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The New Polytechnic: Collaboration and Leadership Across Disciplines and Sectors to Address Urgent Global Challenges

Presented by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Royal Academy ERA Foundation Lecture
Prince Philip House, 3 Carlton House Terrace
London, England

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rensselaer News Release


The 2012 Summer Olympics were a triumph, especially because the event held great potential for both danger and controversy—security guard shortages, air defenses, eligibility and doping, women and the hijab, appropriate national flag display, technology issues, and more—all of them examples of multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities. Despite these challenges, this complex, multifaceted event came off smoothly, thanks to strong leadership, and extensive collaboration across disciplines, professions, and the government, corporate, and nonprofit sectors.

The urgent, global concerns that we face in the 21st century, and beyond, are even more complex and even more subject to intersecting vulnerabilities. These challenges—access to clean water, food security, energy security, environmental stewardship, health security, and disease mitigation, to delineate a few—will take all that we have in terms of ingenuity, collaboration, and good judgment.

These are challenges of unprecedented magnitude, too complex to be resolved by the independent actions of those working in isolation. Because they are critical to our world, and to the ultimate survival of humankind, they demand the best of our imagination and creativity, careful deliberation, tremendous resourcefulness, and the strictest focus and discipline.

How are we best to approach these global challenges? What new methods can we employ that will result in workable solutions?

THE NEW POLYTECHNIC

To meet these demands we must engage an entirely New Polytechnic—a construct that I will explore with you today.

Now, the term “polytechnic” may sound different to your ears than to those of us across the Atlantic. The concept, as I use it today, is far more expansive than vocational training, and while it includes engineering, it reaches far beyond any single discipline.

I define the New Polytechnic as an entirely fresh collaborative endeavor merging across a multiplicity of disciplines, sectors, and global regions. It is animated by new technologies and tools—high performance computing, is an example—applied in new ways, with input from Big Data, amplified by new platforms such as the Semantic Web, probed by advanced analytics, and guided by societal concerns and ethics. Engaged in by a broad spectrum of participants, the New Polytechnic ultimately will facilitate novel and effective approaches to global challenges.

The New Polytechnic enables collaboration at a deeper, more fluent level than ever before. It can help us to re-envision possibilities and clear away barriers on a vast scale.

Although the New Polytechnic is “new,” it has ancient roots.

John Henry Cardinal Newman set us on a propitious path, more than 150 years ago, when he stated, “all knowledge forms one whole.” In the nine lectures that became his timeless classic, “The Idea of a University,” Cardinal Newman extolled the knowledge continuum to advocate for the unity of academic disciplines, through the lens of the seven liberal or “liberating arts” of the medieval university. These were the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), and the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy). He used this perspective as the basis for reorganizing and delineating academic disciplines in a way that opened new venues for research and for pedagogy.

His perspective went beyond today’s limited view of the liberal arts as incorporating only the humanities, the arts, history, and social sciences—to include the natural sciences and mathematics. He made a point of saying, “the systematic omission of any one science from the catalogue prejudices the accuracy and completeness of our knowledge altogether, and that, in proportion to its importance.” Cardinal Newman understood that it was through bringing disciplines together that the new might be created, novel areas explored, and fresh solutions developed. His was, and is, a comprehensive, even radical, view. The New Polytechnic springs from his unified knowledge thesis. It will give us a surer hand in confronting and mitigating today’s pressing issues.

As the Royal Academy of Engineering prepares for its March Summit on Global Grand Challenges, I expect you are cognizant that the urgent global challenges not only have intersecting vulnerabilities, but, also, cascading consequences and unacceptable risks. 

Let us look, for a moment, at some of them.

From my own experience, I know that safety in the nuclear power arena has been enhanced greatly by Probabilistic Risk Assessment—a detailed and systematic analysis and evaluation of interconnected systems and operations in a nuclear power station. One cannot assess risk in a nuclear station merely on a component-by-component basis, nor by having experts examine individual systems, in isolation from one another, without knowledge of their interactions, or without understanding how people interface with technology. There is connectedness of the systems in nuclear power stations, and connectedness of the people with the systems, which can lead to cascading effects in the case of a triggering event.

As we have learned over the years, the correct estimation of the magnitude and likelihood of a disaster, and how to mitigate it, can be made only when the perspectives and knowledge of experts from a variety of disciplines and sectors are brought together. If not, there can be cascading consequences.

We regularly get reminders of what can happen.

Super Storm Sandy in the United States, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the extreme heat waves in Europe in 2003 and 2010 are examples.

The earthquake-induced tsunami resulted in extensive damage to the nuclear power reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi site, wrecked infrastructure and homes, contaminated the environment, threatened human health and food safety, disrupted manufacturing and supply chains, shifted capital, and, consequently, had extensive economic impact across the world.

Super Storm Sandy devastated extensive areas of the New York and New Jersey coastlines, and flooded much of lower Manhattan. This has prompted far-reaching discussion of how—or whether—to rebuild private homes and to protect public infrastructure against future storms—and, of course, how to pay for it.

The two European heat waves, unlike any experienced in the previous 500 years, were blamed for thousands of deaths and led to health crises, fires, and drought which created crop shortfalls, and negatively impacted national gross domestic product.

A New Polytechnic approach can help us to assess, evaluate, understand, and mitigate the effects of any future occurrences, and to address the grand challenges of this century. We have seen bursts of inspired inter-and-multidisciplinary integration before.

An example hails from the 19th century at the university where I serve as President. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute did not, at its outset, include polytechnic in its name. This designation came only after one of its senior professors and, later, Director of Rensselaer, Benjamin Franklin Greene, toured Europe and saw the advantage of an education that incorporated multiple disciplines. In particular, he saw the value of deepening engineering students’ understanding of the sciences, so that they could do more than just faithfully reproduce or merely extend prior art. He proposed a new curriculum, putting scientific thinking at the core, and added “polytechnic” to the Rensselaer name. He wanted students to study science, literature, philosophy, rhetoric, and the arts as a foundation for developing more technical knowledge and skills. This undergirds our curriculum today.

With these changes, students could use emerging knowledge of the sciences, mathematics, and the arts to innovate in engineering. The design and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is a wonderful example of the thinking engendered by this kind of education. The work was guided by Rensselaer alumnus, and chief engineer of the project, Washington A. Roebling and his wife, Emily Warren Roebling. In his inspired work, engineering and the sciences came together to innovate better bridge support structures—pneumatic caissons and wire cables spun in situ. The bridge, also, is appreciated for its beauty, which was aligned with its engineering design.

You may be familiar with the diaspora of scientists—many of them physicists—at the close of the Manhattan Project—the great research program involving the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, which produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. At the close of the Project, some of these talented and skilled researchers and academics brought their tools and rigor to new research, where they did foundational work in the life sciences and biochemistry.

I will highlight two who crossed scientific disciplinary boundaries:

When he joined the Manhattan Project, English physicist Maurice Wilkins had been working on spectrographic separation of uranium isotopes for use in bombs. His later research contributed to the scientific understanding of DNA, and, with Francis Crick and James Watson, he won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Martin Kamen, a Canadian born American physicist and chemist with the Manhattan Project, helped to discover Carbon-14, and is credited with discoveries in biochemistry leading to the understanding of plant photosynthesis and metabolism. He won the Enrico Fermi Award in 1996.

Cardinal Newman would not have been surprised.

Let me amplify this further with examples from a few current and important realms of endeavor—biotechnology, as well as infrastructure, and social cognitive networks.

BIOTECHNOLOGY

In the U.S., if not globally, medicine and biomedical research are at the center of a storm of economic and social concerns. We, already, are seeing how genomics, artificial organs, embedded sensors, and expert systems are transforming medical care and treatment. Emerging interdisciplinary research, and startling new technologies are bringing disruptive change—and hope.

In October 2004 in Afghanistan, a mortar exploded, and a U.S. Marine Corporal (Isaias Hernandez) was nearly ripped apart by shrapnel, which tore away seventy percent of the muscle in his right thigh, and fractured his femur. Corporal Hernandez endured four years of surgeries and physical therapy—to little effect, until he met Dr. Stephen Badylak of the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh (U.S.), who cut open (once again) the Corporal’s thigh, and applied a new gel-based therapy—an extracellular matrix—derived from pig bladders.

As you may know, the extracellular matrix fills the space around the body’s cells. It contains hormones, structural proteins, and other molecules that maintain cell function and health, mediate inter-cellular communication, and, importantly, guide tissue growth. After about six weeks, the implanted gel mixture spurred the growth of muscle tissue, tendons, and vasculature, and, with it, restored physical strength to the marine’s thigh.

Dr. Badylak does not entirely understand how the extracellular matrix works. But, what is known is this: it becomes part of the existing tissue; it draws stem cells to the implant location; it shifts the body’s immune response from rejection to reconstruction. By recruiting the body’s own stem cells and putting them to work, the extracellular matrix obviates the need for controversial and difficult stem cell implants. Think of it as a kind of biological catalyst. The work I have described is part of a U.S. government-supported regenerative medicine research program at the University of Pittsburgh.

The work draws upon a multiplicity of disciplines including biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, tissue engineering, drug discovery, and health informatics.

Rensselaer faculty, in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, are engaged in similar multidisciplinary research, deriving breakthroughs in the use of adult stem cells, understanding the role of the extracellular matrix in cell signaling and tissue regeneration, developing enzyme-based coatings that kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on contact, bioengineering synthetic heparin, understanding how to mitigate the role of both H and N proteins in flu virus transmission, modeling of the role of hemodynamics in heart disease, developing powerful new approaches to medical imaging from multiple sources, and much more.

These breakthroughs come from research at the intersection of the life sciences with engineering, the physical and computational sciences—what we might call a “medical polytechnic” approach.

The work of Robert S. Langer, an engineer and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a consummate example. His activities are anchored in biomedical engineering, but, by reaching into areas such as nanotechnology, tissue regeneration, drug delivery, and business—and collaborating across sectors—he has created innovations that have been awarded more than 800 patents, built the largest biomedical engineering laboratory in the world, founded or co-founded more than two dozen businesses, and provided hope and better health for patients worldwide. Dr. Langer is a recipient of both the U.S. National Medal of Technology and the U.S. National Medal of Science. He, also, is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. He is the most cited engineer in history.

Nor does interdisciplinarity stop with the examples cited. Today’s medical school graduates may be the first generation of doctors to include an entity with artificial intelligence on their teams. Watson, the computer that beat out the best human contestants on the American television quiz show Jeopardy!, was designed by Rensselaer graduate Dr. David Ferrucci and his colleagues at IBM. The social, cognitive, and computer sciences came together to create Watson. Now IBM is adding medical science to the mix. They have sent Watson to “medical school” (at the Cleveland Clinic) to absorb all existing medical knowledge, and to use that knowledge to derive data-driven answers to numerous medical questions. This takes health informatics to a new level of sophistication.

All of these developments in biomedicine and more, will help us to address global disease mitigation and health security in entirely novel ways.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Another example of the New Polytechnic is aimed at the development of sustainable built environments and civil infrastructure.

Buildings account for more than a third of the total energy consumption in the U.S., and nearly forty percent of its carbon production. As construction increases exponentially in emerging economies, it is especially urgent to accelerate the pace of architectural innovation, through the use of sustainable materials, and cost-effective, energy efficient technologies.

At Rensselaer, the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) is addressing this need with radically new, next-generation building systems. CASE is a multi-institutional and professional research collaboration between the university and the globally focused architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. CASE is pushing the boundaries of environmental performance in urban building systems using actual building projects as research test beds. Natural systems and emerging technologies are brought together, with stunning design, to create structures which include integrated and distributed on-site energy harvesting, transformation, storage and redistribution; bio-mechanical air filtration; and dynamic day-lighting systems.

Researchers at CASE are developing a building-integrated photovoltaic system which takes a dramatically different approach to providing interior space with electrical power, thermal energy, enhanced daylighting, and reduced solar gain. It surpasses existing building-integrated photovoltaic or concentrating photovoltaic technologies, and is applicable to both retrofits and to new construction. The system integrates into facades and atria, harvesting solar energy, while still providing outside views and diffuse daylight. It accomplishes this by miniaturizing and distributing the essential components of concentrating photovoltaic technology within weather-sealed windows. Electricity is produced by an array of photovoltaic cells. Much of the remaining solar energy is captured as usable heat, reducing interior solar gain loads, and loads on HVAC systems, while daylighting reduces the need for artificial lighting.

Research at CASE combines materials science and engineering, architectural design, and the aggregation and analysis of data from embedded sensors—to provide feedback for optimal building performance. The work is complex. Developing even one dynamic solar façade to maximize solar energy use requires the input of as many as thirty individual disciplines including physics, optical engineering, mechanical engineering, and lighting.

The research results in new, performance-driven building technologies that create clean, self-sustaining built environments, and help to meet environmental stewardship and energy security needs.

WEB SCIENCE AND SOCIAL COGNITIVE NETWORKS

What these examples progressively illustrate is the increasing importance of data-driven innovation. The explosive volume, timeliness, range, and fungibility of data are unprecedented, and contain an inherent interconnection, which has the potential for creating novel approaches to collaboration.

Today, we also have unprecedented capabilities in data access, aggregation, and analysis, and in high performance computation.

  • The Internet is the new library—with more information than any one individual can ingest;
  • Social networking leaves behind “digital crumbs” for us to follow and study;
  • Sensors and networks are embedded in everything from buildings to automobiles to cameras, to satellites, and are creating what often is referred to as the “Internet of Things.”

All of this produces trillions of bits of unstructured data, often in differing formats. The resultant collection of massive data sets, known as “Big Data,” is more accessible today and shared more widely than ever before. The ability to process that data in an efficient and relatively inexpensive way provides us with new bases for decision-making. It, also, brings data to more participants, and allows them to manipulate it to discover patterns heretofore invisible.

The U.S. Federal Government has opened many of its databases through a website called data.gov, which provides public access to high value, machine readable datasets. And yet, one could say that, concerning Big Data, we are still “pre-Web.” The World Wide Web is one huge “library,” but it has not yet provided uniform access to data. In a word, there is no Google for all data. Data comes in multiple forms—words, numbers, images. Moreover, although it is becoming a “new natural resource,” data, today, does not express relationships.

Data discoverability has been difficult, since one needs a consistent way to refer to data—a “data object identifier,” something like an RFID tag—that will endure as it is entered into a registry. Data tagging would identify its origins, history, context, rights, and much more. Even tags on database entries that identify whether numbers, once abstracted, are metric or English, often are lacking. We need better means to take what may be implicit in the data, and obvious in context, and make that explicit in its description. We, also, need to improve the credibility of information by automating processes that cross-reference and cross-check.

One remedy, the “Semantic Web,” is a collaborative movement led by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), --which includes a number of Rensselaer professors-- to promote common data formats on the World Wide Web. More broadly, the semantic web has been described as a mesh of information linked in such a way as to be easily processable by computers, themselves, on a global scale. The approach is based on semantic technology that encodes meanings separately from data in content files, and from application software. New Web-based architecture and ontologies, based on semantic technology, allow intelligent software agents to search for connections among different data—by semantic inference. One only can imagine what the impact will be, once this work is completed.

Digital connectivity, beyond the production of data, in and of itself, is leading to a whole new thrust that marries data, technology, and the social and cognitive sciences. The torrent of digital footprints from social networking is giving us a new ability to predict human interactions in a verifiable way. Researchers at the U.S. Army-sponsored Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer are studying fundamental social/cognitive network structures, and how they are mapped onto, and altered by, technology. The research strives to measure and model the interactions that people engage in over these networks, and, in the process, to uncover and foresee complex social patterns, and to understand how technology enhances or changes them. In particular, the Center studies: dynamic processes, the flow of knowledge, the workings of adversary networks, levels of trust (with particular attention to cultural nuance), and the impact of human error in social networks. The research can help us to understand social movements, the spread of corruption, or potential threat.

The very ubiquitousness of the Internet and its overall connectivity create vulnerabilities. The Internet was designed to provide broad access, which exposes it, and other linked networks, to security threats, such as malicious software, which can invade privacy, and damage business systems and control systems for critical infrastructure. Since the overall architecture of the World Wide Web, and the scale on which it exists, is difficult to change, there is a nascent discussion on novel approaches to software development, in order to detect, and protect, against malware. The idea is to replicate a living organism’s immune response to an invasive species.

All of these approaches suggest that a highlight of the New Polytechnic is that it can link the capabilities of advanced information technology, communications, and networking to other fields, such as the life sciences, the physical, social, cognitive, and computational sciences.

The success of the New Polytechnic demands, first, that people understand, and find ways to use, the capabilities inherent in Big Data and hyper-connectivity; and, second, that people better appreciate how social and cognitive demands influence the success of endeavors that use these capabilities.

The ability to aggregate, integrate, validate, structure, and fully use the burgeoning mass of information available portends a data-driven future, under a rubric I refer to as “Clouds, Crowds, Jams, and Data.” I have provided some detail on Data, in particular Big Data. Now I will describe the rest.

Cloud computing delivers data, software, and computing capability over a network—the Internet or a proprietary network—on platforms shared by multiple users. It is a virtual time-sharing environment.

The Cloud brings information and processing power to the mobile world, making it practical—for individuals in the field, or executives on the move—to access and to share vast amounts of information. It supports advanced visualization systems in which matrices of data from a variety of sources are put together in ways that allow them to be understood despite their complexity.

Crowdsourcing allows us to engage the expertise, perspectives, and enthusiasm of many people, including those who, previously, may not have had a voice in issues that may concern them. The process involves outsourcing a question, problem, or task to a (geographically) dispersed group of people, most of them unknown to each other. The good news is that Crowds can help to identify problems, suggest ideas, and assist in the execution of solutions.

Wikipedia provides a good illustration of the pluses and minuses of Crowdsourcing. While Wikipedia is a rich resource and a powerful starting point for research, Crowdsourcing means that a particular topic or entry in Wikipedia may be riddled with errors, despite the efforts of many who make corrections. Some errors may be ephemeral, others persistent. Some are added in good faith, others maliciously—and this raises concerns of trust and validation in an online world, a theme to which I will return.

Perhaps less familiar is the idea of the Jam, which, also, brings together dispersed, but often organizationally linked, participants to concentrate on a selected challenge over a short period of time. [You can think of it as Crowdsourcing where the participants typically have a shared background or more formal connection.] Working from shared data sets, propositions, and questions—within a carefully designed framework—experts and interested parties use online collaborative tools to share knowledge, express concerns, and brainstorm issues and solutions.

Although the approach embedded in the concept of “Clouds, Crowds, Jams and Data” marries high performance computing, immersive environments, augmented reality, social cognitive networks, on-line collaborative tools, semantic web platforms, and intelligent agents, all of this is not the full substance of the New Polytechnic.

The New Polytechnic unites the cognitive and social sciences, the physical and computational sciences, life science, psychology, sociology, the arts, history, language, linguistics, engineering, and more. As a construct rooted in what Cardinal Newman envisioned—that “all knowledge forms one whole”—it offers a powerful new tool for approaching pressing global challenges. This reaches beyond traditional research. It is leading edge, and its impact on the future will be far-reaching.

LEADERSHIP

Beyond theory and application, and the integration of tools and technology, how will the New Polytechnic impact leadership? It is early, yet, for real scholarship on the subject, but there are some things we can surmise.

New technologies always alter leadership. Leaders possess charisma—that elusive magnetism that attracts supporters and enables a leader to influence others. Research traces the advent of charisma directly to technology. Until sound could be amplified, leaders required thunderous speaking voices—something you notice when listening to early recordings of public speaking—they always seem to be shouting. The coming of radio marked a clear shift—people could speak more naturally, but had to be interesting, or listeners could change stations. With television, it became critical for leaders to exude the personal charisma we recognize in leaders today.

Of course, the timeless leadership characteristics remain: clear vision, well-articulated mission, goals, strategies. Leaders must inspire and motivate, offer support, be intellectually stimulating. They still must be exceptional listeners and questioners, and possess emotional intelligence. They must mine for trends, sense opportunities, judge risks, and communicate.

Effective use of advanced technological, collaborative platforms strongly suggests a shift beyond traditional leadership, both in process and in personal approach.

The New Polytechnic requires that leaders acquire new skills for a digitally interconnected environment, that they balance authority with engagement, understand nuances of culture and language, and seek new ways to establish trust among, within, and between virtual teams. With more diverse, digitally connected audiences—participants who may never before have had a voice, and may even be volunteers—and with less hierarchical dynamics, there will be concerns about trust on multiple levels. Leaders must recognize value in divergent perspectives and manage opposing expectations. And, they must accomplish all this in a virtual environment, where the leader may never look participants in the eye or shake their hands.

To bring people together, leaders, in this new context, must have the ability to “translate” between and among disciplines and sectors. They will need to incorporate analyses and insights from diverse fields—including the cognitive and social sciences—and bring this ability to bear on a given challenge.

I will add ethics to this list. In the face of unintended consequences and uneven impacts, leaders will need to be even more acutely sensitive to the implications of decisions. Leadership through social cognitive networks brings a greater need to balance security and profit with concerns of privacy and reputation. Consider the many perspectives that must be accounted for in the use of nuclear energy or genetically modified crops. A fundamental question, always, will be not merely can it be done, but should it be done.

Models are difficult to come by because the New Polytechnic is, after all, “new.” On the other hand, capable leadership in any era rests on identifiable characteristics and makes use of the technologies available at the time.

I reference a leader who—though he did not have access to the technologies of which we speak today—nevertheless offers a compelling model of character and abilities that apply to the New Polytechnic. He united profoundly diverse groups from vastly divergent cultures, languages, environments, and viewpoints. He found solutions to urgent vulnerabilities.

You may know this story, but it is worth retelling in the context of the New Polytechnic.

As the first democratically elected President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela sought to unite a nation riven by bitter and deadly racial animosity.

During the 27 years he spent in prison for militant anti-apartheid activities, he learned the language, culture, beliefs, and values of the fiercest apartheid proponents—his Afrikaner prison guards. That understanding, plus his personal optimism, dignity, diplomacy, sense of fairness, and grace, gave him profoundly effective tools.

Seeking national reconciliation early in his Presidency, President Mandela chose the unifying political power of sport.

In 1995, South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup, the first major sporting event held there following the end of apartheid, and the first in which the Springboks were allowed to play.

The team long had been the embodiment of white supremacy and oppression. Blacks detested the game, the primarily white team, and the green Springbok shirt. They routinely cheered the team’s opponents.

President Mandela carefully wooed leaders on all sides, persuading them to a role in unifying the nation, recruiting them to a new team slogan "One Team, One Country," and the notion that "the ‘Boks” belong to all of us now.” Springbok players learned to sing the old song of black resistance—“Nkosi Sikelele iAfrika” (“God Bless Africa”)—which had become the new national anthem. They sang it at the opening of each tournament game.

Although pundits predicted loss, the ‘Boks posted a string of play-off wins. South Africans of every color and political stripe increasingly became enamored with the team.

On the morning of the final game, President Mandela, wearing a green Springbok jersey and ball cap, stepped onto the pitch to shake hands with the team. After a stunned silence, the crowd at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium erupted in thunderous cheers. To top it off, the Springboks won the game in overtime sending the nation into joyous delirium.

President Mandela’s enduring message for us?—“Don’t address their brains. Address their hearts.”

It is impossible to characterize Nelson Mandela without superlatives. But for our purposes, today, his role in this—rooted in profound understanding of—and empathy for—all parties, with a 30,000-foot vision of national unity, with authority, political engagement, personal charisma, and willingness to risk—distills the essence of leadership genius.

I do not suggest that New Polytechnic leaders all will be involved in situations as perilous as those faced by Nelson Mandela. But his personal vision and characteristics should stand as important models and metrics for addressing the most urgent challenges of the 21st century. President Mandela led a “New Polytechnic” of his own, using the technologies available at the time. Imagine what miracles he might have achieved had he had access to the tools of today.

CONCLUSION

As we have seen, the New Polytechnic is an intellectual construct, a new way of thinking, a new way of doing.

It will impact research in powerful new ways. It will impact pedagogy -- as we enlist the next generations of students in this construct, and educate them to be leaders in the digital economy. The New Polytechnic will more fully utilize data -- in ever more sophisticated ways, while exploiting our ubiquitous inter-connectivity. In fact, the interconnectivity of people and things is generating massive amounts of data. To make sense of all that data requires us to exploit that very interconnectivity to collaborate in new ways. It requires us to break out of disciplinary silos, exploit new technological tools, employ high performance computing, data aggregation, and analytics— and, ultimately, to embrace Cardinal Newman’s concept of the “knowledge whole.”

To address access to clean water, food and energy security, health security and disease mitigation, and other urgent global challenges, the New Polytechnic—utilizing advanced technology to amalgamate a multiplicity of perspectives and disciplines—can lead to greater vision and deeper understanding, and is our best bet for assuaging the human hunger to know and to remedy, and the human desire for uplifted lives.

Thank you.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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