“A political action committee that seeks to get more scientists and engineers to run for elective office, 314 Action, has seen a surge of interest in its programs, with more than 2,000 people registering at its website. The group is planning a training program for scientist-candidates, whether they want to run for local or state offices or Congress.
Other scientists have organized demonstrations — including a march now set for Earth Day, April 22 — submitted letters or opinion articles to news organizations or joined efforts to preserve government data that they fear may otherwise disappear. “
Time on how science affects many US public policies
Along with Warren Buffett’s annual letter I look forward to that from the GE CEO. It is chockful of STEM and innovation angles and anecdotes.
The graph below from his latest annual investor letter shows some of Immelt’s moves to turn GE into a “Digital Industrial” company - sensors, material science, additive manufacturing and much more in its changing product portfolio and processes around the world.
“One word sums up our country’s achievements: miraculous. From a standing start 240 years ago – a span of time less than triple my days on earth – Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers.
You need not be an economist to understand how well our system has worked. Just look around you. See the 75 million owner-occupied homes, the bountiful farmland, the 260 million vehicles, the hyper-productive factories, the great medical centers, the talent-filled universities, you name it – they all represent a net gain for Americans from the barren lands, primitive structures and meager output of 1776. Starting from scratch, America has amassed wealth totaling $90 trillion.
It’s true, of course, that American owners of homes, autos and other assets have often borrowed heavily to finance their purchases. If an owner defaults, however, his or her asset does not disappear or lose its usefulness. Rather, ownership customarily passes to an American lending institution that then disposes of it to an American buyer. Our nation’s wealth remains intact. As Gertrude Stein put it, “Money is always there, but the pockets change.”
Above all, it’s our market system – an economic traffic cop ably directing capital, brains and labor – that has created America’s abundance. This system has also been the primary factor in allocating rewards. Governmental redirection, through federal, state and local taxation, has in addition determined the distribution of a significant portion of the bounty.
America has, for example, decided that those citizens in their productive years should help both the old and the young. Such forms of aid – sometimes enshrined as “entitlements” – are generally thought of as applying to the aged. But don’t forget that four million American babies are born each year with an entitlement to a public education. That societal commitment, largely financed at the local level, costs about $150,000 per baby. The annual cost totals more than $600 billion, which is about 31⁄2% of GDP.
However our wealth may be divided, the mind-boggling amounts you see around you belong almost exclusively to Americans. Foreigners, of course, own or have claims on a modest portion of our wealth. Those holdings, however, are of little importance to our national balance sheet: Our citizens own assets abroad that are roughly comparable in value.
Early Americans, we should emphasize, were neither smarter nor more hard working than those people who toiled century after century before them. But those venturesome pioneers crafted a system that unleashed human potential, and their successors built upon it.
This economic creation will deliver increasing wealth to our progeny far into the future. Yes, the build-up of wealth will be interrupted for short periods from time to time. It will not, however, be stopped. I’ll repeat what I’ve both said in the past and expect to say in future years: Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”
In writing my recent book, Silicon Collar I saw several mismatches in the labor market. There have been nearly 5 million unfilled jobs for 4+ years. Yet, people have racked up over a trillion in student debt for education many cannot parlay into jobs. Higher education still thinks in terms of 4-6-8 years of formal school when the average job is lasting 5 years or less. We need to revisit our learning methods and fast.
So, I have been watching with interest as Nick Hortovanyi started describing on social media his experience in a new area using Udacity.
Nick had graced this blog a couple of years ago as he described how wearables and data were reshaping his passion for cycling
I asked him how and why he decided on Udacity
“I'm not an academic, have never been to University and the thought maybe of going to University for 3+ years was offputting. I have had a life long learning experience with technology via technology itself. The Udacity Silicon Valley approach seems to fit how I learn using the internet itself."
However, he is not using Udacity for learn a well-trodden subject. And he is doing it across the Pacific from his home on the Gold Coast of Australia.
"I was having trouble finding a large enough market for a startup vision, I had improving performance of cyclists from the data they collected. Thus as part of my what’s next thinking I applied for the new Udacity Self Driving Car Engineer Nano Degree. I thought if I got in, that'd be great, I could get recognition for some of my more recent data science learnings as well as learn more about AI (Deep Learning & Machine Learning), Computer Vision and Robotics.”
It is cutting edge stuff like the Advanced Lane Detection project where he applied “computer vision techniques to augment video output with a detected road lane, road radius curvature and road centre offset.”
Dyson may be the world’s most interesting engineering and design firm. It’s not just because they manufacture 40,000 inventive products a day, from high-end vacuum cleaners to fans with no blades, but because it’s a multi-billion dollar empire that’s owned, not by shareholders, but by one man, its founder, James Dyson.
James Dyson is approaching 70, and of three children, he has one son who has been anointed his successor: Jake. (His other son is a musician, while his daughter is a fashion designer.)
New Scientist (sub required) has a whole issue which looks 60 years ahead
“The internet, global warming, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering were all on our radar in 1956. But our ideas about how they might pan out bore little resemblance to how they have actually evolved, particularly when it comes to their social ramifications. Ubiquitous information has not created rationalist utopias, ecological catastrophes have not culled our population and we have neither super-human machines nor people, though we’re getting there.
Can we hope to do any better at predicting the future today? One way to proceed is to simply extrapolate: in other words, look at what’s happening now and assume that the trends you see will continue. This works well when you can expect a system to remain governed by the same principles. Celestial dynamics don’t vary much, so we can predict with confidence that Halley’s comet will return to our skies in 2061.
As systems get more complex, however, accurate prediction becomes more difficult. Long-term weather forecasting, for example, is fearsomely hard. When we think about social change, it becomes harder still. There are far more factors to take into account and they unfold in complex and interacting ways. Linear extrapolation invariably fails: it’s the kind of thinking that leads people to jokily ask “where’s my jetpack?”, a question borne of post-war trends in transport and the space race – none of them relevant today.”