Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Acting Deputy Director
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Opening of the Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies
Bellevue Community College
April 9, 1998
Thank you. It is my pleasure to join you today. I'd
like to thank Neil Evans and President Floten for
inviting me to speak on this special day. I'd also
like to recognize Secretary Ralph Munro, Bob Herbold,
COO of Microsoft, and John Warner, Vice President
and Chief Administrative Officer for Boeing.
We are living in the infancy of what scholars and
songwriters all term the "Information Age," despite
the fact that there are no adequate definitions of
what an information age means. In fact, the power
of information is not new - the ability to create,
transmit and utilize information has dramatically
influenced human events throughout history. What has
changed over time, and radically the past century,
are the tools we use to access and share information.
Just take as an example, the night 223 years ago this
month when a rider named Paul Revere raced through
the Massachusetts countryside to warn of the approach
of the British.
To most of us, the legend of Paul Revere's ride conjures
up the image of a solitary rider, galloping bravely
in the darkness from one lonely farmstead to the next.
This romantic idea is etched indelibly upon the national
memory. But this tale is mainly myth.
Recent scholarship has shown that many other riders
-- most unknown to history -- helped Paul Revere spread
the word across the New England countryside. These
riders spread across New England as part of a sophisticated
intelligence network created by Patriot leaders to
help spread the word in case of a British attack.
Spreading the word during the American Revolution
took incredible time and effort. You had to have a
physical presence to deliver the message or perhaps
flickering candlelight through a window or sound over
short distances. During the Information Revolution,
spreading the word can be accomplished by a point,
a click, and a synthetic window - almost instantaneously.
This may not be very romantic - we don't know what
Longfellow would say about the midnight "surf" of
Paul Revere - but it is incredibly powerful.
For all their power, modern information systems and
learning tools are still somewhat enigmatic mechanisms.
The Internet and other networks can deliver incredible
amounts of data with remarkable speed, but users of
networks often cannot separate useful information
- what I will call knowledge - from noise.
When recently asked about the future of the Internet,
Bob Lucky, vice president at Bellcore, said: "There
are two things I know about the future. First, after
the turn of the century there will be one billion
people using the Internet. The second thing I know
is that I haven't the foggiest idea of what they are
going to be using it for".
Contrast this situation with the network of the Minutemen
- one where a little human intelligence enabled knowledge
to be passed in a remarkably effective manner despite
the obvious technological disadvantages. When a Paul
Revere showed up outside of a fellow patriot's home
he was not dismissed as some annoying zealot yelling
"The British are Coming!!". Instead, Revere was immediately
recognized as a legitimate provider of knowledge,
and those who heard him sprung into action, thus beginning
the American revolution.
In this context, the revolution of the 21st Century
will be making our high-speed, high volume information
systems more human centered, more "intelligent" -
a "place" where people and machines collaborate beyond
their physical presence. At NSF we seek to enable
this revolution by working to make the Internet and
its successors the Next Generation Internet, and the
Next Next Generation Internet tools for learning and
The key to all of this is education. Advanced information
technologies have transformed how we approach education
in all fields, and science and engineering in particular.
More than anything else, these new tools allow us
to make research and discovery an integral part of
the process of teaching and learning.
Weaving this spirit of inquiry and discovery into
activities that reach all levels of education is in
many ways what the Center for Emerging Technologies
is all about. Entrepreneurs and employers will seek
people who not only are well versed in science and
technology concepts and skills, but are also adept
at learning through experimentation, inquiry, critical
examination, and discovery -- all characteristics
of a focus on innovation, on putting new ideas to
The Center's investments will also enable close cooperation
and collaboration between community colleges, high
schools, businesses and four-year schools and universities
-- so that students will be better prepared for the
increasingly complex workplace of the 21st century.
Experimentation, thinking, and learning that is, exercising
our minds, certainly are the key to meeting the needs
of the 21st Century Workplace. In short, we must be
able to maximize the use of the NECK-top computer
as much as the desktop computer.
Just as Paul Revere and his compatriots galloped off
to begin the American Revolution, we've entered a
new revolutionary era- the knowledge revolution -
that has reshaped our economy and many elements of
our society. Organizations have had to learn to foster
cooperation over control, and all of us have gained
new ways to work, interact, and most important, to
learn and create. The millennium will usher in a remarkable
era we at NSF have dubbed the era of "knowledge and
distributed intelligence"... an era in which knowledge
is available to anyone, anywhere, at anytime... affording
incredible power for human learning and creativity.
The Center for Emerging Technologies will be a leader
in enabling the next generation of knowledge workers
into the next century, human beings capable of using
the power of knowledge to produce the innovation necessary
for a robust economy and quality of life. That is
why I can't think of many places more appropriate
to celebrate the coming revolution than right here
in the Pacific Northwest at the NWCET!.