With respect to the arts, however, the speaker's claim is far less convincing. It might seem
that if artists broaden their cultural exposure and real-world experience their art works would
become richer and more diverse. However, the logical consequence of increasing international
influence on the arts is a homogenous global culture in which art becomes increasingly the
same. The end result is not only a chilling effect on artistic creativity, but also a loss of cultural
identity, which seems to be an important sociological and psychological need.
The impact of global networking on political relations might turn out to be a mixed one as
well. Consider, for instance, the current unification of Europe's various monetary systems.
Since Europe's countries are become economically interdependent, it would seem that it
would be in their best interests to cooperate politically with one another. However, discord over
monetary policy might result in member countries withdrawing from the Community, and in a
political schism or other falling out. Consider also the burgeoning global communications
network. On the one hand, it would seem that instant face-to-face communication between
diplomats and world leaders would help avert and quell political and military crises. By the
same token, however, global networking renders any nation's security system more vulnerable.
This point is aptly illustrated by a recent incident involving a high-ranking Pentagon official who
stored top-secret fries on his home computer, which was connected to the Internet without any
firewall precautions. Incidents such as this one might prompt the world's governments to
become more protective of their sovereignty, more insular, and even-paranoid.
In sum, growing international influences that result naturally from global communications
and economic networks can only serve to facilitate education and to advance scientific
knowledge. However, although the same influences no doubt will have an impact on the arts
and on international politics, the speaker's claim that those influences will be beneficial is
dubious, or at least premature, given that global networking is still in its nascent stages.
"When research priorities are being set for science, education, or any other area, the most
important question to consider is: How many people's lives will be improved if the results are
Should researchers focus on areas that are likely to result in the greatest benefit to the most
people, as the speaker suggests? I agree insofar as areas of research certain to result in
immediate and significant benefits for society should continue to be a priority. Yet, strictly
followed, the speaker's recommendation would have a harmful chilling effect on research and
new knowledge. This is particularly true in the physical sciences, as discussed below.
Admittedly, scientific research whose societal benefits are immediate, predictable, and
profound should continue to be a high priority. For example, biotechnology research is proven
to help cure and prevent diseases; advances in medical technology allow for safer, less
invasive diagnosis and treatment; advances in genetics help prevent birth defects; advances in
engineering and chemistry improve the structural integrity of our buildings, roads, bridges, and
vehicles; information technology enables education; and communication technology facilitates
global peace and participation in the democratic process. To demote any of these research
areas to a lower priority would be patently foolhardy, considering their proven benefits to so
many people. However, this is not to say that research whose benefits are less immediate or
clear should be given lower priority. For three reasons, all avenues of scientific research
should be afforded equal priority.
First of all, ifwe strictly follow the speaker's suggestion, who would decide which areas of
research are more worthwhile than others? Researchers cannot be left to decide. Given a
choice, they will pursue their own special areas of interest, and it is highly unlikely that all
researchers could reach a fully informed consensus as to what areas are most likely to help
the most people. Nor can these decisions be left to regulators and legislators, who would bring
to bear their own quirky notions about what is worthwhile, and whose susceptibility to
influence-peddlers renders them untrustworthy in any event.