Very rarely, my wanderings in the blogosphere bring to somebody impressive. Well, today is one of those days. Meet Kyle Munkittick, graduate student and multiple daily updater. He needs some love, so our readers (all six of you) should go over and comment on his posts.
Now for some content. I went to a talk at the Brookings Institute by Intel CEO Paul Otelli on rebuilding American innovation. To summarize, barring major structural changes, we are screwed. Decades of dysfunctional education have caught up with us, while the patent system is "if not broken, very close." We are 40th out of 40 countries in innovation growth. There are not enough engineers and scientists, yet the job market remains unstable. Businesses, instead of adapting to the economic crisis, are hunkering down. In short, we have a problem, now how do we get out of it?
There are of course no simple solutions, but it strikes me that the common thread here is science and technology. We need to spur investment, and bring new people into the field. Positive incentives are a good start, direct federal R&D spending and science scholarships, but perhaps we need to start applying a little stick as well. Cash for clunkers for dead technology, punitive measures for industries with little R&D investment (R&D in the power industry is basically nil). One great idea I heard is that in China, the top 10% of science fair participants automatically get into the university of their choice. Imagine that, instead of stacking, athletics, arts, and community service extra-curriculars, our bright students aim for #1 for science fairs. Now, I never did one, closest I came was robotics, but I guarantee that if science fairs were a surefire shot to college, my school would have sent people. In terms of inculcating the scientific mindset, science fairs are probably more efficient than anything else you could get a high school student to do.