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Dr. Bordogna's Remarks


Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Acting Deputy Director
Opening of the Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies
Bellevue Community College
Bellevue, WA

April 9, 1998

(As delivered)

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 discovery.

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 use.

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!.

Thank you.



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