Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hope On The Horizon: The Case for Optimism

MIT Researchers Point to Potential Economy-boosting Technologies (link)

As the economy appears to falter and as more Americans fear that the country is on the wrong track, here's something to keep in mind: There is hope on the horizon.

History is filled with examples of how technology helped usher in new eras of prosperity. The rise of the Internet is a good case in point: Few people who experienced the economic recession of the early 1990s could have foreseen how the Web and related information technologies would improve their lives and unleash whole new industries within a few short years.

To help build the case for optimism, the MIT News Office asked a collection of MIT faculty and researchers for their thoughts on the potentially life-altering technologies that lie just around the corner. Here's a sample of what they said:

Biosolar Cells
Digital Fabrication
Electrochemical Energy
Embedded Electronics
Life Extension
Mitigating Autism
Problem Solving
Sustainable Cities
Transcending Technology

Thanks to Craig Newmark for the pointer


At 5/27/2008 5:07 PM, Anonymous E. Harokopos said...

History tells us that economy boosting technologies hardly came out of universities.

Universities are too "conforming" to come up with trully revolutionary technology. A lot of things come out but rarely something that can drastically change the future.

Examples: First transistor and integrated circuit (Bell Labs & TI), DOS (Microsoft).

I do not see anything revolutionary in what MIT presented. Actually nothing that is not worked on by private sector like Bell Labs, IBM, Intel, etc.

It's just a hype for getting grants and their students hired by those companies.

US relies on startups and that is good. Europe relies on Universities with nearly zero innovative output.

E. Harokopos

At 5/27/2008 7:47 PM, Anonymous The Masked Millionaire said...

e. harokopos did Microsoft really invent DOS?

The Masked Millionaire

At 5/28/2008 2:20 AM, Anonymous E. Harokopos said...

Masked $$$$,

You are right, I think it was Paterson who wrote DOS, it was bought by Microsoft, renamed NS-DOS and sold to IBM.

Still, nothing related to university research, I think he had his own shop then working independently.

Thanks for pointing that out.

At 5/28/2008 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't the point that technological innovation ensures that all things do not remain equal. For example, the development of the polio vaccine or the Green revolution in agriculture create a paradym shift. Quite simply such changes alter the conditions on the ground.

While I agree that innovation often occurs as a result of counter-intuitive thinking and that organizations that encourage conformity (ie. government or universities) are seldom outstanding at innovation, are we not missing the point that a very small percentage of the population has tremendous impact on society and will alter our lives in ways that are unimaginable.

At 5/28/2008 8:34 AM, Anonymous E., Harokopos said...

The impact of paradigm shifts amd discontinuous progress in science are elaborated in the influential work of contemporary American philosopher Thomas Kuhn "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions".

According to Kuhn, there are inexplicable periods of paradigm-shifting scientific revolution.

I agree with that view. "Normal" uniiversity research cannot and will not contribute to scientific and technological revolution because is according to Kuhn it is conducted within the framework of "business as usual".

Notice that I refer to scientific and technological revolution in the sense of a paradigm shift, not common research that has a definitive output.

At 5/28/2008 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"cannot and will not"

While I am inclined to agree that it is more difficult for a university (or any large organization for that matter), it is by no means certain that a university "cannot and will not" ever produce scientific and technological innovations. You have presented insufficient evidence to support such a conclusion.

At 5/29/2008 8:24 AM, Anonymous E. Harokopos said...

"You have presented insufficient evidence to support such a conclusion."

You might have missed the point. Universities do create technological innovation. They hardly create revolutions, is the point made.

The evidence is inductive in nature. If you are looking for certainty you are not going to get it. Look at most major innovation, starting from relativity theory in early 1900 to transistor, IC, MS-DOS, etc. Nothing of that came out because of university research.


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