Looking to the Future

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JP Bio PhotoDr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor, www.BusinessThinker.com

Presented at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

We in the USA are blessed to have a large number of Universities that have intellectual environments of remarkable creativity – generated by the synergy among world-class programs in science, engineering, and management together with extraordinary programs in the arts, humanities, architecture, and the social sciences. This provides an ideal educational setting in the first decade of the 21st century. Our faculties, students, staff, and graduates will most likely make breakthrough discoveries and redraw the intellectual map in areas that will define the quality of our future. We will bring our talents to bear on the toughest challenges and most exciting opportunities before us. We will reinvent ourselves and our institutions, along the way.

The future – of science, society, and universities themselves will depend on how these Universities respond to the following:

  • First, the end of science is nowhere in sight. Indeed, we stand at the brink of many new scientific adventures. Understanding the brain and the mind, for instance, will be one of the most profound and productive scientific ventures in the years to come – one that will have great implications for maximizing human potential and for living long and living well.
  • The strength of economies, regions, and nations will be determined in large measure by technological and organizational innovation. This innovation must be built upon a foundation of new research in science, engineering, and management.
  • Humankind’s advances will depend increasingly on new integrative approaches to complex systems, problems, and structures. Design, synthesis, and synergy across traditional disciplinary boundaries will be essential elements of both education and research. Engineering, for example, will provide instruments and techniques to facilitate the rapid advancement of the biological and physical sciences. Biology and physics, in turn, will create revolutionary new approaches to engineering and production, as well as to health care.
  • Research universities will grow in importance as the primary source of fundamental research and scholarship in the United States.
  • The need for leaders to solve the complex problems of the modern world requires a new paradigm for the research university itself – one in which industry, academia, and governments work together in effective partnership. For example, the quality of our environment, the sustainability of economies, and the efficient use of our material and energy resources, will depend upon sound scientific and engineering knowledge leading to action by all three partners.
  • The flow of information will be instantaneous and ubiquitous, as the technology, applications, and benefits of computer, information, and intelligence sciences evolve, expand, and become more central still to human activities.
  • Information technology will dramatically alter learning and working. Many faculty will change their teaching role from one of lecturing to one of shaping and guiding the use of electronically-available information. They will lead team efforts in both campus-based and electronic communities.
  • Still, the residential campus experience will remain the best and most important form of education of our most talented youth.
  • Our security and quality of life will require that all people work together to form a coherent, productive society, built on common values as well as rich diversity. This will not occur unless it is fostered within our schools and universities

Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
The role of the humanities, arts, and social sciences has expanded in recognition that these are essential intellectual and cultural components of the creative spirit and ethos of education and scholarship at our universities and particularly at our technological institutes such as MIT. The humanities and social science faculty have played leadership roles in extending the global reach of many of the programs and in broadening the perspectives and expertise needed to engineer, manage, and set policy. MIT’s world-renowned strengths in economics and linguistics continued to build and evolve. Writing and the performing arts have continually expanded their importance and, in addition, have played a notable role in developing an appreciation of the role of diversity in living and learning. The visual arts have evolved in new directions and have expanded their strength and centrality in our institutions.

New Innovation Systems Will Come From New Partnerships
We need to establish a strong new innovation system for these times, as we did in the past. One way to do so is for universities to establish new partnerships with industry. An example is MIT’s Leaders for Manufacturing Program. This is a program in which a group of American industries have joined with MIT to build research and educational programs that are providing new approaches to the practice of manufacturing while preparing students who have both the technical and managerial expertise to lead tomorrow’s manufacturing industries. Inventing more such partnerships will allow us to capture the benefits of new ideas on the horizon. The University of Michigan has organized similar activities and centers of excellence.

Many emerging areas of research hold real promise for significant economic and social benefit. Examples are the brain and cognitive sciences, information technology, environmental technology, and biotechnology.

In the brain and cognitive sciences, for example, we can look forward to the day when advances in these fields will offer respite and even cures for mental illnesses, in much the same way that research in molecular biology has led to dramatic progress in the fight against a host of physical diseases. Such advances will provide the real path to reducing the social and economic costs of health care.

Fulfilling these promises requires support of the research that takes place in universities, to be sure, but it also requires the participation of industry in transferring the research results from the laboratory to the economy. Long term success also requires active involvement and appropriate support for industry and academia from our state government. In sum, new partnerships in new fields hold the key to our economic vitality.


Following are the Institutions and Persons with whom I have had discussions and
worked with in committees and advisory boards:

In preparing this presentation I have borrowed liberally form Chuck Vest’s writings.

University of Michigan: James Duderstadt, Lee Bollinger, Mary Sue Coleman,
Gilbert Whitaker, Joe White, Panos Papalambros, Robert Boyland, Karen Wolff

MIT: Paul Gray, Charles (Chuck) Vest, Warren Rohsenow, Nam Suh, George Hatsopoulos

Carnegie Mellon University: Richard Cyert, Herbert Simon, Bernard Goldsmith

Eastern Michigan University: John Porter, Stewart (Stu) Tubbs, David Mielke

Michigan State University: M. Peter McPherson

City of Ann Arbor: James Stephenson, Gerald Jernigan, Ingrid Sheldon

State of Michigan: James Blanchard, John Engler, Gary Owen

Kellogg Foundation: John Daly

PAIDEIA Foundation: Antigoni Kefalogiannis

Industrial Technology Institute: Board Members

Michigan Manufacturers Association: Board members

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