I've had the pleasure of many chats inspired by Esther Dyson's Tusd night presentation at the IT/Software Development Execs Meetup.  The session was mostly driven by questions from the audience, and given Esther's broad experiences, the questions ranged from Russia to Mars and everywhere in-between. [caption id="attachment_621" align="aligncenter" width="183" caption=""][/caption] My takeaway is that many of Esther's investments and activities are about opportunity: personal access to your genetic data, space travel, light sport aircraft, transparency in government (and everywhere else).  In each case bringing capabilities or actions down to the rest of us from their more lofty, less accessible, beginnings. With opportunities come responsibility and the need for good judgment.  From my role as a professor, I wonder if our education is keeping pace with our opportunities.  If it's not, what should we be doing to push education as hard as we are pushing science and engineering? For example, 23andMe believes that we should each have and control our own genetic information.  You send them a spit sample and they analyze your DNA and post it to your account.  They will support you in its interpretation, store the data, and share it with researchers as you direct.  From their website:

We encourage dialogue on the ethical, social and policy implications of personalized genetic services.

We recognize that the availability of personal genetic information raises important issues at the nexus of ethics, law, and public policy. 23andMe is committed to fostering open dialogue with a full spectrum of stakeholders. In areas where new policies are needed to protect the public interest, we will engage directly with decision-makers to contribute our unique expertise and perspective.
Sounds perfect to me.  Now the rest of us have to do our part to make good decisions. Santa Clara University has instituted a Science, Technology, and Society requirement for graduation.  I'm preparing an undergraduate course titled Managing with the Internet for Small & Medium-Size Enterprises.  In each session we will look at a particular management activity (e.g., hiring, knowledge management via social networking, etc.) through three lenses:
  1. What is the research supporting particular forms of this activity?  How was that research conducted and can we believe it?
  2. What are the technology opportunities for supporting this activity?  How does the underlying technology actually work?  For example, is it true that I can have one giant database in the sky (the cloud) and have instantaneous access to our production data (ans: depends on what you mean by instantaneous, the laws of physics apply to the speed of data transfer).  How are search algorithms optimized? Are my searches working the way I think they should?  How and why were design decisions made, how can users adapt the design and influence future designs?
  3. How do the practice and technology decisions I make intertwine to predict my outcomes?
My goal is to help the students develop good judgment.  My belief is that good judgment is built on a solid foundation of knowledge and a deep understanding of the interrelationships between social and technical effects on design, adoption, implementation, and use. I'm fortunate in that I have the opportunity to hold a class on these topics.  What other learning opportunities exist such that we can all take advantage of the opportunities Esther's companies are providing?  She's posted her genome and medical records on-line.  Her decision process was well informed and thoughtful. How can we all become as well informed around the vast array of decisions we now have the opportunity to make?