Science, Technology and Big Data
The well-being of our society owes much to science and technology, which have transformed our living conditions tremendously and have contributed to profound changes in our society. However, while some of these changes bring great benefits to us (such as health, security and economic prosperity) some other changes bring profound damage and threats (such as environmental degradation, weapons of mass destruction, digital fake news, and wealth inequities). Because of the high stakes involved, all HKU students need to have a basic understanding of science, technology and their social impacts.
A scientifically and technologically literate individual is better able to cope with the demands of everyday life in an increasingly technologically-dominated society, better positioned to evaluate and respond critically to the supposed “scientific evidence” used by advertising agencies and politicians to promote particular products and policies, better equipped to make important life decisions, and more ready and willing to engage in debates on contemporary socio-scientific issues.
Scientifically literate individuals benefit not only intellectually but also aesthetically and morally. A scientifically literate individual is better able to appreciate the complex beauty of the natural world, just as an individual who is knowledgeable in music and the fine arts can better appreciate the mathematics and science without which music, painting, or film would be impossible. An understanding of the ethical standards and codes of responsible behaviour that should be observed within the scientific community also enables individuals to make better decisions in their personal and professional lives as responsible citizens and will benefit society as a whole, especially around issues of the formation of public policy.
Arts and Humanities
The Arts and Humanities engage with the fundamental questions of human existence, illuminating how humans make sense of the world from material, historical and philosophical perspectives. The Arts and Humanities deepen our relationship to each other, to the built environment of cultures (including the ever more immersive machine-world), and to the natural surrounds in and through which we live.
The modes of enquiry and of making in the Arts and Humanities are not only interwoven with one another, but also with topics from all the other Common Core Areas of Inquiry (AoIs). The Arts and Humanities are integral to the history of Science and Technology, travel both locally and globally, and have profoundly impacted the culture of China. In all of the AoIs, we see that creative action is critical action, critical thinking is creative thinking.
We live in a world with an unprecedented level of interdependence. Our lives are profoundly affected by decisions and events that occur in places far away from us. Capital, products, services, information, viruses, technology, culture, ideas and people move across borders much more easily and rapidly than before and such domestic issues as food, energy, health, environment, the arts, economic development and national security have acquired a significant global dimension. How are we to comprehend the complex nature of globalization? What are the pros and cons of globalization? What are the causes and implications of the growth of movements that oppose globalization? What duties and rights do people of this global village have towards each other?
China: Culture, State and Society
Understanding China from past to present enables students not only to see how a major civilization has experienced both grandeur as well as setbacks, but also to understand the historical processes and international forces that have shaped the living conditions of the Chinese in different historical periods. In order to comprehend the complexities of China’s changing fortunes and the fundamental challenges confronting the nation today, one has to examine how the Chinese have lived across different times and places, debated values, and formed complex identities and legacies.
Since the late 1970s, China’s achievements in carrying out economic reforms has not only improved the livelihood of the majority of the Chinese people, but also created enormous opportunities for many other countries and laid the foundation for China’s recent rise as a major power on the world stage. Hong Kong is a very cosmopolitan city, yet her history reminds us of China’s precarious quest for modernity and the city’s role in bridging China and the West. Hong Kong, being a unique and dynamic part of China, is privileged intellectually, culturally and geographically to engage in a critical, intellectual inquiry of China’s history, culture, and economic, social, and political changes. Reflecting upon China’s past, interpreting her present, and exploring the prospects for her future pose a series of puzzles that merit the attention of every student at HKU.