Nuclear program

National security

Space exploration

International challenge

Global change research

International agreements

Partnerships for a new generation of vehicles

Economic competitiveness; environment

Table A.6. S&E megatrends as related to human representation

Left-brain focus

Right-brain focus

S&E trend

DNA, cell

(from natural environment)

Biosystems, organisms

Modern biology

Atom, molecule

(from natural environment)

Patterns, assemblies

(chosen language)

Visualization, networking

Information and computing

It is relevant to keep track of this connection when developing a new research program. For example, the basic concepts originating in the left brain allow individuals and groups to develop representations further from their primary perception (point of reference). Let's consider the human representation of length scale. Initially, we used our hands to measure and developed representations at our natural length scale; then we used mechanical systems, and our representation moved towards the smaller scale of exact dimensions; later, optical tools helped us move into the microscale range of length representation; and electron microscopes and surface probes have helped us move into the nanoscale range. This process continues into the arena of nuclear physics and further on. In a similar manner, abstract concepts handled by the left brain have helped humans move into larger representation scales, beginning with the representation of a building and geography of a territory; later moving to representation of the Earth (useful in sustainable development and global change R&D), then of the universe (needed in space exploration).

The left brain tends to favor reductionist analysis and depth in a single field, which may contribute to "divergent" advancements. Within finite time intervals, such advancements tend to develop faster, to diverge, to take on a life of their own. Meantime, the "whole think" approach is favored by right-brain activities. It is the role of the right brain to assemble the global vision for each initiative and see the coherence among initiatives. This coherence leads to unifying concepts and converging technologies.

Societal feedback is the essential and ultimate test for the nation to establish and assimilate S&E megatrends. There are clear imperatives: increasing wealth, improving healthcare, protecting a sustainable environment, enhancing the culture, and providing national security. When one looks from the national point of view and in the long term, scientific communities, government, and society at large all have the same goals, even if the R&D funds for a megatrend favor some S&E communities in short-term.

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