Read this post. The future of Australia depends on it!

| August 18, 2015

What world will our children grow up in and what happens if no one prepares them for the technologies that are about to come? This National Science Week Amnon Carmel urges us to take the kids to explore the wonders of science and technology.

I turned 40 this year. Not long ago I told my kids that when I was their age, I had a black and white TV. My kids struggled to understand what I was talking about. “It gets worse”, I continued. “We had no computers, no Internet, no GPS and no mobile phones”. My son looked at me puzzled and asked: “So how did you watch YouTube, daddy?”

We tend to imagine our personal history as linear with gradual changes. Yet from a technological perspective we’ve evolved so rapidly that the landscape is completely unrecognisable! Just imagine how sitcoms like ‘Friends’ or ‘Seinfeld’ would look like if people had smartphones. You’d had to re-write quite a few episodes…

Regardless of the dramatic technological changes that occurred so far, the digital revolution has just barely started. Technology is advancing exponentially. The actual rate in which technology advances becomes faster and faster with every passing year, and we see the results with every passing day. We have seen far bigger technological changes in the last decade compared to what our ancestors have seen during their entire lifetimes.

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Can you believe that only a decade ago we didn’t have Facebook, iPhones, YouTube, Netflix or tablet computers? Now consider the future: A decade from now we’ll have self-driving cars, 3D printed buildings, robot swarms, realistic Virtual Reality and advanced Artificial Intelligence. What’s going to happen in 20 years? 30 years? What world will our children grow up in? How will they fit into the international technological society if no one prepares them for the technologies that are about to come?

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The unfortunate reality is that our children lag far behind other developed countries. With every passing year, less and less Australians choose to study science and technology. Our IT industry is based mostly on old-fashioned enterprise systems aimed to support large corporates. There are hardly any large R&D (Research & Development) centres in Australia. The start-up ecosystem is tiny. Scientific research is minimal. Innovation is dying. Yes, we use amazing technologies in our daily lives, but these technologies are mostly developed and manufactured overseas.

The Australian education system has failed in generating more kids who love, appreciate and enjoy science and technology. But help is on the way! In 2014 Ian Chubb, the Australian Chief Scientist, declared an ambitious and wonderful agenda that places more emphasis on STEM education. This is a huge step in the right direction but shifting the focus of the Australian education system may take decades before we see real significant results in the Australian technology and innovation rates.

In recent years we have seen more and more private initiatives leading to new exciting programs –science education, entrepreneur clubs, robotic programming classes, fun scientific events and Makerspaces where anyone can build electronic creations and use 3D printers. There is sufficient variety to ensure that most kids and adults will find something that interests them and as a society we need to encourage more of such activities.

Now is the best time to enjoy all these great initiatives. It is Australian National Science Week (15-23 August) with more than 1,700 fantastic events across the nation. The Sydney Science Festival highlights the best of these events occurring in the Sydney area. There are public events with the best science promoters in the world such as the most famous Astronaut in the world, Colonel Chris Hadfield, and the presenter of the award winning Cosmos TV series, Neil deGrasse Tyson. The Mini Maker Faire at the Powerhouse Museum will introduce you to the coolest 3D printed technologies and tools that allow anyone to build their own gadgets and electronic creations.

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All you have to do is go to the websites and find a local event that will intrigue you. Many of the events are free or at a minimal cost. So what are you waiting for? Take the kids and go to explore the wonders of science and technology. Your kids will thank you in the long run…