Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 6, 1997

Conducting Business

On Monday, Sept. 29, university President William R. Brody delivered the keynote address at Technite '97, a celebration of the innovative technology and information specialists that exist in the Greater Baltimore region.

As part of his presentation, Brody participated in a demonstration by Peabody Conservatory's Forrest Tobey, who has been developing a virtual conducting computer program.

Following the demonstration, Brody touched on many themes that are fundamental to his vision of the university:

When I became president of The Johns Hopkins University a year ago, I asked a committee of faculty to organize a symposium to consider the information revolution. Mario Marino, founder of Legent Corporation, one of the largest software companies in the world, delivered the keynote address.

Something he said that afternoon has stayed with me ever since.

He said, "Not only will the unimaginable happen, it will happen faster than you can imagine. Change," he said, "comes hardest to those with the deepest traditions."

Imagine how you would feel hearing those words if you were the brand new president of a 121-year-old institution; sitting on stage in academic robes that are essentially the same as they were in 1500; and celebrating the fact that you are part of a tradition that stretches back, literally, almost 1,000 years.

Change comes hardest to those with the deepest traditions.

Let's accept that bit of wisdom. Let's also agree that change is upon us--I think we all know this is so.

The inevitable conclusion is that for many of us--and not just university presidents--there are going to be some challenging and difficult times ahead.

I believe this is so, and I see it every day.

But change of this magnitude is not unprecedented. Two thousand, five hundred years ago, in Athens, Plato confronted the advent of a radical new technology: book publishing.

New technology demands new responses.

When Plato considered the book, he realized it meant, ultimately, the demise of the academy as he knew it. I emphasize those words: "as he knew it," for the academic enterprise did not end; nor will it end now.

But it will change.

The advent of the mass-produced book in 1500 did not end the schools then in existence. Just the opposite: in Western society, where the new technology was embraced, the new educational institutions mushroomed.

Modern universities owe their growth, their importance and their phenomenal staying power to their willingness to embrace this new technology, and to grow and develop with it.

Of the 85 institutions worldwide that have been in continuous operation since the year 1520--including institutions like the Catholic Church and the English Parliament--fully 70 of them are universities.

But now we are confronted with a new educational paradigm, one that is not yet fully explored or understood.

Many people underestimate the real meaning of this new technology of computers, the Internet and jelly beans. They believe that, in the future, everything done in schools today using blackboards and chalk, pen and paper, will still be done, only on computers instead. Computers, they think, are the electronic blackboards of the future.

They could not be more mistaken.

We are faced with something new and profoundly different. In the next several decades, we will need to use this new information technology to advance the science of education itself; to make learning more efficient, more effective, more universal and more easily available.

To do this, we will need to create entirely new paradigms of learning.

The virtual conductor I demonstrated earlier this evening represents a step in this direction. It is a rich interface between man and computer that allows teaching, discovery and creation to occur all at the same time.

This three-way confluence of discovery, learning and creation lies at the heart of the new educational paradigm.

Increasingly, computer-assisted education will be facilitated by simulation that will permit elaborate expression and interaction between man and machine.

Surgeons, for instance, might be trained using virtual reality simulations. At the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, chief radiologist Elias Zerhouni and associates have developed new ways of using magnetic resonance and state-of-the-art computer imaging to create full three-dimensional pictures of the head, skull and brain.

This technology has been used to create a live 3-D picture of a beating human heart, and can take a fantastic journey inside a breathing lung. Imagine the possible applications of this tremendous new teaching and research tool.

The teaching and learning power of tools such as these is immense--and untapped.

At our School of Engineering, chemical engineering Professor Mike Karweit has used computers to eliminate the cost and difficulty of introductory lab work. He has created a virtual laboratory for engineering students.

By solving real-world problems taken from the mechanical, chemical, electrical and civil engineering disciplines, students progress at their own pace, and learn by doing, two hallmarks of the new paradigm of learning.

The world is changing in ways both fundamental and, from our perspective, almost incomprehensible.

And that's why an institution like Johns Hopkins will have an active and vital role in the upside-down economy of the new millennium. Our mission of research--central to our culture and identity--will provide new avenues of growth and development in the years ahead.

Our Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel has designed and built a number of unmanned scientific satellites for the purposes of pure research. Perhaps you saw the stunning pictures of NEAR-- the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft--as it swept by asteroid Mathilde on June 27. This is just a precursor of the planned yearlong orbit and mapping of the asteroid Eros in 1999.

In August, the Kennedy Space Center achieved a near-perfect launch of our latest scientific satellite: ACE, the Advanced Composition Explorer. It will study the sun and serve as the world's first lookout for geomagnetic solar storms from its orbit 1 million miles above the Earth.

But we are not only looking skyward. Associate professor of mechanical engineering Gregory Chirikjian is at work on a whole new breed of articulating robots that can come apart and reassemble themselves in thousands of configurations to explore, build and retrieve in environments unfriendly to humankind.

The field of medical genetics and biomedical engineering promises new discoveries that will control and cure many common diseases. Recently, scientists at Johns Hopkins introduced a new tool in this quest. They devised a method of attaching microscopic magnetic beads to individual strands of DNA, enabling researchers to literally pull apart the building block of life, one strand at a time.

Elsewhere, vice provost for research Ted Poehler and his associates have invented the Holy Grail of power storage--the first all-plastic battery.

These are just some of the many exciting projects we're engaged in right now. And the future looks even more exciting. As information proliferates, universities will lose the monopoly they once enjoyed in advanced education. This presents us with a tremendous opportunity.

Increasingly, universities such as Johns Hopkins will partner with other information sources and other research endeavors for the delivery of educational services. In the mid-Atlantic region, centered in Baltimore, we have a tremendous wealth of colleges and universities, of software designers and marketers, of telecommunications providers and marketers.

This confluence of expertise in overlapping areas represents the critical mass we need to lead the nation--and the world--in developing the educational technologies of the next century. Working together, sharing resources and ideas and enthusiasm, I believe we can create the new Silicon Valley--call it Education Alley--that will apply these new technologies to teaching the world.

As we move from the Information Age to the Knowledge Age, there can be no greater, more important or more rewarding task. The future is there, waiting for us to take hold and shape it. We are a city full of technicians and dreamers and can-do entrepreneurs. Tonight I can say unequivocally that we at the Johns Hopkins Institutions are anxious to do our part.

Let's work together. Let's invent the future of learning and education. It's a creation that, like Johns Hopkins, will keep going, and going, and going....

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