White House's Tom Kalil on "Grand Challenges"

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17 Responses to “White House's Tom Kalil on "Grand Challenges"”

  1. SamLL says:

    Here is the killer question: which of these Grand Challenges is the White House willing to spend at least as much money on per year as the currently running “invade Afghanistan and force the population to love the occupying foreign power” or “eliminate American use of currently illegal recreational drugs” Grand Challenges?

    • Snig says:

      Give them a congress that works with them, and they likely will. 

      • Jim Saul says:

        America is dying for inspiration and optimism.

        Someone once said something like “injecting the American people with crippling despair isn’t just possible, it’s politically viable.”

        We’ve had enough of that crap.

        Congress seems to be pretty much all id. Scare them with a disapproving cocktail circuit, give them a sniff of constituent contracting projects to cut the ribbons on, or let them hear the roar of the crowd. Few of them may be open to personal inspiration any more, but inspire the people, and Congress will scramble to align themselves with the winners.

        The real challenges may be to prevent vulture contractors from draining the resources out of any projects. Transparency is the solution to that.

        • Kimmo says:

          Memo to the Democratic Party: hire Jim Saul here, or someone else with a clue.

          The vast edifice of Republican control (eg, I just saw This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated) is rapidly destroying what remains of your nation and its democracy.

          As USAnians are fond of saying, it’s the bottom of the ninth etc… and you better get your shit together and get at least as half as slick as the pricks, or the good ole US will be a fascist basket case (it’s looking that way already) inside a decade.

          There’s a Grand Challenge for you…

          The rest of the ‘free’ world is bloody counting on you, OK? Instead of pissing away another opportunity, capitalise on Limbaugh’s high insanity and drive that wedge into those bastards! We’re watching.

    •  We’re not in Afghanistan to force them to love us. We’re in Afghanistan because Iran is right next door.

       Stay tuned…..

      • The official reasoning behind the west’s occupation and inteference in the middle east seems to change every few years, and has done for the past century.  I don’t even think politicians know why we’re there any more, I think it’s just a force of habit.

  2. Snig says:

    “Jocks and nerds may come together, I believe it. I believe it is so. But only the nerds will save the earth.” –John Hodgman

  3. silkox says:

    A 12 page speech that doesn’t use the word “climate” even once? By someone from White House OSTP? Instead of reading it, wouldn’t our time be better spent kissing our asses goodbye?

    • greebo says:

      I think it’s part of the strange thinking from the Obama white house that if they avoid words that the GOP finds offensive, then maybe the GOP will play nice with them. Bit like Lucy and the football…

    • Snig says:

      He spoke at length on clean energy and environmental challenges, specifically on working on developing processes to reduce toxic substances.  Obama administration classifies CO2 as a toxin. 

  4. Mike Norman says:

    What a fine example of the political utility of talking about so-called “Grand Challenges.”

    The first thing to get straight is that no “Grand Challenge” is going to inspire a culture to value education. It’s the other way around; Cultures that value education inspire Grand Projects. The prototypical Grand Challenge is the Apollo Program, a project clearly rooted in Cold War fears of eventual Soviet Communist supremacy. It was that fear which drove Americans peculiarly to value freedom and the associated enlightenment ideal of prosperity and might through education. (A value system encouraged by savvy propaganda in a more culturally simple and homogeneous time, to boot!) For a long time, the perceived benefits of technology–of an automated farm that could feed ten times what a more primitive farm could feed, for example–had a moral aspect that coincided with the benefits of education. Engineers built farm equipment, which fed mouths, while taking home a higher pay and concomitant higher standard of living that were both perceived as *earned* through the discipline and virtue of education. It certainly did no harm to those ideals that the success of an engineer or scientist often lead to the very lucrative success of his or her employer.

    Where is any of that, now? What, for example, is the clear moral imperative of developing the next hand-held touch-screen computing/communication device? How lucrative would such a design be for any specific engineer? And where’s the differential for the person that designs it? That person was an educated engineer before s/he designed it, and is the same after, except for maybe the possession of a bonus. Quick, name the most important film of the last five years. Can’t do it? Oh, that’s because the nearly-direct-to-streaming-video model to which the entertainment industry has had to resort–as a natural response to fierce competition–has saturated the culture with forgettable effluvium. How is a clear propaganda model going to get through that muck? Are you going to track the next Moon shot on Twitter? Facebook? Google Plus? MoonShot.gov? Even if there were an entity with the means to get a message through, what could possible be motivated to do so? They’re already rich, and there’s no credible threat to them getting richer, uninterrupted.

    It’s telling that the “automated manufacturing” talking point showed up under the category of making Mars habitable. About the closest that any commercial or government entity can imagine self-reproducing manufacturing capability is on Mars. That’s an idea that is literally profitable for nobody who has the means to do it.

    As a society, we’ve ratcheted far enough up Maslow’s hierarchy that we are able to actualize our potentials more surely than any generation before. The side effects of this are the sheer size of society, the sheer amount of noise it produces, and the raising of the baseline against which all stories of the future are implicitly judged. This has become our potential, to be earthbound and burning coal for power until it runs out while ineffective politicians make PowerPoint presentations about Grand Challenges.

    Or, to frame it purely in terms of the public imagination: We might actually be able to put a man on the Moon, or even a woman! We’ll never put a hipster on the Moon, though, because nobody can relate and s/he wouldn’t care.

    And we’re all hipsters, now.

    • Jim Saul says:

      Using the internet to criticize DARPA-style challenges? Even a hipster can get the definition of irony right on that one.

    • Snig says:

      I don’t think things are that different, and I think proposing challenges is a good thing to do.

      People were generally cynical about the space program during the Apollo years.  (We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t…)  Bill Gates, who profited astronomically from the computer revolution, is now devoting his mind, money and time to improving healthcare and alleviating poverty.  Hollywood, since it’s inception, has produced saturation levels of forgettable effluvium, we only remember the good ones.  Elon Musk, hipster, doesn’t care about going to the moon, but he’s passionate about getting to Mars. 

      Elucidating challenges won’t change the world by itself.  But it has the chance to inspire someone to do so.  I still know brilliant young people who may change the world for the better.  It may need to only inspire a handful to make a serious change.  While it didn’t inspire you at all, maybe it will inspire the next Tesla.  Of course while Tesla changed the world, he was largely ripped off by his employers back then too. 

    • Jim Saul says:

      A set of my favorite quotes seems on the nose…

      “History has always been a race between education and catastrophe.” – H.G. Wells

      “”Run faster. History is a constant race between invention and catastrophe. Education helps but it is never enough. You must also run.” – Frank Herbert

  5. rein tika says:

    First, they can have a major impact in domains such as health, energy, sustainability, education, economic opportunity, national security, or human exploration. 

    i agree with it..

  6. ozy ali says:

    peace is more cool ……. say no to war

  7. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    Here is a Grand Challenge, eliminate PACs from election campaigns.  Might even require a Constitutional amendment and cost thousands of lives but I think the nation could achieve it by 2100.

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