Open Science

In ‘Speculations on the future of science’, Stewart Brand draws upon five of writer Kevin Kelly’s five key points about the next 100 years of science (2010). Now, let me just preface this blog by saying that science is most certainly not my forte. By some strange miracle I was put in the Advanced Science class in high school, but it did not take long for my teacher to realize that I could hardly distinguish between a test tube and a Bunsen burner. Nevertheless, I will use Kelly’s musings about the fate of science (in relation to the emergence of new technologies) as an entry point to this mystifying topic.

Kelly’s first point is ‘There will be more change in the next 50 years of science than in the last 400 years.’ Wait, really? I mean, it seems unlikely that four centuries worth of scientific innovation could be condensed into just 50 years. But, by the same token we are living in a time where we are constantly bombarded with new advancements across all disciplines. I would suspect the dominance of technology in the 21st century would be the main culprit behind the now rapidly transforming nature of science. Kelly goes on to confirm this suspicion in the rest of his points. Clearly, we are science soul mates.

Kelly is an advocate of ‘Quantified Self’, a collaborative self-tracking website that demonstrates the unrelenting bond between science and the virtual.

Point two is ‘This will be a century of biology.’ Yeah, I’ll give him that one. I’ve always considered Biology to be the easiest domain of science, as compared to Chemistry or Physics. I’m not sure why this is, but Kelly attributes the dominance of Biology to the fact that it has ‘the most ethical importance, and the most to learn.’ He says other things too, but these made the most sense to me. Biology encompasses the way all living organisms function, down to their structure, function and evolution. Understanding these things are vital in learning how to approach human health issues.

Kelly also states ‘Computers will keep leading to new ways of science.’ Fair call, Kelly. But it’s not just computers in their traditional desktop or laptop form that will prove to be powerful in transforming the nature of science. So far, we will have already been exposed to technologies including smart phones, Ipads, Kindles and social networking platforms, all of which encourage the practice of open source publishing. This enables scientists to access and build upon the ideas of other likeminded people, constantly leading to new advancements.

The fourth point is ‘New ways of knowing will emerge.’ Kelly here provides the example of wikiscience and distributed instrumentation. If wikiscience is what we have come up with by 2012, who knows what other forms of cost-efficient forms of scientific collaboration will emerge in the next 100 years?

‘Science will create new levels of meaning’ is Kelly’s final point via Brand. Pretty much a concise summary of what has already been said. Kelly also suggests that the internet as a machine will likely surpass the human brain in terms of efficiency and complexity. I’m going to have to agree with this, as I feel that the internet in all it’s forms is and will continue to be the cornerstone of our modern lives. Furthermore, this continual governance of the virtual will have an extremely positive on all scientific fields.

Reading Kelly’s article inspired me to revist the Quantified Self website. I had checked out this online the website earlier in the course, but had forgotten just how useful the resource will be in the development of my final assignment. Quantified Self focuses on ‘knowledge through numbers’ and there are several posts that relate specifically to diet and exercise tracking projects.

Reference List

Kelly, Kevin (2010) ‘Evolving the Scientific Method: Technology is changing the way we conduct science’, The Scientist <http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57831/>

Quantified Self (2012) <http://quantifiedself.com/

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