Santa Clara University

STS Nexus

The Tech Museum Awards: Technology Benefiting Humanity

Presented by Applied Materials Inc.

A Moral Compass for Silicon Valley

Peter Giles

A quarter of a century has passed since the concept first emerged for a high-tech museum in Sili-con Valley. Today we find the world is a far different place than those early visionaries who founded The Tech would have ever imagined. We have seen the world’s population grow to six billion people. Entire countries have disappeared, and new ones are in place. World political alliances have dissolved to be replaced by unexpected new combinations of allies. We have seen the end of deadly diseases, such as small pox, only to have the world threatened by the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The explosion of information has become a reality-–ubiquitous personal computers, the Internet, cell phones, to name but a few. A host of acronyms are now every day parlance––PDAs, CDs, DVDs, HDTVs–– and there is digital everything. And if tech-nology has not had a direct hand in all this change, at the very least technology has delivered the updates through every medium imaginable "24/7."

As the initial name of the museum implied "The Technology Center of Silicon Valley," we tended in the past to view technology from a regional per-spective. It is now clear that technology has not only national consequences but a profound global impact. At The Tech in 2002, we must consider technology from this broader context and bear in mind that it can have life-altering effects. We believe that The Tech Awards are enabling us to fulfill our highest purpose –– to advocate for innovators who are using technol-ogy for the common good. Daily world events re-mind us that technology cannot be a luxury of the few but is rather a necessity for the many.

At the turn of the new millennium in 2000, we launched the awards with the theme, “Imagine what technology can do next.” We sent out a call for inno­vators around the world to share their technological breakthroughs and success stories with us. The re­sponses from 50 countries both inspired and humbled us. Attendees at the inaugural Awards Gala in 2001 were amazed at the accomplishments of the first twenty-five Laureates and their dedication to address­ing world problems that we in Silicon Valley seldom need to consider, such as: electrification, clean water, basic rights for women, access to information of any kind, and malaria. We were forced to reflect on how privileged we are and how the lives we are fortunate to lead are not representative of vast, populous areas of the world.

This year the twenty-five 2002 Tech Laure­ates come from Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland, and eight states in the United States. Once again their inspiring innovations confront complex challenges, such as il­literacy, autism, the language gap, contamination, AIDS, and cancer. Their stories are vividly described in this publication.

The Tech is grateful for the support and vi­sion of the leaders of Silicon Valley and beyond, espe­cially Applied Materials, Inc., the NASDAQ Stock Market, Knight Ridder, Intel Corporation, JPMorgan Chase, and Accenture. Together we take the moral position that the power and promise of technology must be harnessed to solve the urgent challenges that ultimately threaten the very existence of our planet. The Tech Awards stand for genius and generosity of spirit, reminding us that humankind has the capacity for greatness. Technology in the hands of people of good will can solve problems, save lives, and improve the quality of life on Earth.

About the Author

Peter Giles 

Peter Giles

Peter Giles, President and CEO of The Tech Museum of Innovation, has been an ambassador of Silicon Valley for the past 20 years. Before coming to The Tech, Giles served as the first president of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group. Giles was a fellow of the American Leader­ship Forum and currently serves on the Board of Directors. In 1999, Giles received the John Gardner Leadership Award from the American Leadership Forum and was recognized as San Jose Citizen of the Year by the San Jose Boys and Girls Club. Giles holds an AB in History from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Adminis­tration degree in urban management from the University of Pittsburgh.

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