2019-20 Topic Vote
Participants are encouraged to vote for their top choice of topics in each strand (Business/Economics, Science/Technology, and Social/Political) and two additional topics regardless of strand.Please read the descriptors for the fifteen topic choices and then voice your opinion! Voting is open until April 14, 2017.
The costs of medicine and healthcare are prohibitively expensive in some nations around the world. In business, commoditization is the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes (uniqueness or brand, for example). Quality medical treatment has become unattainable commodities or goods for consumers. In the world of health care, high costs are attributable to non-transparency of cost, indirect delivery (insurance), powerful lobbying by doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical institutions, and insurance company interests. Though science continues to push us forward, the human population is severely limited by the process and infrastructure already in place, preventing commoditization. Could it be that only “silicon valley type” innovation and advances in medicine to open markets are the way to bring costs down and accessibility to consumers? In many industries, improved technology brings down costs of implementation, but it is rarely true in the medical world. Can we bring factory floor type efficiency to medical delivery? Should medicine be considered a commodity?
Every human being has basic needs that require them to consume food and to find certain essentials, such as shelter and clothing, to survive. Consumerism describes a continued desire to acquire goods and services in ever-greater and higher quality amounts. People are bombarded by advertising and media images that encourage consumption and often offer instant gratification. In fact, the present trend of consumption throughout the world is often a subject of controversy in light of the world's limited supply of natural resources and disparities in wealth and development. Waste from production and packaging for consumer goods is a major problem globally, impacting both environments and cultures negatively. Capitalists say increased consumption leads to greater economic benefits, growth and recovery. But, what happens when people are driven to borrow beyond their means to consume more? Would policies that discourage consumption have negative effects on the economy like job loss and decreased wages? Do the positives of consumerism out-weight the negatives for our future?
Modern transportation technology makes it easier and faster than ever before to get from one country to another. The cost of traveling between countries can be very expensive, though. Concerns about terrorism have also led to tougher requirements and screening processes for crossing borders and can cause increased travel times as individuals are forced through screenings. Soon, passports may include biometric information in microchips embedded in the documents. This could make them machine-readable but could drive up costs even more. Some experts believe that that communication technology like Skype may begin to replace in-person travel. How will the time and expense associated with travel impact the future of international travel and tourism?
Nearly ½ of the world’s population (more than 3 billion people) live in poverty. Of those 3 billion people, 1.3 live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 per day. Throughout the world, there continues to be an ongoing poverty crisis. Across the globe, many people struggle to obtain possessions or hold onto family heirlooms as they are forced to travel to other places or countries to find work and support their families. Due to poverty, many have sacrificed a right to education; some parents suffer from malnutrition so that their children can have more food. Children in severe poverty are often orphaned or sent away because their parents cannot afford to care for them. Healthy foods can be more expensive; therefore, significant portions of the population depend on cheap, unhealthy foods to sustain their lives. Those living in extreme poverty also have limited access to clean water, basic medical supplies, and adequate shelter. What can be done globally to assist those making extreme sacrifices due to poverty? How can we reverse this trend in order to decrease poverty sacrifices for future generations?
The four-minute mile was first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister, but because of improved running surfaces and shoes, the four-minute mile is now a standard for professional runners. Scientists remind us that we are not becoming superhuman; our sports equipment and technology allow us to reach new levels with better gear, nutrition, and data analysis for improved training. With growing financial support for professional sports and an increase in collegiate student athletes, there are more athletes than ever before. In the future, sports may continue to evolve using body enhancement, technology, virtual play, and new frontiers. In his spacesuit, Alan Shepard took some golf swings with a club he had smuggled aboard the Apollo 14. Lunar golf is only the beginning.
Sports enthusiasts question whether mandated limitations should preserve old records. Will legalized body enhancements for a competitive edge be harmful? Will artificial selection, for height and muscles, affect genetics?
Insects – human’s best friends and worst enemies. We are surrounded by more than a million species of insects. Without them, humankind couldn’t survive. Some insects destroy crops and carry diseases. Others do essential jobs like pollinate blossoms, aerate soil, decompose dead plant material, or eat other harmful insects, making them essential to the food web. The numbers of bees around the world have been radically reduced due to disease. Mosquitoes, which carry diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Ross River virus, Zika and West Nile viruses, kill and maim more people each year than any other animal. As weather patterns and temperatures change, the distribution and habitat of many insect species are likely to change dramatically. Over 1,900 insect species have been identified as suitable for human consumption and animal feed and could assure food security. With possibilities like entomophagy (eating insects) and entomotherapy (using insects in medicines), we cannot ignore the importance of insects in the world. How does the reduction of some species and relocation of others impact health, agriculture, and horticulture? Will insects and their products, such as genetically modified mosquitoes or manuka honey help to fight diseases? Will toasted grubs, fried crickets and other edible insects become important global protein choices?
3D printing of human organs is under development today, as well as growing human ears and other parts on mice. Many people are also exploring natural remedies as an alternative to chemical treatments. Light is also being used to heal major injuries of soldiers and airmen. EEG is also being investigated as a possible cure for major head trauma. Surgeons have also successfully operated on people without anesthetics by reducing their body temperatures down to virtual freezing point, with fewer side effects following the surgery and quicker recovery times. Hypnotism has also been used to keep patients conscious during brain surgery. Surgeons are also able to perform operations through robotic interface, e.g. a surgeon in Auckland (NZ) could be operating a robot in Buenos Aires (Argentina) to remove a brain tumor. How will this affect how people are treated for different medical conditions?
Rising Sea Levels
Rising sea levels are threatening nearly all the coastlines in the world, forcing governments to start thinking about how they are going to manage when the water levels encroach on cities, farmland and nature reserves. This will also affect plant growth and animal survival, forcing the ecosystems to adapt or die. Rainfall will increase, causing more floods and extreme damage inland. People will become climate refugees, moving to higher ground, which will also put added pressure on resources. How will they produce food on less land? How will people adapt to new cultures if they have to move to new countries? (Nauru would be completely underwater, as it is only 1.5m above sea level.) Would all countries be prepared to accept these climate refugees when they know that they are also going to be pressed for space for their own people and for food supplies for both groups?
Approximately one-third of our lives is spent sleeping. Lack of sleep can affect the brain’s ability to function, especially in memory, language, and emotional balance. The physical effects include fatigue, stress, susceptibility to colds, and health problems like heart disease and obesity. People once thought sleep was a time for the body to shut down. In 1929, the invention of the electroencephalogram enabled scientists to record brain activity and see the dynamic changes during sleep, and today, smart phones can measure sleep habits and movements to wake you at the best possible time in the morning. As we age, our sleep patterns change, and seniors have a harder time falling and staying asleep. The sleeping pills industry has over two billion dollars of yearly sales, yet 40% of Americans aren't getting adequate sleep, which many people blame on artificial lighting, technology, and busy schedules.
Have over-scheduled lives disrupted natural circadian and sleep patterns of students and working adults? Will scientists discover more about the genes that enable functionality with less sleep? Can the benefits of sleep be replicated? What new technology will be available to help people monitor and adjust brain wave activity during sleep?
Scientists have theorized geo-engineering the Sahara desert into a lush forest. Terraforming, which means Earth-shaping, is the hypothetical process of modifying the atmosphere, temperature, surface, or ecology of a planet, moon, or region to make it habitable. In the event that Earth is endangered or overpopulated, Mars is the most common candidate for planetary terraforming, but Carl Sagan also proposed the seeding of Venus with algae, which would convert water, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide into organic compounds. The temperature would then drop to habitable conditions. Alternatively, the "worldhouse" concept involves the construction of enclosures on another planet. Man has only explored space, but what is the future of designing habitats on other planets?
Unanswered questions include the ethics, logistics, funding, and politics of altering the environment of another world. Is terraforming necessary for the preservation of the human race or is it interference with nature?
As the world becomes more global and interconnected via telecommunications, contact with people who are different from one another other occurs more frequently. Situations often arise within personal relationships when people with dissimilar goals values, beliefs, and needs have conflict. Needs, interests, viewpoints and ideals impact people’s perceived differences though they may be interconnected. These misconceptions can be detrimental to the relationship and could result in intense personal animosity or aggression. Conflict is not necessarily always a bad thing, as long as it is resolved effectively. Conflict can lead to personal, professional, or political growth globally. Effective conflict resolution in most cases can make the difference between positive and negative outcomes. Ineffective strategies for conflict resolution can lead to a vicious downward spiral in social relationships. What can conflict resolution achieve? Can it help maintain teamwork? Can it protect talent from being wasted due to disengagement? What methods, skills or procedures does one need to develop as we become more connected and inter-dependent so that conflicts can be resolved for people to successfully co-exist? Can conflict resolution be achieved across a variety of cultures, beliefs, and values?
Many regions of the world are experiencing major changes in their demographics as a result of population growth patterns, diversity in terms of age, ethnicity, religions, skills sets and educational diversity. Some countries will see increase in population, while others may experience decreases. The United Nations projects that working-age population will decline. Longer lifespans and declining fertility, automation and immigrant intake from poorer countries and more women in the workforce also affect demographics. What will be the impact on economic growth? Should countries need to come up with proactive policies to cope with demographic changes? Many innovative companies are already tapping into the growing diversity of their workforce in terms of gender, geography and age .Over the years immigration will account for most of the diversified population growth and workforce. Political disenfranchisement and natural disasters have lead to the displacement of people from their homes. Can the young, fast-growing populations concentrated in lower-income countries contribute to the global growth predominantly generated in higher-income countries? Can freer cross-border flows of trade, investment and people help manage global demographic imbalances? Will host countries harness the contributions of displaced persons or not?.
The world becomes a board game through gamification, the use of game applications in real-life. Tasks that would not normally seem like fun--work, school, and even household chores--could be managed by a scorekeeping application where "players" win points, rewards, or team competitions by completing designated tasks. One of the largest Applebee's restaurant franchises recently implemented a gamification system to help servers sell new menu items and learn about workplace safety. Gamification helps users focus on tasks that would normally be boring, and the process could be applied to fields such as customer loyalty, education, health and recreation, job training, self-improvement, household chores, and fundraising and activism.
Will blurring the line between reality and gaming isolate users? Will players truly engage with the material or task, and if not, will the task be completed correctly? What are some of the ethical implications for the future, particularly privacy?
Internal Environmentalism: Body Toxicity
Everything we eat comes in contact with chemicals. Consumers buy organic, try sustainable living, or detox, but chemicals escape into the food supply and into our internal systems. Environmental destruction like deforestation and pollution gained media attention in 1970 with the adoption of Earth Day, and most people respect the environment; however, consumers remain unaware about their own internal environments. Toxicity originates not only from foods but business practices, technology, infrastructure, and consumerism. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan brought notoriety to lead contamination, but most people ignore the safety of environmental factors like running water, air, and food.
The Lancet Neurology, an international medical journal, linked the rise of neurological disabilities like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia with industrial chemicals and published a list of chemicals known to injure developing brains. They predict that more neurotoxins remain undiscovered. To combat the pandemic of neurotoxicity requires a global prevention strategy to test chemicals for long-term effects. Yet the search is vast when the United States imports or manufactures 40 billion pounds of chemicals every day.
When natural substances like caffeine, salt, and yeast are sometimes called toxins, how we will know what substances are problematic? Who will organize testing and regulation of chemicals?
New World Order
Does New World Order (NWO) simply mean a transformation of today’s world or is it more than that? It is thought to be the “global elite using various and any tactics to drive the world into a “weighted global national security state, one that justifies the invasion of other countries…” NWO propagators can manipulate human emotions, especially fear, to create the “Problem” by financing and training groups to stimulate discord in political establishments. These are further heightened by propaganda to provoke reaction. Then the “Solution” is presented. Is the human suffering and loss of innocent lives a non-issue for NWO?
The NWO is also dominated by international bankers, cartels, major multinational corporations and international agencies. The acquisition of greater wealth, natural resources, and political power and motivate the NWO leaders’ decisions.
There are more systemically relevant companies than countries. Money as in Forex trading and off shore accounts appears more important than citizenship.Many of the world’s most powerful brands transcend their national origin—as do their commercial ambitions.
Cloud communities are growing, and with them, crowd-financed virtual and real-world activities, recruitment of militants and self-organized revolutions to serve particular agendas. Will capitalism and technology accelerate the rise of non-state authorities which, through virtual connectivity, create more allegiance and loyalties than governments?