This paper concerns training a knowledgeable work force to ensure maximum economic benefit from computer and information technology. America's unique strength, readiness to accept non-traditional approaches to real problems, can be threatened by trends in computer technology and education. Governmental support for technology-training/support can preserve and advance our overall international competitiveness.
Computers and new information-handling modes are widespread factors for increased efficiency. These technologies support high productivity and world-market competitiveness. Yet there are major deficiencies in the computerization of key populations. Access to knowledge-centered employment is education-limited. And schools offer widely-different experiences to students depending on the computing and communications infrastructure present, and their teachers' level of familiarity with current information technology. Three concrete suggestions to deal with this appear in the section titled Conceptual Underpinnings.
The central issue for government research investment is where to place funding to have the greatest possible leverage. This paper asserts that the way to have major impact is to trade on two strengths: 1) the great willingness to accept technical gadgetry and the implicit acceptance of changes in ways to work present in most Americans; and, 2) the multiethnic nature of U.S. society. The U.S. entertainment industry is a model of both aspects: it also can be used as a driving force in establishing strong economic-incentive motivations for technology-dissemination. This industry has set standards and preserved a world-lead through use of high technology. Likewise it has pioneered in addressing the multi-ethnic nature of life in the U.S.A., as well as the world. Further, like other U.S.-industries, e.g., transportation, communication, it has led a process of world-wide-change that continues today.
The focus of this paper is on three main areas where government investment in technology research can have significant impact:
1. Realistic Technology Expectations for 2000 and Beyond
2. Future Federal Information and Communications Research and Development Applications
3. Strategic Focus Areas for Information and Communications
Technology Expectations and Possible Benefits
The theme of this section is that government can and should accelerate the positive economic impact from using computer technology. We believe this can occur by funding research and development modes to widen or deepen knowledge of computer information tools. This section addresses two main fronts in dealing with computer technology. Both involve the technical knowledge of our citizenry. The first is associated with the process of innovation. The second is directed to managing/applying new technical tools.
As computers move out into society their effective use becomes a necessary part of business success. They've changed communication style and substance, accelerating the reshaping of corporations, promoting unstructured in place of hierarchical organizational form. The positive aspect of this involves increased democratization. Information is widely available. More individuals can use it because of computer networks. Expecting the average employee to be information-knowledgeable or information-ready is not realistic today. Yet this is something that many organizations actively seek or promote by in-house training. We can ask the question differently: "What is it that Federal Information and Communication Research and Development should fund in order to make information technology easily absorbed either by new trainee employees or students in schools?"
Increasing the capability of those people lacking fundamental technical skill is a realistic technology objective for 2000 and beyond. Adapting to phone-answering, automatic teller, and video-cassette-recorder technologies has been a process of mutual accommodation. Analogously, future technology objectives should be to keep tools evolving in a direction that makes them easier to use with less prior technical training, a process already well underway in domains such as electronic mail and world-wide-web-browsing. There are many economic, political and social aspects of widening computer-mediated information-access. Hence it is essential that the government support research oriented to broadening the base of skilled users. The July 8, 1995 L.A. Times gives a very low estimate of the percentage of our population able to `surf the net' productively . This activity already is, or soon is going to be, an aspect of literacy. Today we assume that most people can read (and write) but the skill was only possessed by kings and specialists a few hundred years ago . Another aspect of this is the need to deepen search-results' quality. This is essential to obtain maximum benefit from interconnected computer knowledge and data base systems.
The varied ways this can be achieved include using mass media: information-ability driving
game rewards, creation of something like a knowledge super bowl. Economic reward could
also be placed behind efforts like tutorial book publishing: whenever a tool posted on the
internet or world-wide-web reaches a certain level of acceptability (as indicated, e.g., by
number of times individuals access a web page), it could be funded for refinement and
improvement. Another approach could award a prize to the developer, upgrade a person's
eligibility for a competition, or begin involvement in a desirable activity or membership. See
the section on Conceptual Underpinnings for additional approaches.
Creating new forms of visual communication provides the most logical domain for exploiting information technology in a deepening sense (i.e., maintaining/advancing technical capability). In  there are examples of technology being redirected to meet the needs of individuals (Freestyle system for annotating digital files; Apple Corp. Newton handwriting recognition system). Both handwriting and the idea behind Intuit's Quicken checkbook- interface financial-software are essentially visual communication tools. Research should focus on visual communication since it is at the center of Manufacturing and Civil/Mechanical Engineering processes.
A very reasonable assumption is that in five or ten years new computer products will be based on solid-models displayed via high-resolution graphics. Such a universe of novel solid shapes could have extensive economic impact. Federal research and development funding
could guide this in several ways. First, the fundamental link between visual imagination and
product innovation, invention, and scientific abstraction  could be supported. Research
support for computer-graphics, solid-models, and display concepts could focus on creating
virtual reality design tools. This would have value as a new dynamic visual medium enabling
designers to conceive of products. It also has product development potential in entertainment
and in education. Finally, this conceivably could be the cornerstone of a new and potentially
universal human language based on images.
Computer innovations and research and development steps toward products could support interdiction efforts in several domains. A few are anti-submarine warfare, counter-terrorism, medical intervention, and international contraband shipment including narcotics. Computer applications could simultaneously present multiple kinds of information. They could involve visual solid-displays. This might enable a human to get the sense of a general situation involving spatial or spatial-temporal information variation. Such tools would be highly valuable to photo-interpreters, forensic specialists, plastic surgeons, radiologists, and many other medical service-providers.
The underlying technology would be computer-assisted human visual capability. In teaching mathematics to the many, fundamental areas are generally ignored today: neither logarithms nor spherical geometry are new or in ... but they are a part of the underpinnings of many aspects of reasoning. Likewise they offer opportunity for gaining conceptual insight. Both are central to diverse domains. Logarithms apply to measures of audible sound (decibels) and earthquake intensities (Richter scale). Travel on the seas and in space involves non-planar geometry. Each of these practical areas is best approached through visual means based on mathematical knowledge. Yet today they both are arcane, not fundamental, in terms of the school curriculum and the general understanding of the U.S. population. Conceptually they are generally as ill-understood as the quadrature of the lune (area of the visible segment of a partially-obscured moon) and Isaac Newton's first step toward fame . Both are past accomplishments that aren't understood by most people today. Likewise, both involve mathematical fundamentals generally ignored, that depend intrinsically on a visual idea. The same sort of thing is present in great depth in the collection of proofs without words . There is a fundamental opportunity present in creating new visual tools and procedures since it is possible to state things that can be proven most easily by some form of visual reasoning. For two examples consider the request to assign all of nine whole apples to four baskets so that an odd number is in each, and how it is resolved by visual means in appendix Figure A. Another instance of visual reasoning depends on a general statement, taken from a computer science text: the Greeks knew that any cube can be decomposed into the sum of adjacent odd numbers. Appendix Figure B visually displays two examples, 8 = 5 + 3 and 27 = 11 + 9 + 7 . Without the visual clues it is difficult to understand which odd numbers add up to 125 or 729. However the two Figure B images quickly lead to a general rule indicating how to list the odd numerals comprising these cubes, or any number that is an integer to the third power.
The visual use of computers also has potential for creating novel means for inter-language communication. This is so because of the diversity of alphabets in the world, and the pictorial nature of written Chinese. Considering the size of the Chinese population a useful realistic computer product could be based on animating selected Chinese ideographs and then morphing them into alphabetic strings. Strange as that may seem, it is only a bit more venturesome than appendix Figure C about cancellation rules, and the number-spatial speculations of Albrecht Durer and Benjamin Franklin displayed in appendix Figure D. To see what can be done with widely-available computer tools, view the appendix Figure E.
Strategic Focus AreasThe three strategic focus areas I see are:
Mathematics stands in a uniquely responsible position because it is a kind of educational pillar. It provides the language and the tools for many science and engineering topics. It also
has evolved from the observations of artisans and ordinary people, and today stands as an
entry point of sorts into computer technology. Overcoming and eliminating mathematical
anxiety is in our overall national interest. This is especially critical with regard to central city,
minority, or immigrant-dominated schools. Stress on strongly visual aspects of mathematics
can make the subject an entry-point into educational accomplishment for those not speaking
majority-American-English. However, this requires for support for reorienting the field of
mathematics, at least in primary-school grades. This is something that can be done at lower
cost because of computers. Widespread use of computer technology in the better-supported
aspects of society provides an important reason to consider a national effort to handle
mathematics-fear/anxiety, especially for groups that now have high school dropout rates, or
in other ways show inability to join the information revolution.
Pervasive computing means much more than the widespread availability of digital technology. It signifies the presence of computing, specifically digital circuitry, within virtually every manufactured item, but especially automobiles, microwave ovens, clocks, and diverse communication devices. Clearly computers also support conveniences like word processors, spreadsheets, and communication services such as electronic mail. They're deeper familiarity needs an intellectual and sympathetic start. One possible place in the educational system to get such a start is provided by mathematics ... if it is taught connected to art; to artisan skills; and to history. This need not be difficult, e.g., our founding fathers include the first president, George Washington, who was a surveyor, but it cannot be done without explicitly addressing the fears of teachers, who usually are themselves uncomfortable with mathematical knowledge.
Many students have become mathematics-avoiders in grade school. Even technically-trained individuals may find some junior high school level mathematics concepts more than they want to handle. Still there is an easy way to reach these people. By combining games with concepts, entertainment can support education. Children exposed to an hierarchy of games, each based on a mathematics idea, will be able to use their positive play experience to stay committed to learning there and in computing. The depth of the mathematics-avoidance problem is displayed in appendix Figure G, based on a survey conducted by the author at UCLA among students not oriented to science, engineering nor mathematics, but in the upper eighth of all California high school graduates.
Although the material of mathematics is important, it is not all-important. Most computing technology is developed apart from the basic framework of mathematics or even of logic. The variety within any field, and certainly within mathematics, makes it reasonable to consider the opportunity within the information and communication area for making access to ideas more widely available. The information available on networked computers is already vast and diverse, yet there are several related issues that must be dealt with to derive substantial economic benefit from its existence. The key issue is extending its formal-availability so that it assists those with aversion to school-structured knowledge, particularly in fields such as mathematics. The key issues are: encouraging information use, assuring information validity, and measuring information-capability or fundamental knowledge acquired.
There is general awareness that some parts of mathematics have become more important and others have faded. Twice, first after Sputnik, mathematical school curricula revision took place. In both cases the effort expended was substantial ... and the results unsatisfying. In the latest effort the key document  presents suggestions for emphasis and de-emphasis, and samples of teaching models via problems students can address, for grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Still computer information and communications technology offer a revolutionary new major revision in the approach, if we focus on the key issues and center the approach more closely on the students' achievements. Review of any part of  quickly reveals that there is a broad character to the material included. This suggests focus on authentication of student-learning.
For each of the key issues there is a starting-point concrete suggestion. For encouraging information use, already-successful volunteer-organization activities would give models of how to accomplish desired goals. In a phrase, the idea is that there should be an information- access merit-badge accomplishment-validation mechanism. Perhaps individuals who achieve special knowledge could be made eligible for internships or shorter visits at national laboratories where their ability could be used and enhanced. Even though the idea is related to the Boy Scouts of America system, the greatest value would be derived from linking this to the business world, not the volunteer-organizations. Individuals could be encouraged to provide prospective employers with lists of their validated information accomplishments.
Measuring capability in the information area could be an activity thrown open to professional societies or panels convened for the purpose of establishing national standards. The federal investment could be limited to establishing prizes for knowledge in key disciplines, such as mathematics, biology, computer science, physics, and history. Other disciplines could be added under regularly-held referenda, or via petitions from states or several professional societies. Attracting individuals to participate in the professional society or panel definition of the knowledge capability levels could be via making those who volunteer eligible for moderate-cost government sponsored programs, such as funding for research travel, sabbatical activity, etc.
Ensuring information validity is an activity analogous to professional journal peer review. It would be in our national interest if individuals interested in listing a body of information needed to have that material assessed by experts. The model of publication review would function equally well for validation and for tutorial merit. The regular academic faculty in institutions of higher learning should be encouraged to be part of a reviewing system for reorganizing knowledge. That is a valuable academic activity, and should be an essential part of the career of all educational professionals, even those in the elementary and secondary schools.