transaction cost, that is how much it cost to involve different players on a value chain, is plummeting. This is what has enabled thousands, million of youngster to turn their creativity into biz.
And we have just started. Economic forces in an open competitive market stimulate diversity, differentiation (as it happens in Nature). Don’t be misled by those who speak about convergence. It is all about creating new things that will be selected through the market sieve.
This is your world. You don’t need enormous capital for doing great things. You need creativity, a sound understanding of technology and economics and the capability to exploit the ecosystem. And here is where the ICT LABS come to play, in supporting you, but they cannot do what only you can do.
- Crises: there are big issues facing the world, and they go beyond religious clashes, cultural diversity, politics and even economic inequalities. I was at the STS Forum in Kyoto, just few days ago and the focus was on these big looming crises and the way to tackle them.
The raising sea level will displace 1 billion people in the next 40 years. Along with that the geography of agricultural production will shift. Many of the most productive areas in the world ill be submerged. The warming of Siberia will make agriculture possible where now it is not, but at the same time it will disperse in the atmosphere trillion of tons of methane that is now frozen in the tundra, further increasing the world temperature and decreasing the absorption capabilities of CO2 by the oceans.
The so called energy crises is real, but it is often misrepresented. Today we use less energy than what is available. However we are using it at different rate in different parts of the world. In Europe we use about 2.5 times the energy available in the whole Earth, were all people on Earth use as much as we do here. In the US they use 4.5 times as much, in the Arabian peninsula 16 times as much. Clearly there are other place in the world where people use much less energy.
The world is spinning with US consuming, China producing and Germany developing the tools China uses for production. All the rest is ancillary in production and consumption.
China this year will be using as much energy as US, but the pro-capita level is one sixth of the US. One Chinese uses one sixth of the energy of an American citizen. But this comparison is hiding the fact that a large portion of China energy use is for producing goods for the US citizen. The average Chinese uses one twentieth of the energy used by the average US citizen for himself and you know that energy use is a good way to gauge the well being of a population. We cannot expect Chinese, or any other person in the world, not to increase its hunger for energy.
We have the technology for increasing energy availability (you cannot produce energy, just transform it so that it becomes easier to use and more affordable) but this does not solve the problem: the more you use energy, the more you dissipate. If we would have to provide all the people the amount of energy being used by the average US citizen the oceans will start to boil, as result of energy dissipation, and this is the second law of thermodynamics. You cannot work around it. And this is a thresholds we may reach within this century, assuming we are really working to increase quality of life everywhere and in particular where quality of life is today very low.
Hence, the solution lies not in making more energy available but in needing less energy to sustain our quality of life. Nature uses less than one thousandths of the energy we use in a chip to do the same thing. As Richard Feynman said, there is plenty of space at the bottom.
This is where biotech, bioengineering, nanotech, ICT have to work. And this is the challenge we have when we talk about Smart Energy, as well as Smart spaces, Digital Cities, Clouds, Security and all the areas we are addressing.
So if these are the challenges, or at least some of them, what can the solutions be?
Education is the first answer. Through better education we can hope for solution by harvesting the collective intelligence of human beings. But the feeling is that today’s education is not able to be up to the challenges.
At the STS a specific session focussed on University in the 21st century and there was the clear vision that they have to be different.
Today courses are moving on line. Coursera has attracted 1.6 million students in its classes from all over the world… Someone is even looking far into the future and imagine brains reaching seamless into the Internet with no need for studying thing: get a chip implanted, update it once in a while and all knowledge is within you!
It is still science fiction but the boundaries with science are getting blurred.
However, what is needed is action, people like you that can turn creativity into ideas and ideas into actions to change the world, and create economic wealth in the process.
There was a consensus at the STS that globalization, going abroad, mingling among students and among students and industry is key.
Universities have to become a mingling place, and as knowledge life time shortens we need to have continuous education, and therefore continuous mingling. Learn and create was also mentioned as the crucial role of student at university.
Learning, mingling, creating. Those are the key ingredients of the ICT Labs Master School. Leverage on it and create your and our future.