On Recent Tech Advancements
How are we changing as a society because of recent developments in science and technology? Here is an examination of three major realms: healthcare, higher education, and popular culture. Let’s consider how U.S. culture is changing due to major disruptors advancing our understanding of the world around us.
According to the University of Cincinnati, there’s a kind of technology revolution afoot in the healthcare sector. They cite a recent report by the World Economic Forum that highlighted a few major disruptors in U.S. healthcare, including extraordinarily high costs, the fourth industrial revolution, and consumerism within the healthcare world. Radiology serves as one example of a specialty area that is being influenced by disruptions such as telemedicine, the pressure to eliminate patient risk, and machine learning.
For example, there didn’t use to be much you could do about the need to wear glasses or contacts until the late nineties, when LASIK surgery was approved by the FDA. As a result of how far the technology has come, 99 percent of patients attain at least 20/40 vision after surgery. This technology did not exist when many of us were children—but it has proven to be a very helpful aide to high-performance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts who spend a lot of time in nature and would prefer not to have to deal with glasses or contacts while traveling.
Another major segment of our society that has been affected by rapid technological developments is higher education. One example of a major change in higher education is the introduction of online learning. As with healthcare, this change can also be tied to the rise of consumerism in society.
Arizona State University is a useful example of what a school-wide conversion to online education could look like. According to their website, “Just six years ago, there were fewer than 400 students enrolled in online programs, and today we have more than 30,000 students enrolled in more than 150 undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered online.”
It’s no doubt that rising costs of college education, coupled with an increasingly competitive job market and skyrocketing living expenses in bigger cities across the country, are also factors in the increasing popularity of online education options.
Balakrishna Pisupati and Gopikrishna Warrier recently wrote about communicating science for impact on International Policy Digest, arguing that effective scientific communication requires translation of scientific research that is comprehensible for a lay audience. For society to feel as if it is included the story of science, scientists should be more effectively trained to communicate with the general public—rather than solely with an audience of their peers.
Part of the problem lies in the way most media broadcasters disseminate information, often conveying stories through lenses that reflect black-and-white ways of thinking—whereas scientific findings are all about nuance, percentages, and probability.
According to MIT’s Technology Review, some of the most exciting scientific developments of 2018, so far, include 3D metal printing, artificial embryos, Babel-Fish earbuds (which instantly translate foreign languages via your earbuds), and zero-carbon natural gas. Most of these discoveries are relatively comprehensible. However, to gain a more thorough understanding of, say, a sensing city, it may help to be well versed in the technology behind the internet of things and remote sensors, for example.
This is not to say that the public isn’t smart enough to understand the nuance and complexity of more advanced scientific concepts. Rather, we may ask too much in expecting them to fully grasp the mathematics behind a quantum leap or an artificial embryo. Perhaps this is due to the rise in consumerism—in wanting more instantaneously delivered to us at any time. According to Rachel Gur-Arie, part of the problem is that we tend to want “headline-worthy discoveries” — rather than incremental progress, as most scientific findings are packaged.