Essay question types - All-in-one

Question types - Extent, Absolute Propositions , Comparative

To what extent is education a social leveller in society?

- Evaluate the success of education in reducing inequality.

- Acknowledge limitations to show extent.

- Point out how in some instances education in fact widens the social gap.

- But DO NOT LIST OUT OTHER SOCIAL LEVELLERS. IF YOU DO, always compare it with education!


Extent/ How far

To what extent is design important in your society?


"Only educated people should have the right to vote in elections". What is your view?

Should having children be considered a purely personal lifestyle choice?

Measuring extent
(Using Question 1 as an example)

- Draw/Show/Define the limit/Set conditions
Religion and politics should be kept separate in multi-racial countries
-Final decision must be based on collective opinions and evaluation of what is the best interest of the majority.

Acknowledge rights of religious groups
Acknowledge possible benefits of involving opinions and evaluation of what is the best interest of the majority.


Acknowledge rights of religious groups
Acknowledge possible benefits of involving religion in political decisions - eg. moral values
highlight the dangers of mixing politics with religion - potency in stirring emotions
Show how the dangers outweigh benefits.


Acknowledge possible dangers - show conditions/context where danger could be greater
Show how in most situations, dangers are minimal/can be contained
Show the benefits of involvement of religion in politics, and the conditions under which this is so.

-Absolute proposition
Reject absolute proposition
Acknowledge the relevance/significance of the factor
Point out the limitations/dangers of having/allowing only one factor
bring in other factors and examine their significance/necessity

In terms of

consequence: pragmatic and ethical, long term/short term

Who are involved?

Eg. What will the decision to leave child bearing entirely to the individual mean for the country?

Extent/ How far

how far should religion influence political decisions?
To what extent is design important in your society?

Most/more than/more/less

The computer has done more harm than good to society. How far do you agree?
"A picture is always more powerful than mere words." What is your view?
Pets need us more than we need them." What do you think?

"education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world"


Acknowledge the power of education
Show the limits of education
Show how education cannot be effective without the presence of the other instruments
OR show that what education can do can ALSO be done or even better by any other instrument.

What are the others?
(Money/ Religion morals)

Most/More than/More/Less


Compare with at least 2 others
Evaluate to show why this and NOT others
Show more good or less bad

More than ( could be between 2 factors or 2 time periods)
Weigh one against the other
Show outcome/consequences more severe OR
show benefits FAR outweigh the consequences
Compare to the past to show increase. if you agree, that it is more than, show decrease if you are arguing " less than"

It is POSSIBLE to have extent/conditional elements even in comparative question, eg" more than in some aspects/ for certain people, and less than for others.

However, some might believe that the availability of money is the most powerful weapon.

reason: Money can change the world, feed the hungry, save the poor and lack of money can devastate the world.

Example: In 2008, the World bank contributed an estimated amount of $500 billion towards the United nations Eight millennium goals.

Elaboration: These goals include halving poverty, fighting hunger and disease and delivering basic services to the poor by the year 2015 thus showing how powerful a change money can make.

however: Money without the proper knowledge or skills in its management can lead to the collapse of world economies plunging the already poor nations into even greater poverty.

Example: The current economic crisis was brought about by a mismanagement of investments.

Concluding statements: which shows that money, without education is relatively useless in the long run.

"education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."


- Show that what education can do (long term impact; widespread influence) is more than any other instrument.

Show how education is the basis which other factors are built and without the other factors cannot exist or cannot be effective.

Show that while there are limits to education, what education cannot do is also beyond the ability of any other instrument.

The computer has done more harm to society than good.

Show that DESPITE the good the computer has brought, the harm done is greater.

Show in terms of consequences to society:

- irreparable damage - physical, psychological, etc
- irreplaceable loss/sacrifice

- Despite allowing greater connectivity, computers have resulted in an increase in anti social behaviour. people spend more time with their computer terminals than actual face-to-face interactions with others. Such anti-social behaviour among individuals may lead to an increasingly fragmented society.

Despite the connectivity that modern technology has given us, people are more isolated than they have ever been.

Show what changed to cause INCREASE

Compare (past to present ( situations)

Improves communications and increases social networking by increasing accessibility, speed and volume. friendships are forged not just with people in your own community and country, but with people worldwide. however, not just everyone has equal access to technology. What becomes the case then is when the have-nots are isolated from society while those who have the means to enjoy the connectivity offered by modern technology. Quality of relationships are also increasingly sacrificed as communication is less meaningful on technology-mediated interfaces. People may also engage in anti-social behaviour as they remain plugged in to the rest of the virtual world but disrupt face to face meetings ( eg. SMSing at meals, meetings, lectures and religious gatherings)

Connection to the past. Without the presence of modern technology, there would be fewer of such incidences.

Possible/ Can be done

Looks at how something can be done based on

Willingness and desire to do something
based on what can be seen currently and then extrapolate
Limitations present in current context and how serious the limitations are

Examine for whom is this possible ( always contextualise)

**use of the word "can" in this concept is different from " can ever be justified"

**Possible = realistic Goal ( c.f. with "realistic"

Paper 2 Comprehension Strategies - Short Questions Part 2


1) Main Idea & Author's Stand - (Always have Questions about examples and quotation)

Example :
Pornography ( Main Idea)
Author's Stand ( against violent porn)
Ask yourself Questions : Impact of porn? Censorship? -ve impact to be regulated? to anticipate what is to come.
Compre Skills ( based on comprehension passage - To be uploaded ASAP )

Questions 1 type :

On one end / On the other end - Words that draw contrast.

On one end - Ads for stain lotion sex education text ( not harmful )
On the other end - Penthouse Rape billing ( harmful )

- Cast aside your prior knowledge
- When examples come together, they must be commonality

ANS : What if the ANS is real porn and not real porn?
1st Sentence states that porn can mean almost anything
Title states that its porn

( shows that there's no main stand)

2) Good vs Bad? Good and bad are bad words ( Innocuous)
( too vague)

3) 2 Extreme ends of porn
( Paraphrasing)

4) beneficial vs harmful
( No link to author's stand)

Question 2 type :

1) Subject of porn
2) Significance --> even

Interpretation How do we explain " in this context
Over sensible people" Calm and logical

ANS : People who are usually calm will tend to be angry and the subject of pron is sensitive and debatable.

"Subject of porn" - Debatable, sensitive and controversial ( how people react )

What if it's only 1 mark? Write about the subject.

Question 3 : Paraphrasing
- Punctuation ( Comma ) - Different points
- Think of different context
" Exploiting women through the use of degrading images"
"exploiting women" - taking Advantage

Portray women as sex objects. Corruption of children"
Question 4 : Punctuation - Inverted commas
2 ways :

Opposite - "exploiting women through the use of degrading images"
portray women as sex objects.
" corruption of children"

Irony - : expected usually actual however
"polluting their mind/Women & Children"
"minors and toddlers/Adolescent

- Opposite/Irony

Should we rephrase innocent or fun?
INNOCENT look at the author's stand.
(Debating about whether porn is harmful

ANS : The author feels that the treatment is actually cruel.
Question 5 : Identify the phrase .

against censorship - Responsible , proclaim god given rights

ANS : not natural bedfellows
Question 6 : Paraphrasing

Examples - What do they do?

Who is responsible/ Liberals

ANS : They are entitled to do whatever they like and do not want an over conservative culture restricted.
Question 7: paraphrasing and inference

Colon: magazine Books - Explanation

View something as entertainment - Harmless, acceptable

2) ought to -- entitled/rights
( they feel that they have the right to watch porn.

3) far from being powerful - Harmless ( might have harmful effects )

ANS : They think that it is harmless and acceptable and feel that they have the right to view porn. However, it is not proven as it might have harmful effects.
Question 8: Influence : Suggest

.. if its fascist or not in accordance with...."

similar/not similar

repressive : extremely controlled.

ANS : It is repressive ad extremely controlled.
Question 9: Inference

"... in which - explanation for something before it.
"... But..." - Romans' attitude is completely different.
how they view sex then?

extremely open/ Liberal

ANS : They have a very permissive attitude towards sex.
Question 10: paraphrasing + inference
-- Different parts + Do not love - Lack of emotional fulfillment
Do not consider sex joyful and life
Enhancing unpleasant and repulsive attitude

ANS : Users of pornography has unpleasant and repulsive attitude/ nations towards sex and feel lonely or lack emotional fulfillment.

Paper 2 Comprehension Strategies - Short Questions

Paper 2 Comprehension

Paraphrasing - Own words


1) Synonyms

Eg. In recent years, the amount of carbon Dioxide emitted into the environment has increased substantially.

Recent Years : Recently - Root word (NA)
Previously - How? (NA)
From the past few years (A)

Emitted : Given Out
Given Out

Environment : Atmosphere

Substantially : Significantly

2) Technique - Substituting a word with a phrase ( Expansion )
a word - use a phrase
Example - Activist
vist - Technique root word(Suffixes)
Ac- Who? - people? - Perform like animals? - Why?
-Act - Carrying out

Example : Some animal activists believe that violence is a justified means of protecting rights of animals.

Animal Activists : People who champion the rights(welfare) of animals.

3) Phrases - A few words ( Main Idea)

Example : We have a special responsibility for ensuring that all American institutions, not just our elementary and secondary schools, our juvenile halls , or out jails, reflect the diversity of our society.

Ans : Only aspect of American life.

Social Activism

1) Parental Alienation

To many of us who are reading this, we all know too well how much our parents and loved ones have done for us, nurturing us and feeding us into the strong man and woman we are today. However, for an unfortunate few, who don't come from the full set of two parent nuclear families, often the result of divorce families, are as lucky as us to get the full unconditional love of two parents. This is often the results of family courts inadvertently overlooking the positive impact of the child due to manipulation of cases by lawyers and attorney's aside. In other words, the child thus is under the full jurisdiction of the single parent who is in custody of the child and thus is often manipulated into speaking for up for the spouse(the spouse who was awarded the rights of the child) into his/her favour and in doing so, loses out eventually as he/she doesn't get the full love and affection from the other spouse that most of us individual youths often receive.

Find out more information over here :

Ever since Care & Control was given to my ex-spouse (represented by PAP MP Mr Lim Biow Chuan) by Singapore Family Court, I was totally deprived of access to my son for 10 mths from Sep 08 to Jun 09 despite an existing Court Order giving me 8 hr access time per wk.

When I brought this up to the Court, not only was the 8 hrs access time not being enforced, & outstanding hrs not being made up to me as stated in the Court Order, my access time was instead being REDUCED to JUST 1 HR PER WK. And it has to take place at a Family Centre assigned by the Court (we have to pay $120/hr to be with our children).

Despite me bonding extremely well with my son at the Family Centre for 6 mths (Jul 09 to Jan 10), they recently arranged for a court counselor to interview my son and determined that "it is in his best interest that I do see him", and that "I may affect his PSLE examinations". So now I am COMPLETELY BLOCKED FROM ACCESS TO MY SON for the next 8 mths.

Such OPPRESSIONS are not uncommon among parents without Care & Control, and it is hardly the kind of fair justice that we are hoping for in our modern society. I believe more could be done to help parents bond with their estrangled children.

Many Singaporean divorced parents and children are suffering everyday as a result of Parental Alienation (PA).

Here are 3 cases in 2009: (reported on the 5th July issue of The New Paper) (reported on the 22nd July issue of Lianhe Wanbao) (reported on the 17th December issue of The New Paper)

PA is a conscious & continual effort by one parent to severe the other parent's affectionate relationship with the child through bad-mouthing, threatening, bashing & brainwashing. An intense on-going alienation will cause the child to think that any affection or loyalty for victimised parent is considered betrayal to the alienating parent. The child experiences an enormous amount of fear & guilt for wanting to love that victimised parent. Psychologically, this has huge ramifications on the child in the long-term.

PA is a gender-neutral issue that is affecting children and families all over the world and it needs to be addressed seriously.

Some clips on PA -

Thousands of parents in Singapore, & millions others all over the world had been made victims of PA, including actor Alec Baldwin who spoke on CNN -

PA is a Mental & Emotional form of Child Abuse & it needs to be stopped.

Its time for the Singapore Family Court & those all over the world to start taking effective measures to end this aggresssion, & to start being fair to both parents by adopting mandatory shared parenting programs. Many alienated parents out there are being deprived of time with their children, such injusticed situation should not be allowed to exist.

To all victims of PA: Never give up fighting for our loved ones, justice will prevail, as in the case below in a Toronto court -

Definition (Source: Wikipedia)
'Parental Alienation is a form of relational aggression by one parent against the other parent using their common children.

Alienating parents often use grandparents, aunts/uncles, elder sibilings to alienate their children against the target parent.

Some forms of PA include:-
- brainwashing
- character assassination of the target parent
- the false inducement of fear
- using children to commit relational aggression against the target parent,

PA often forces children to choose sides and become allies against the target parent.

Extreme, obsessive, & ongoing PA can cause terrible psychological damage to children extending well into adulthood'

I would like to express my personal gratitude to Mr. Howard Jones for the kind permission to use his beautiful song "Sleep My Angel".

Also a big "Thank-You" to my brother-in-Christ, Gerald Chia, for his contribution to the awesome slideshow.

Thanks to my family members, my friends (Azhar, Lim, Martin, Nathan, Kelvin, Stefan, Siak, Ken, Gary, Charles, Moo, Quek, KL, Jack, Jeff, Nik, Joel, C.Kang, Little Nyonya Jean, Corey, F1 Chen, Joc, Linda, Xavier, Teng, Daniel), my relatives, as well as Pastor Glen (from Elim Church Singapore) for all their prayers, encouragement & support during these difficult times.

I believe God will make things right in the end.
God bless us all.


For more additional information, (:

visit this blog at

STAND UP against parental alienation "legitimized" by the Singapore courts. You can do so by visiting this blog and joining the facebook group!/group.php?gid=128445290045&ref=ss (:

Science and Technlogy Content Notes [ Lecture Notes ]


Positive impact:

[1] Today, science has a profound effect on the way we live, largely through technology—the use of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. The first automobile, dating from the 1880s, made use of many advances in physics and engineering, including reliable ways of generating high-voltage sparks, while the first computers emerged in the 1940s from simultaneous advances in electronics and mathematics.

[2] Alongside these achievements, science has also brought about technology that helps save human life. The kidney dialysis machine enables many people to survive kidney diseases that would once have proved fatal, and artificial valves allow sufferers of coronary heart disease to return to active living. Biochemical research is responsible for the antibiotics and vaccinations that protect us from infectious diseases, and for a wide range of other drugs used to combat specific health problems. As a result, the majority of people on the planet now live longer and healthier lives than ever before.

[3] Indeed, technological research and development continue to introduce new products and services to society. Many of these innovations come about as a response to society’s changing needs, providing solutions to the problems faced in modern society, improving our standard of living and increasing our efficiency.

Negative impact:

[4] However, scientific discoveries can also have a negative impact in human affairs. Over the last hundred years, some of the technological advances that make life easier or more enjoyable have proved to have unwanted and often unexpected long-term effects.

[5] Industrial and agricultural chemicals pollute the global environment, even in places as remote as Antarctica, and city air is contaminated by toxic gases from vehicle exhausts. The increasing pace of innovation means that products become rapidly obsolete, adding to a rising tide of waste. Most significantly of all, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas releases into the atmosphere carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. These gases have altered the composition of the entire atmosphere, producing global warming and the prospect of major climate change in years to come.

[6] Science has also been used to develop technology that raises complex ethical questions. This is particularly true in the fields of biology and medicine. Research involving genetic engineering, cloning, and in vitro fertilization gives scientists the unprecedented power to bring about new life, or to devise new forms of living things. At the other extreme, science can also generate technology that is deliberately designed to harm or to kill. The fruits of this research include chemical and biological warfare, and also nuclear weapons, by far the most destructive weapons that the world has ever known.

[7] Now, more than ever, technology – a product of science – has become an important part of peoples’ lives. Not only does technology have a direct impact on our physical lives but it also affects our social relationships and values.

(1)Social Impacts & Implications

a. Effect on Work & Employments

i. Creation of new jobs

The advance of science and technology has led to the creation of new jobs in the pharmaceutical, medical, research and biotechnological fields.


In 2000, Singapore declared biotechnology as the fourth pillar of its economy. Due to increased international competition, Singapore has gradually moved its emphasis from manufacturing technology to the biomedical sciences. In an effort to become an integrated biotechnology hub, Singapore has pumped in $2.3 billion in investments, grants and incentives.

The government is also trying to create domestic talent. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research is offering $286 million in scholarships for students to pursue Ph.D.'s in biomedical sciences at home and abroad, in exchange for their promise to work in Singapore for up to eight years.

Adapted from (“Singapore Goes Biotech”, New York Times, 2003)

ii. Displacement of jobs

At work, certain jobs, especially low skilled jobs have become obsolete. Even jobs that require training and skill have been displaced. For example, shorthand, typewriting, and draughtsmanship have been replaced by word-processing, voice-recognition and computer-aided design and manufacturing systems.

Large companies which used to be structured in a multi-layered hierarchical way in order to facilitate control and reporting are stripping away layers of middle management. The company in the IT age adopts a flatter structure, decentralises and gives more autonomy to its operating units. The company becomes more efficient, but middle managers need to redefine or retrain themselves in order to remain relevant to the job market.


Science & technology allows an interconnected working arena that spans across continents. Employees can work in the comfort of their own homes as they are able to access the necessary information that they require. The virtual office connects companies to customers and fellow workers to each other.

However, working from home would mean they will miss out on social interactions available in the office. Another drawback of working from home is that the lines between work and home are blurred.


(a)When the lines between home and work are blurred, what are the implications on the employee?

ð The employee may be expected to be on call/ working 24 hours a day regardless of where he may be.

ð Difficult to have work-life balance because there is no such distinction.

ð This may increase stress on the family, as the parent brings work-related stress back home.

b. Effect on Relationships

i. Social Glue

Gone are the days of snail mail and expensive trunk calls. With Information Communication Technology (ICT), communication between individuals within a family, company, or country can be made with ease. When the Internet was first introduced, it was used to disseminate information within a company and between companies.


Prior to the global communications network we understand the internet to be today, it is theorized that the internet started out with military computers in the Pentagon called Arpanet in 1969. The Arpanet gave birth to the internet protocols in the 1970s.

Today, the Internet has become a common form of communication capable of disseminating information across time and space. Where a country has the skills and access to ICT, society will be able to find, foster and develop relationships through online social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

The rapid adoption of such social network sites by members of a society reveal how ICT has transformed from once a private space between companies/organisations to a public space between members from various societies.

In the past, it has been suggested that the Internet and e-mail could diminish real relationships.

But the report, entitled The Strength of Internet Ties done by the US-based Pew Internet think-tank, found that e-mail supplements rather than replaces offline communications.

ICT has created a new basis for community. Instead of relying on a single community for social support, individuals often actively seek out a variety of appropriate people and resources across continents for different situations. This has resulted in the rise of networked individualism where users of modern technology are less tied to local groups and increasingly part of more geographically scattered networks.

Adapted from Internet serves as ‘social glue’ (


(a) Does the emphasis on online communication necessarily lead to social isolation?

c. Social problems and cyber crimes

i. Piracy

Music theft can take various forms: individuals who illegally upload or download music online, online companies who build businesses based on theft and encourage users to break the law, or criminals manufacturing mass numbers of counterfeit CDs for sale on street corners, in flea markets or at retail stores. Across the board, this theft has hurt the music community, with thousands of layoffs, songwriters out of work and new artists having a harder time getting signed and breaking into the business.

One credible analysis by the Institute for Policy Innovation concludes that global music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs lost, a loss of $2.7 billion in workers' earnings, and a loss of $422 million in tax revenues, $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes.

Taken from RIAA--Piracy (

However recently, after years of futile efforts to stop digital pirates from copying its music, the music business has started to copy the pirates.

Online and mobile services offering listeners unlimited, "free" access to millions of songs are proliferating.

Taken from the Intl Herald Tribune (

ii. Private or Public Opinion

Online blogs or diaries, similar to online social networks, can be created to provide a private space for individuals on the public spaces of the Internet. While such blogs may function as a private diary, the readership is not limited to the author.

Under Section 298 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224, anyone with deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person, causes any matter however represented to be seen or heard by that person, can be jailed up to three years, or fine, or both, if convicted.

Deputy Commander of Central Police Div HQ, Superintendent Lee Ping Yue, said that the police take a serious view of irresponsible blog postings in a multi-racial society like Singapore and 'will expend all efforts in tracking the perpetrators'.

Taken from ST Online (

iii.Internet Addiction (Social Isolation)

Youth internet addiction has become a serious social problem. To curb and alleviate this problem, the Chinese authorities have called for tighter enforcement of the rules banning under-18s from internet cafes and for a rating system for games.

Adapted from China’s clinic for its Internet junkies (

The potential to be absorbed by the wonders/capabilities of ICT is real and continues to pervade societies. In extreme cases, individuals who do not exercise discipline or control when dealing with ICT may become socially isolated from the physical world, from reality.

iv. Predators

The goal of a predator is to get a child to consent to sexual activities. Predators contact teens (online and offline) to start a conversation. Just as most teens know to say no to strange men who approach them on the street, most know to ignore strange men who approach them online. When teenagers receive solicitations from adults on MySpace, most report deleting them without question. The media often reference a Crimes Against Children Report ( that states one in five children receive a sexual solicitation online.

Although the media has covered the potential risk extensively, few actual cases have emerged. While youth are at minimal risk, predators are regularly being lured out by law enforcement patrolling the site. The fear of predators has regularly been touted as a reason to restrict youth from both physical and digital publics.

Taken from Danah Boyd’s Discussion Forum (

v. Identity Theft

Having more than one e-mail address can be useful in the battle against online fraud and spam. It is also a good way to keep personal and professional lives separate.

Adapted from Web users keeping multiple emails (

Identity theft is costing the UK economy over £1.7bn a year, according to figures "calculated by the Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC) in co-operation with both public and private sector organisations".

Adapted from Guardian (


(a) What is your opinion on the blame placed on ICT in the creation of social problems? Is it appropriate/fair?

d. Effect on Identity

i. Multiple Identities

Individuals can create a private space within the public space of the Internet. In creating that private space, they may reveal their personalities and express their opinions without any qualms (subjective to whether their private space remains private or is open to public viewing).

According to Sally M. Cohen, author of Email, IM, And Social Network Strategists: Help Teens Manage Multiple IDs While Preserving Privacy, multiple identities allow teens to create boundaries in online social networks. However, are such boundaries created to express themselves freely or free themselves from the watchful eyes of parents?

ii. The Invisible Cloak

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia said “The very purpose of anonymity is to facilitate wrong by eliminating accountability” (quoted in [Framkin 1995]).

Under the cloak of an online identity, which is easily created, edited and deleted, individuals may feel protected being anonymous. However there is an obvious risk of misuse of anonymity. To eliminate such a risk, a United Nations agency is quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous. Adapted from CNET News (


(a) How different is having multiple personalities from having multiple online identities?

e. Education

i. Accessibility of Information

With the help of new media, information is now easily available. The teacher no longer holds absolute authority over knowledge. Both the teachers and students can take part in knowledge acquisition and creation.


(a)With increasing access to information, how has the role of teachers changed?

(b)Are teachers redundant?

(linked to how we define education? Also the need for a teacher to help teach skills to process the abundant information)

In addition, new media has provided the platform for distance learning which has transformed the global education landscape.

Technology "will allow you to control the information you want, and to get it where you want it and when you want it" - Randy Bennett (responsible for electronic-media initiatives at the Newspaper Association of America)

ii.Digital Divide

ICTs are expected to improve efficiency and increase access to knowledge and expertise. Thus it would appear that an inclusive information society will strengthen democracy, increase social participation, remove barriers to modernization, and empower populations who might have been left out of the development process. Thus ICT brings us one step closer to eradicating poverty.

Where a country has high levels of ICT skills and expertise, society will be better placed to combat social exclusion and the information divide, as well as to identify opportunities for economic growth. From the individual standpoint, access to certain forms of ICTs may increase the choices available to individuals. With increased access to information, individuals are able to make more informed decisions. This is the very essence of empowerment.


In 1995, more than 2.2 million people in developing countries educated themselves through on-line courses. At the same time, initiatives, such as the Health Internetwork, open up communication lines and provide physicians and patients with up-to-the-minute medical information and access to resources.

While some countries and people have benefitted from information communications technology (ICT), more than 95% of the world still do not have electronic access. This gap between information-haves and information-have nots, that exists both between countries and between communities within countries, is known as the "digital divide" or "information poverty."

Evidence of the digital divide:

ð A computer costs one month's salary for the average American, compared with eight years' income for the average Bangladeshi.

ð A quarter of the world’s countries still do not have one telephone per 100 people.

ð The United States has more computers than the rest of the world combined, and Thailand has more cellular phones than the whole of Africa.

Adapted from ICTs and Education indicators (Communication Statistics unit, UNESCO Institute for Statistics)


UN cyberschoolbus (

f. Healthcare

i. Playing God

Scientists have now successfully cloned several kinds of animals and Craig Venter is well on the way to creating the first functional artificial life form, Synthia: so-called synthetic biology. These advances place the power of God in science’s hands. The prospect of radical biological modification of life on this planet is real. This raises the profoundest ethical issues.

The potential to improve the human condition using this kind of technology is an irresistible fruit. But with it comes the dark side of supertechnology: the possibility of annihilation of life on this planet. Synthetic biology and creating novel life forms by creating new DNA sequences could be used to create organisms never before encountered on earth.

This kind of science will not and should not be stopped. The potential benefits are too great. But with it, we require the most profound and overarching programme of radical moral enhancement of human beings, using not just traditional methods of education but looking at how we can alter our own biology to ensure that we become the kinds of beings fit to develop and use supertechnology.

If we develop supertechnologies that will profoundly change the nature of life on this planet, we need to become the gods fit to wield this power.

Craig Venter:

J. Craig Venter is an American biologist and businessman. He founded the Institute of Genome Research and was instrumental in mapping the human genome.

Adapted from Changing the Building Blocks of Life: Playing God and Being gods


(a)What is your opinion on the use of science to ‘alter our biology’ so as to make us morally upright?

(b)Are there differences in our understanding of morality across cultures and time? If so, who decides which morality to abide to?

ii. Producing Designer Children

Some people view the deliberate intervention in the natural process of procreation as an unethical interference with the process of nature.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

Preimplantation genetic testing is a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) refers specifically to when one or both genetic parents have a known genetic abnormality and testing is performed on an embryo to see if it also carries a genetic abnormality.

Because only unaffected embryos are transferred to the uterus for implantation, preimplantation genetic testing provides an alternative to current postconception diagnostic procedures, which are frequently followed by the difficult decision of pregnancy termination if results are unfavorable.

As with all medical interventions associated with human reproduction, PGD gives rise to strong and often conflicting views about the social acceptability of the procedure. For example, in Germany the use of PGD is prohibited by law. In the UK, PGD is permitted in law but its operation is controlled by the state.

Reasons against PGD

Diagnosis of late-onset diseases and predisposition syndromes

A more recent application of PGD is to diagnose late-onset diseases and (cancer) predisposition syndromes. It can be argued that PGD for late-onset diseases is unethical since the individuals remain healthy until the onset of the disease, usually in the fourth decade of life. On the other hand, the high probability or certainty of developing some disorders, and their incurable nature, can lead to a stressful life, waiting for the first symptoms to occur and to an early death. In the case of predisposition syndromes, such as BRCA1 mutations predisposing to breast cancer, it can be argued that there is no certainty of getting the disease and that the disease can usually be treated.

PGD used for sex selection for non-medical reasons.

g. Blurring the boundaries between man and machine

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the area of computer science focusing on creating machines that can engage on behaviors that humans consider intelligent. The ability to create intelligent machines has intrigued humans since ancient times, and today with the advent of the computer and 50 years of research into AI programming techniques, the dream of smart machines is becoming a reality. Researchers are creating systems which can mimic human thought, understand speech, beat the best human chessplayer, and countless other feats never before possible.

h. Environment

Industrialization, deforestation, agricultural intensification, overfishing etc. have brought about many environmental problems.

i.Impact on the rich and the poor

The environmental damage caused by rich nations disproportionately impacts poor nations and costs them more than their combined foreign debt, according to a first-ever global accounting of the dollar costs of countries' ecological footprints. (Science Daily, Jan 23, 2008)

The study makes clear, for example, that while deforestation and agricultural intensification primarily impact the host country, the impacts from climate change and ozone depletion are spread widely over all nations.

"Low-income countries will bear significant burdens from climate change and ozone depletion. But these environmental problems have been overwhelmingly driven by emission of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting chemicals by the rest of the world," Srinivasan said.

Climate change is expected to increase the severity of storms and extreme weather, including prolonged droughts and flooding, with an increase in infectious diseases. Ozone depletion mostly impacts health, with increases expected in cancer rates, cataracts and blindness All of these will affect vulnerable low-income countries disproportionately.

In addition to climate change and ozone depletion, overfishing and conversion of mangrove swamps to shrimp farming are areas in which rich nations burden poor countries.

"Seafood derived from depleted fish stocks in low-income country waters ultimately ends up on the plates of consumers in middle-income and rich countries," Srinivasan said. "The situation is similar for farmed shrimp. For such a small, rare habitat, mangroves, when cut down, exact a surprisingly large cost borne primarily by the poor- and middle-income countries."

The primary cost is loss of storm protection, which some say was a major factor in the huge loss of life from 2005's tsunami in Southeast Asia.

Deforestation, on the other hand, can exacerbate flooding and soil erosion, affect the water cycle and offshore fisheries and lead to the loss of recreation and of non-timber products such as latex and food sources. Agricultural intensification can lead to drinking water contamination by pesticides and fertilizers, pollution of streams, salinization of croplands and biodiversity loss, among other impacts.

When all these impacts are added up, the portion of the footprint of high-income nations that is falling on the low-income countries is greater than the financial debt recognized for low income countries, which has a net present value of 1.8 trillion in 2005 international dollars, Srinivasan said. (International dollars are U.S. dollars adjusted to account for the different purchasing power of different currencies.) "The ecological debt could more than offset the financial debt of low-income nations," she said.

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(2)Political Impact

i. A Surveillance Society

=> Cameras everywhere

=> Tracking on the use of the internet

This results in increased power/ authority by the state over its people and it can potentially create fear and paranoia amongst the masses. We can draw parallels with the panopticon.

The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the "sentiment of an invisible omniscience."

Bentham himself described the Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example."

Parallel with the Novel: 1984 by George Orwell

Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence - where the ruling elite ('the Party') wield total power for its own sake over the inhabitants.

In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the propaganda system in this state.


(a)How does the use of technology for surveillance infringe on our privacy? Does it matter?

ii. People Power

Technology has allowed the lateralization of communication systems, as mentioned in Friedman’s “The World is Flat.”

Governments seem powerless to stop the propagation of ideas: you can ban someone from the country but you can’t ban them from the internet. People are empowered by the new media.


E.g 1.

Vietnamese dissidents opposed to the one-party rule have been communicating through Skype and recruiting via test message and voice-over-Internet chat rooms. Exiled Vietnamese advocacy groups have been sending bulk email messages to accounts with Vietnamese sounding names. These emails typically decry government corruption and urge ordinary citizens to rise up and demand multi-party elections.

The country is increasingly wired. Like China, Vietnam uses a firewall to block access to pornography and political websites and is talking about censoring blogs – although that is more difficult because most are posted on foreign-based websites.

(A Vietnamese “War” in the Blogosphere, TIME, 17 Aug, 2007)

E.g 2

Wikileaks is a website for whistle-blowers to post allegations of corporate or government misconduct, while attempting to preserve the anonymity of its contributors. Within one year of its December 2006 launch, its database had grown to more than 1.2 million documents.

Notable leaks:

An ex-employee at a Zurich-based bank, Julius Baer posted materials detailing money laundering and tax evasion at the Julius Baer’s Cayman Islands branch.

A copy of Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta – the protocol of the U.S. Army at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp – dated March 2003 was released on the Wikileaks website on 7 November 2007. Its release revealed some of the restrictions placed over detainees at the camp, including the designation of some prisoners as off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross, something that the U.S. military had in the past repeatedly denied.


iii.Misuse of the Internet


Omar Mohammed Bakri – founder of infamous al-Muhajiroun group – fled Britain in 2006 and was barred from returning. In September 2008, he was addressing a meeting of around 100 young Muslims in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, via live webcam link to his home in Lebanon. (Guardian, 29 Oct, 2008)


Technology has changed the face of retail, manufacturing and services

ð Shift to e-services

- Within 1 year of the creation of Expedia, the internet travel-agency, 13% of traditional travel agency locations in the US closed down.

- eBAY and Amazon’s success are built on the deaths of numerous traditional antique stores and book shops.


- Convenience for consumers

- The internet serves as another platform for the industries to innovate and make profits


- Traditional stores close down

- Jobs are displaced

- Decreased interaction and socialization amongst people

(4)Science and Science fiction

Science fiction is a broad genre of fiction that often involves speculations based on current or future science or technology. Science fiction is found in books, art, television, films, games, theatre, and other media.

While science fiction provides criticism of developing and future technology, it also produces innovation and new technology. Science fiction can be said to fire the technological imagination.

According to Michio Kaku, one of the world’s most prominent physicists and co-founder of string field theory, “many people don’t realize that science fiction has been an inspiration for the world’s leading scientists.”

Criticism of future technology

E.g: Gattaca

The tale of a repressive nation which genetically-engineers its ruling classes, Gattaca makes it seem that the logical outcome of genetic tampering is fascism. In reality, history has shown that fascism can exist in the absence of modern science, and that genetic engineering is merely a tool that can be put to good or bad uses. And yet the myth of genetic engineering existing on a slippery slope toward social breakdown is a difficult one for experimental biologists to overcome.

E.g Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's classic novel of biomedical horror and scientists "playing God," this novel has probably done more to scare people away from biotech than almost any other science fiction story. This novel suggests that monstrosity and murder are the only possible outcome of science aimed at enhancing humans, or reusing human parts to create new kinds of life.

E.g Terminator

The field of robotics became popular when people started obsessing over the well-known and ever-expanding set of Terminator tales about an evil A.I. named Skynet who destroys humanity with nukes and an army of nasty cyborg soldiers. In Terminator, it seems inevitable that A.I. will lead to human destruction — except in the few, rare cases when the cyborgs are forcibly reprogrammed

Inspiration for future technology

E.g Look to Windward

One of Ian M. Banks novels about a post-human Culture where enhanced humans live alongside A.I.s in an anarchic, trans-galactic society, Look to Windward explores the way humans can maintain their basic identities and ethical values no matter how much they tamper with their genes or modify their morphology. For Banks, synthetic biology is simply a logical way that humans extend their capabilities, but it does not turn them into monsters or make them authoritarian overlords.

E.g Michaelmas

A novel published by Algis Budrys in 1977 described a worldwide web of telecommunications and computer data, not unlike what we see today.

More information about the novel:

The eponymous protagonist, Laurent Michaelmas, is an ex-hacker who had early in the computer era left "back doors" in many key pieces of software which run vital government and commercial computers. As a result, by the turn of the millennium, he has become one of the most powerful men on earth, because of his ability to spy and influence through the worldwide computer network.

By the time of the novel, Laurent Michaelmas has successfully used his power to create and sustain a powerful version of the United Nations to ensure world peace. He stays in the background, however, as a journalist, albeit a highly influential and respected one whose words and opinions can still influence public opinion. However, as the novel progresses, Michaelmas slowly learns that a possible extraterrestrial presence may be interfering with the new world he has worked so hard to create.

The novel is remarkable for its prescience, because it appeared less than a decade into the Internet era, long before its current prominence and ubiquity.

Adapted from

E.g Star Wars

Most prominent areas of research inspired by the film are ‘hyper-drive’ and robotics research inspired by Luke Skywalker’s ever reliable R2D2 and C3PO.


(a) Can you think of any other works of science fiction which criticize or inspire future technology?

Past year exam questions:


Science & Technology: Advancements and impact



Science has been a scapegoat for the ills of modern society.’ Comment.



It is more important to educate young Singaporeans in Science than Arts.



Scientific research and applications which are exploitative should not be allowed.



Can spending on space research ever be justified when it has little practical use?



Effective communication in the technological age requires the written word more than the spoken one. Comment.



The computer has done more harm than good to society. Is this true?



Do you agree with the view, eventually technology will always solve the problems it creates?



How technology changed the way we do business?



We are losing more than we gain through our advances in Science.’ Discuss.



Advances that make life more comfortable also make it more dangerous.’ How far is this true?



To what extent have science and technology solved problems for the poor?



Science gives us the illusion of being in control. Discuss.



Modern technology has given us many time-saving devices, and yet we often complain that we have no time. Why?



Big Brother is watching.’ The computer, instead of being Man’s friend, is his most insidious enemy. To what extent do you agree with this view?



The advancements in Science and Technology today have both empowered and weakened Man. Discuss.