"Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"

T.S. Eliot
"The Rock"

Brave New World?  Or Slouching Towards Gomorrah?

Foothill Technology High School
9th Grade Action Based Project - Winter 2003/2004

Your teachers wish you much luck in this project!

Introduction | Task | Special Interest Groups | Process | Assessment | Conclusion


INTRODUCTION

The 20th century has seen the rise of new medical and communications technologies that have radically changed human societies.  In the year 1900, for example, Americans communicated largely by letter writing in a culture of print and people routinely died of diphtheria, measles, and smallpox while still in childhood.  At the beginning of the 21st century, in contrast, Americans speak easily with anyone in the world by telephone or e-mail and access rapidly information on almost any topic; we live in an image-oriented culture, with television sets in almost every home and a "popular culture" revolving around movies and other entertainment medias.  Moreover, the development and marketing of antibiotics and a host of other medical drugs has helped extend the life expectancy of the lives of Americans to a record 76.9 years, as opposed to 48 years a century ago; illnesses such as pneumonia and fever that regularly killed people in the past can effectively be treated today with antibiotics, and mental illnesses as well as long-term disorders such as diabetes and heart disease can be managed with appropriate medication.  Nevertheless, a culture where entertainment is king and millions are heavily medicated is not without its critics.  Whether virtual "reality" should take precedence over real life is arguable.  When only the most wealthy can afford cutting edge medical technologies, these treatments remain a mixed blessing.  Questions abound.

And the rapid rate of change seems only to have accelerated recently, as the development of high speed data networks encircling the globe and the mapping of the human genome have given rise to new opportunities and problems.  Hardly a day passes without an announcement of a new technological breakthrough.  But at what cost?  Yesterday's technology gave us the ability to incinerate ourselves, as well as to extend the length and improve the quality of our lives; today's and tomorrow's technology might enable us to live longer, healthier, and happier - or it might be completely the opposite!  "Technological progress is like an ax in the hands of a pathological criminal," claimed scientist Albert Einstein, a crucial figure in the development of the atomic bomb.  Is that true?  Is it so simple?  Most Americans today believe unequivocally that technology is a good thing.  Is this true?  Is it so simple? Technology is never neutral in how it influences human society, and here is where we come to the crux of the issue.  

How will all these dramatic new technologies impact human civilization?  Nowadays we humans can understand and even manipulate the building blocks of life at the DNA level.  (Maybe even create new life!  Or "clone" existing life!  Develop mechanical "life"!)  What are the risks and advantages?  How will we live and work differently?  Will these technologies be available to all equally?  Or will they create newer and larger divisions between the rich and the poor?  Will life in the future be longer and happier than before because of technology?  Or will it be the opposite?  Will humankind control its creations or be controlled by them?  Is human freedom endangered by ascendant technologies and medical procedures?  Or will they help raise humanity to new heights?

TASK:

The Council on the Quality of Life in Ventura (CQLV) will be hosting a special symposium on the risks and benefits posed to society by new digital and medical technologies.  In your Special Interest Group (SIG) be prepared to make a presentation in your area of expertise to a panel of leading citizens.  Your presentation should be in depth and detailed, and as an expert you should be ready to handle any and all questions from the panel.

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS:

Chemicals and Behavior Modification
Mass Media and Consumerism
New Economy and New Rules
Health Care Issues
Tech Hazards

PROCESS:

In order to complete your project, please do the following:

  1. Download goal setting process file (Right click here to download Goal Setting file).

  2. Investigate your assigned SIG and area of expertise.

  3. Begin the KWHL process(Right click here to download KWHL file)

  4. Gather data (facts, opinions, ideas) on note pages. (Right click here to get MS 2000 file.)

  5. Develop thesis, and then prioritize and develop arguments.  Then add quotes, statistics, and facts to buttress your thesis and major points (examples here, here, and here).

  6. Make note cards, prepare and practice your oral presentation, and make an accompanying PowerPoint presentation (with bibliography).

  7. Compile PowerPoint presentation with group.  Coordinate hook activities and scope and sequence of presentation with group members. 

  8. Deliver oral report to peers, answer questions, and get feedback.

  9. Review teacher and peer feedback, then revise and improve speech.

  10. Present oral report to experts, answer questions, and get feedback.

  11. Examine phenomenon and ideology of Unabomber; read and complete culminating essay.

  12. Decide on future action, if any.

  13. Complete the KWHL process.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You must check-in with your teacher at every step of the process!  (Click here to download goal setting Inspiration template for this project.)

NOTE: Check out graphical representation of project process.

ASSESSMENT:

Your teacher will use this rubric to grade your project over the length of the unit.  You will evaluate your own Special Interest Group with this rubric.  Be advised!

The members of the Council will use this form to assess the quality of your presentation.  Be advised!

CONCLUSION: 

Quo vadis is Latin for the question: "Where are you going?"  Think about where you are going and how you want to live.  (Remember the famous maxim of Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living.")  Now that you have thought through some of the complex phenomenon revolving around the rise of new medical and communications technologies and their impacts on society, you will hopefully have developed some sophisticated opinions about whether they are good or bad for yourself and our society; and your teachers hope that, today and in the future, you will accordingly live your lives in a healthy manner and not otherwise.  In the vast oceans of information that are the Internet and other mass media landscapes, we hope you seek out islets of wisdom and vistas of  understanding.  In your real and "virtual" lives, your teachers hope you make wise choices and become thoughtful reflective persons - and not otherwise.

"NON SCHOLA SED VITA DECIMOS!"
We learn not for school but for life!


THE FUTURE OF MANKIND

"I expect the human generations of the future to be superior to ourselves in education, in the mastery of techniques, in the comprehensiveness of their mental range..."
Edmund Wilson
author and literary critic

"Our destiny is a matter of choice.  It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."
William Jennings Bryan

"The whole future of the Earth, as of religion, seems to me to depend on the awakening of our faith in the future."
Teilhard de Chardin
"In the Future of Man" (d 1955)

"This is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own involuntary actions, has become a danger to itself - as well as to vast numbers of others."
Carl Sagan

"It is appallingly obvious that our technology exceeds our humanity."
Albert Einstein 

"Whether or not it draws on new scientific research, technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science."
Paul Goodman
"New Reformation"

"The American lives in a land of wonders; everything around him is in constant movement, and every movement seems an advance.  Consequently, in his mind the idea of newness is closely linked with that of improvement.  Nowhere does he see any limit placed by nature to human endeavor; in his eyes something that does not exist is just something that has not been tried."
Alexis de Tocqueville


NOT copyrighted by Ms. Kristen Pelfrey, Mr. Josh Dinkler,
  Ms. Wendy Dowler, Mrs. Powers, or Mrs. Jennifer Kindred.


SPREAD THE WEALTH!

"He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation."  
-- Thomas Jefferson

Last updated on October 27, 2004