The 2005 World Exposition officially opened March 25 in Aichi, Japan, and will run through September. As the first World's Fair event of the 21st century, the expo will host more than 15 million visitors and feature pavilions from more than 125 participating countries. Whereas past expositions, such as the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs in New York, had futuristic, high-tech themes, the theme for Expo 2005 is "Nature's Wisdom."
Underlying the high-tech showpieces that aim to forecast what the world will look like and what we will all be doing in the next 20 years is the notion that humankind should reconnect with nature's intelligence, and that technological achievements should incorporate this wisdom. The idea is to showcase wide-ranging research that frees technology from the pursuit of pure efficiency and economic rationality, enabling it to once again interact sensitively with life and nature. The organizers' aim is to encourage a new model for civilization by finding new ways of resolving population and environmental problems through cutting-edge experiments using bio and information technologies. Exhibits include real-time broadcasting from a space station, reproduction of extinct species by virtual-reality techniques and new types of intercultural communications by means of fresh information technology.
Cut to today. I recently flew back from the Design Automation and Test in Europe conference and was able to access the Internet and my corporate virtual private network from my crammed economy seat aboard a Lufthansa Airlines Airbus A340. Let me tell you it works! I was able to make a broadband connection at 37,000 feet (for a price, of course), check my e-mail, take a picture of myself on the plane and transmit it to anyone to whom I cared to show my hairy face.
But for the life of me, at DATE in Munich, I could not hook up wirelessly at a few strategically placed hotspots in the exhibits area. With a time card from the convention business center, you could use the DATE network to hook up. But you could not readily do so on the show floor using a network set up by the organizers. In this day and age, whether you are a journalist, designer or engineering manager, you need to be connected 24/7, or your competitor will eat your lunch.
So I hope that between now and September, some clever engineer walking through the World Expo pavilions in Aichi gets a bright idea from the bio and info technology exhibits, and goes back to the lab to devise a global wireless scheme that would allow anybody, anywhere, to communicate in whatever way that person likes as a normal part of everyday living. Maybe the idea might come from nature itself. After all, bees have reportedly been producing honey as they do today for at least 150 million years, using a very intelligent and complex communication system. No reason why humans can't emulate it, and use it as the model for a communications medium to make a better world.
By Nicolas Mokhoff, special features editor for EE Times.