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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Think Big: Science and Technology Policy Priorities for the Next Administration

Kathryn Schiller Wurster
Nov 29, 2016

UPDATE: Read the full report, “THINK BIG: BIG Science, BIG Opportunities, and BIG Ideas.”

The priorities of the new Administration are to rebuild American infrastructure and reinvigorate the economy. Rather than return to the infrastructure and economy of the past, we should look to the future and think big. America’s strengths in innovative science and technology will help us leap forward and maintain our economic strength and global leadership.

The Potomac Institute was founded over twenty years ago in a politically turbulent era- Newt Gingrich and the Republicans had just taken over Congress, written their Contract with America, and dissolved the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) on the premise that it was too partisan when dealing with science and technology policy issues (a decision that has been much debated since). The Potomac Institute was founded to fill the role of a non-partisan, objective, and technically competent advisor to Congress and the Administration, regardless of party. The Institute was founded on the principles that 1) science should inform policy and 2) policy should foster the growth of science. Most importantly, the Institute works to anticipate emerging technologies and their associated policy implications, then guide investments to shape the future we want.

We urge the new administration to develop policy based on the best available science. In policy-making, the best available science can take many forms- from technical and experimental data to economic data to social science research findings. Most important, however, is that any policy be informed by the available information on potential impacts. Often policy-makers must make decisions based on incomplete or insufficient data- in those cases, we must use what is available and then support efforts to increase the available data. The concept of using science to inform policy should be non-partisan; data and evidence should form the basis of solid policy that all can agree on.

We urge the new administration to foster the development of science and technology. Economic development starts with good ideas and translation into products, and industry and government each have important roles in this process. If America leads the world in innovation, economic strength will follow, but to get there we have to focus on big ideas for the future rather than trying to return to the successes of the past. The science and technology investment priorities the Institute has identified for the next Administration include:

Revolutionizing Medicine: Advances in genetics, precision medicine, sensors, and big data analytics hold great promise to revolutionize human health. The costs and inefficiencies of the American health care system could be vastly improved by leveraging technology, putting more power in the hands of the patients, and adapting the medical workforce.

Renewing American Infrastructure: Major public investments to achieve great things are a hallmark of American history; we went to the Moon, built an atomic bomb, built an interstate highway system, and created the Internet. When we set big goals and invest in the science and technology needed to achieve them, the benefits are enormous. We need revolutionary new infrastructure projects to drive America forward, not just fix what is broken.

Industrial Policy: The U.S. needs a strategic national industrial policy to drive economic development and preserve industries that are vital to national security. This industrial policy should focus on fostering American innovation, helping American companies stay competitive in a global marketplace, and protecting intellectual property.

Biotechnology and Climate Engineering: These fields promise immense benefits but also represent unprecedented power to shape the world around us in ways we may not yet fully understand. The government has an important role to play in fostering innovative research and ensuring responsible development of biotechnologies.

Innovation in science and technology are the keys to American economic strength and national security. We will not lead the world by investing in old technology, old infrastructure, and old ways of doing business. The way to maintain America’s leadership and keep our country and economy strong is to think big.

Hello and welcome to the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies CEO’s Blog!

     I will try very hard in these musings to describe some of the important science and technology policy issues that our world society is or should be dealing with.

First, what do we mean when we refer to science and technology policy?

Science and technology policy is about two things.  One is the discussion and formation of policy to help us deal with the ever-increasing spread of technology.  New technologies almost always affect society in both good and bad ways.  The best current examples are smart phones or Internet devices.  These wonderful inventions allow us to follow our children, get instant updates on events, track stocks, etc.  They can also be used to spy on us and provide unprecedented access to our children.  Clearly we need to develop, and are developing, policy and legislation to increase the good while limiting the bad.

The second type of science and technology policy is the use of science and scientific methods to analyze the options for development of public policy and legislation.  In other words, we think that good public policy should have rigorous science behind it, and that policy or law should not be based solely on the whims of one segment of the population.  This is difficult!

That is the theme, science and technology policy, and I will try to stay in that lane, but will surely run off the road from time to time.  So, here’s an invitation to join me on that ride.   I’ll spend a few minutes every other day or so discussing these issues, and as always – your feedback is more than welcome.

Mike Swetnam