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Speech by SCED at HKSTP Time Capsule Ceremony (English only)

    Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Frederick Ma, at the Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation Technological Achievement Award 10th Anniversary Time Capsule Ceremony this (December 14) evening:

Mr Brooke, Mr Lee, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to officiate at this ceremony to bury this time capsule.  This ceremony is part of a series of events today to showcase the achievements of the Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation in the past 10 years and to look forward to the next 10 years.  In a short time a group of distinguished people will be asked to place into the time capsule their wishes for the future development of innovation and technology in the next 10 years.

     As has been said before, forecasting - particularly of the future - is a dangerous exercise full of traps for the unwary; hindsight is much easier.  The future is uncertain; if the history of forecasting teaches us anything it is that the future will be different from our imagining in ways that will be beyond our expectation, but also that the future may be similar to the present in ways which will surprise us.  To illustrate, let me think back to the technological forecasts of the 60s in my youth and evaluate these.  There were predictions, for instance:
- of limitless power from nuclear energy - well that did not materialise but climate change is now forcing a re-evaluation, the circle is turning;

- of oil shortages leading to the development of electric cars - oil shortages are again with us and we are seeing a renewed interest in fuel-efficient vehicles.  The Science Park was host last month to a demonstration of solar-powered vehicles. Perhaps this will be the future;

- of inter-planetary space travel - the last men on the moon were in the 70s. Our nation though has just launched a space vehicle which is orbiting the moon so perhaps this vision will be realised in the next generation;

- of the end of communicable diseases - here the picture is mixed : we have seen the elimination of some diseases such as smallpox but the re-emergence (thankfully not in Hong Kong) of malaria and the development of new threats. The present in this respect is rather like the past.

- of nourishment coming from pills - this is one prediction I am pleased has not come true; instead we are seeing a return to traditional organic foods.

     On the other hand there were areas which the predictions never envisaged:

- the development of the mobile phone - can we imagine life without this ubiquitous device?  I am pleased that Hong Kong is at the forefront of developing mobile communications devices and receivers;

- the development of the world wide web - can we imagine doing research without access to this remarkable tool?  Yet it has affected us with security concerns from hacking and viruses and with concerns about the proliferation of undesirable images.  Balance has to be achieved.

     I think I have said enough to warn about the perils of forecasting.  Yet I and some other daring individuals are going to attempt this by placing our wishes in this time capsule.

     To be serious for a minute, Hong Kong is moving forward in technological capacity.  Our young people are performing well in international standardised tests for science, mathematics and reading. Our universities are raising their profile in research and design.  The Science Park, its tenants and incubatees are driving us into the future.  You have heard this afternoon from many distinguished speakers about the future; our next generation can see our hopes and our concerns for the future. Let us hope that our positive hopes will be the ones that materialise.

     Thank you.

Ends/Friday, December 14, 2007
Issued at HKT 19:17


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