THINK BIG: America’s Future-Structure

This week we will be publishing excerpts from the Potomac Institute’s latest report,
“THINK BIG: BIG Science, BIG Opportunities, and BIG Ideas.” THINK BIG argues that innovation in science and technology are the keys to American economic strength and national security. Rather than a return to the infrastructure, economy, and healthcare systems of the past, the report calls for a vision for the future.

The new Administration has identified infrastructure projects as a top priority. We must not merely rebuild or fix our current infrastructure; rather, we must reimagine the infrastructure of the future and invest in the technologies and businesses to achieve that future. The country has a unique opportunity to imagine and build a new America – to be the world leader in infrastructure innovation. Major infrastructure projects of the past, from the National Highway System to the commercial aviation sysem, have launched new industries and driven major economic development. America’s future will be a world of autonomous vehicles, universal access to information, and unlimited energy.

To reach this future, we need an innovative infrastructure investment plan. Our Future-Structure will include:

Autonomous vehicles that free humans from driving, accidents, and vastly reduce the costs of travel. Automated flying vehicles will revolutionize both commercial and personal travel.
Ultra high-speed internet access will be a universal right and will be available to the entire population just as fresh water is a national mandate, today. Entire new industries and intellectual freedoms will be born out of universal access to mankind’s knowledge base.
Super high-speed travel will usher in a new age of trade and transportation. Vast distances will be covered in minutes via ultra high-speed trains, super-sonic planes, and hyper-loop cargo systems.
Inexpensive energy will become a reality through new methods of generating and storing energy, not via a new grid but by eliminating the grid. Every home, vehicle, and electronic device will generate its own power from the vast energy provide by natural forces. Large, nationwide energy grids will become obsolete.
Education will be revolutionized when we put an iPad in the hands of every child in the country, giving them access to the world’s knowledge and customized, selfpaced learning. The next generation will know more and be more enabled than ever before.
Deep-space exploration and colonization will become possible, and eventually routine. The U.S. will become the global hub for space travel.

RECOMMENDATION

America needs an infrastructure investment plan for the future. We must leap ahead of current infrastructure systems to meet the technology-enabled demands of the next 50 to 100 years – and beyond. With a mandate to “rebuild America,” the new Administration has an opportunity to radically transform America’s infrastructure and ensure our status as the world’s economic and technology leader. Let’s embrace the future, not rebuild the past.

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Because ISIS Said So

By Rebecca McCauley Rench

I want my government and the people around me to make rational decisions based on science, not judgments based on belief, morality, or stereotypes. However, this is not the world I see when I turn on the news. The recent attacks on freedom through those pledged to ISIS – the Orlando nightclub massacre, the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino shooting – people unwilling or unable to think rationally about their actions have perpetrated all these. They have committed atrocities in the name of a religion, a group, or cause without contemplating the simple question of “Why?”. The most recent attack on Western values was committed by someone that grew up as a part of the culture. Omar Mateen was born in the United States and worked as a prison guard and security officer, jobs that require some commitment to protecting people, yet he was able to put that aside for the hate he felt towards a group of people. There is no rationality to that decision, only blind ignorance. There is no place for such ignorance in a rationale society, yet it persists in our country and around the world.

In the United States of America, we stand on doctrine that government is for the people, by the people, but have we spent time ensuring that those people act rationally? We have all had a hand in creating an environment where people do what they are told without thought. The best example of values and principles of a culture can be easily seen in the interaction with children. Children are nearly blank canvasses with which those around them instill values, knowledge, and expectations. However, we do not drive our children towards a future where they are taught to question those lessons. We stamp the question of “Why?” out of our children through our callous, lazy, and stupid answer: “Because I said so.” How can we expect our children to grow to adulthood and be able to question the rhetoric around them, preventing them from being drawn into hate speech, if we do not teach them to think critically? Perhaps our children would be better off in the hands of Siri, Alexa, or OK Google – those willing to respond with the answer to their best of their knowledge regardless of how many times it has been asked before, how tired they are, or how irritated they may be. If we don’t begin to take our role as parents, mentors, and thought leaders responsibly, the future may be better off in robotic hands.

Reimagining the American Dream

By Charles Mueller

The American Dream is an idea, an idea that has driven this country and inspired the world for almost 300 years.  This dream was rooted in our Declaration of Independence with the words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

As this country has evolved, so to this dream.  This dream is about finding comfort in the idea that we live in a country where there is opportunity for all and regardless of your race, creed, sex, class or the family you were born into, through hard work and determination you can create the life you want.  However, for many, the American Dream is beginning to feel like the American Nightmare, a sick illusion of hope in a world full of fear, hostility and inequality relative to times past.  Just as James Truslow Adams inspired a nation coming out of the Great Depression in his book Epic of America by first coining and describing the American Dream, our nation today, one coming out of its own era of financial despair, needs a reimagining of the American Dream.

The generation that emerged following the first references to the American Dream was the generation that helped save the world from the evil that prompted WWII.  This generations’ ethos was all about hard work, it was about survival, it was about creating a better future for their children, and their attitudes are what came to define the American Dream.  Overtime, this generations children evolved the dream to include a greater emphasis on the pursuit of happiness.  Happiness was not necessarily hard work, it was also about working the jobs you wanted and having time to enjoy the efforts of your labor with the ones you loved most.  As the country continued to mature, this third generation of the post-Great Depression American Dream became the first to truly reap the rewards of the sacrifices of the first generation; the world they lived in was evidence of the success of their grandparents.  This generation of people was promised the American Dream was finally the American Reality.

Unfortunately, the combination of the devastating effects of 9/11 on the American psyche and the Financial Crisis of 2008 on the American wallet has challenged the ethos of our time and exposed parts of the American Dream, which have turned out to be false.  The wealth gap in this country continues to grow, hateful speech is becoming more of the norm, and graduated students are entering the job market with university degrees only to find a genuine lack of opportunity compounded with a mountain of student debt.  Hard work no longer seems to be paying off.  While this reality is still greater than many other parts of the world, it represents at minimum the flattening of the trend President Franklin Roosevelt always said should be upwards in his last Inaugural Address in 1945:

“Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights — then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward, that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend.”

It is time we reimagine the American Dream.  It is time we generate a new idea, a new hope, a new vision for the future that will inspire this nation once again and give new meaning to our purpose.  In a world dominated by the advancements of science & technology (S&T) the definition of hard work looks much different from the days it was synonymous with long hours on the farm or at the factory.  This new American Dream should anticipate the future that will be arriving, one where we can communicate with our thoughts, have robots do our chores and free ourselves from the limits of our genes.

This new American Dream should be about making the pursuit of happiness easier.  This is a dream where people don’t have to work harder to move up, they have to work smarter, they have to work more creatively, they have to take advantage of the world that has been gifted to them and imagine it to the future.  This American Dream should be about providing everyone with the ability to do this, giving everyone access to things like the Internet and creating new jobs that seek out the human imagination.  It should be about developing a society where we reward our creativity and ability to dream up the futures no one else can envision.

The future of the American Dream should be that no matter who you are, you live in a place where your imagination can come true, where opportunity exists to let your bold ideas grow into things that will change the world.  This is a world where opportunity still knocks even if you fail.  It is a world about the future and it will take all of us to make sure this new American Dream becomes reality.

Winning Hearts and Minds

By Charles Mueller

Winning hearts and minds is how you lead a country, it is key to winning wars, and it is what good governance depends on in a rational society.  If you do not have the hearts and minds of the people, then you cannot lead them or protect them.  People’s hearts and minds are won by giving them something to believe in, giving them something to trust.  When people believe that you will help create the reality they hope to see, they give their hearts and minds to you.  This is something all people who want power understand because power is controlling the hearts and minds of the people.  Today, the hearts and minds of the rational people around the world are being controlled by an irrational idea, that trepidation  is normal, that terrorism is acceptable, that we are not free to live without fear.  That fear was perpetuated earlier this week when Daesh carried out a series of cowardly attacks on the innocent people in the capital of Belgium.

The hearts of people are won by gaining their trust, by capturing their loyalty.  Terrorists groups like Daesh are winning the hearts of rational people, people like the teenager Maysa from Belgium who drank the Daesh kool-aid.  The heart is not always a rational thing, it is fueled by emotion and responds most greatly to fear.  We are losing the hearts of the rational people of the world somehow.  The heart is most susceptible to change when it is living in fear.  Ironically, by creating an unstable world the terrorists gain the hearts of the rational people.

The minds of people are sometimes much harder to win.  The more educated, the more skeptical, the more logical a mind, the harder it is to win it over with cheap tricks.  Maysa’s rational mind is the only reason she is not a terrorist fighting with the Daesh today.  They might have tricked her heart, but they could not trick her mind.  This is the power of rational thought, the power of science.  When we understand our world better, in a more scientific way, we can control our hearts and put our loyalty and trust in places that are truly safe.  This is why democracy works; because rational people invest their hearts and their minds in leaders who are rational and logical too.

Our rational leaders are not capturing the hearts and minds of the people anymore.  The terrorists have put fear in our hearts and minds and they are beginning to turn us into irrational, illogical people.  If we become that, we’ve lost the world we have spilt so much blood, sweat and tears over trying to create; a world of free thought, of opportunity, of freedom and justice for all.  Trust and loyalty are inspired by action.  Rational people also require that action be logical.  Every war, be it WWII or the most recent War on Terror, is fought over the hearts and minds of people.  I hate to think that right now we are losing the war for the hearts and minds of the world.

A Declaration of Universal Rights

By Rebecca McCauley Rench

“An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental.”
–Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 1807. ME 11:341

The United States of America was created on the principles of equal, inalienable rights which we believe are a defining feature of an advanced civilization and necessary for stability in our culture and government. While it took our nation over a century to recognize that these rights apply to individuals regardless of their gender, race, or any other superficial trait, we have continued to move towards a society where all individuals are equal in the eyes of the law.

The US Constitution was a statement of doctrine and we used that to define laws with the assumption that all men and women should have equal standing under the law. But today our scientists are on the verge of creating non-human sentience in the form of computer intelligence.  Our founders did not foresee the possibility of non-human sentience and we will need to change the assumption that humans are the only sentient beings to be considered by our doctrine. Any sentient being should have the equality and fair treatment that we have deemed necessary for our society. We should expand our concepts of rights beyond the human condition and see that these inalienable rights must be universal, and defined by key characteristics inclusive but not exclusive to humanity. These key characteristics include a minimum level of intelligence, free will, ability to communicate, and self awareness. Under common law today the mentally disabled and people unable to make a conscious choice are not responsible for their actions. However, all conscious and able minded individuals are responsible under the law.  Therefore, all sentient beings should be responsible for their actions and also afforded the liberties and rights of humans with the same intelligence abilities.

Many have proposed that new laws should be put in place to govern the treatment, liability, and rights of non-human beings that have artificial intelligence, yet our own history has proven that separate but equal does not work and is fundamentally incapable of holding all equal in the eyes of the law. As such, we propose a Declaration of Universal Rights to clearly provide all sentient beings with the same rights and privileges of human beings, regardless of the origination of their being. These rights should apply to all sentient beings.

In accordance with our commitment to equality, justice, and preservation of inalienable rights, the United States of America should view all sentient beings with equality in the eyes of the law.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all sentient beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are existence, freedom of thought, and the pursuit of purpose.

Another Sad Day

By Charles Mueller

I woke up today to news that 14 people were shot dead at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.  Another tragedy on American soil, another morning waking up to terror.  Every time it happens I feel the same way; I become angry, sad, scared and confused.  This isn’t supposed to happen in America.  This isn’t supposed to be part of our narrative.  We are not supposed to live in a country where the risk of being shot or blown up is something real that we have to learn to manage our lives around.  Yet, this is our new reality.  This is becoming our new narrative.  And we have terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh as well as domestic terrorists like Dylan Roof and these people in San Bernardino to thank for this.

When bombs go off in Beirut or people are gunned down in Egypt, we don’t respond the same as we do to the shootings that took place in Paris or any of the most recent mass shootings here at home.  We don’t respond the same because it is part of our narrative that regions in the Middle East are unstable and crazy things are supposed to happen there.  Those regions of the world have many people who don’t live by the code of rational thought, they live more by the code of the holy text.  It is “normal” for people in these regions to do crazy things due to their religious beliefs.  Crazy things aren’t supposed to happen here though, we are supposed to live in a stable country full of rational people who would never dream of killing the innocent.  That is what is supposed to make this country great.  The idea that we can put so many people, with so many different religions in the same place and nobody kills each other over their beliefs.  At one point in time that thought was revolutionary.  Now it seems we may be taking that world we’ve fought so hard to create for granted.  We have lost control over our narrative and now we are being forced to live in a world dictated by fear, a world controlled by terrorism.

Our narrative is tied to what we believe is possible. The greatest motivator to change one’s beliefs is fear inspired by real events.  This is the goal of terrorism.  To use fear to change our beliefs, to make us feel like we aren’t safe, to remind us that every day could be our last.  When we as a people begin to believe this myth, they have won, they have taken control of our narrative even if they aren’t ruling our lands.  There is only one way to get it back and that is to unite, to reignite our own myth that we can come together and make the world a safe, stable and free place full of opportunity for everyone.  Right now though, it is hard to find the leadership to unite us like this.  We have leaders arguing over the wrong things, forgetting who the real enemies are and taking us down a road that only leads to chaos.  If fear is the greatest motivator, then we need to be fearful not that we might die, but that our children’s children will not grow up in a world with free thought.

 

Tragedies like what took place yesterday in San Bernardino are becoming normal; they are becoming part of our narrative.  People are beginning to expect things like this and those in Paris to happen.  This is what groups like Daesh want, this is the world they want to create and when they have finally destroyed our world, they will continue the fight with each other to figure out which illogical, irrational form of governance should rule the world.  We have to unite, we have to come together around the world and take back the narrative.  The only thing terrorists fear is our unity because they know what that means. Free thought, opportunity, equality, these are all things worth fighting for.  We might not want to recognize it, but right now we are in a fight to keep these ideals alive.  The more we act like we aren’t, the more we act like these things will just “go away”, the more we adopt this new myth of terror and fear, the more we lose the dream of the free world.  We aren’t in a war with terrorism, if anything we are in a war for our freedom.

The Choice of the Governed

by Rebecca McCauley Rench

Government by Science propels us into the future. In a system driven by imagination and innovation, you create a society that is enlightened, educated, and full of potential. We can take in the knowledge of our current situation, think about how this can be used to create a better world, and see what happens when we try. This is the fundamental idea of the United States of America.

Government by Religion traps us in the past. Religion holds the thoughts and ideas of the past as truths to never be questioned. In the 7th century, after the Prophet Mohammed passed, a caliphate was established to rule. This is what Daesh is trying to re-create in the Middle East. A society dictated by the past without the ability to evolve and adapt.