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Science and Employment: You Must Remember This, The Fundamental Things Apply As Time Goes By

Here are some pointed questions about science, innovation, and technological progress:

First: What can be done, consistent with military security, and with the prior approval of the military authorities, to make known to the world as soon as possible the contributions which have been made during our war effort to scientific knowledge?

The diffusion of such knowledge should help us stimulate new enterprises, provide jobs for our returning servicemen and other workers, and make possible great strides for the improvement of the national well-being.

Second: With particular reference to the war of science against disease, what can be done now to organize a program for continuing in the future the work which has been done in medicine and related sciences?

The fact that the annual deaths in this country from one or two diseases alone are far in excess of the total number of lives lost by us in battle during this war should make us conscious of the duty we owe future generations.

Third: What can the Government do now and in the future to aid research activities by public and private organizations?

The proper roles of public and of private research, and their interrelation, should be carefully considered.

Fourth: Can an effective program be proposed for discovering and developing scientific talent in American youth so that the continuing future of scientific research in this country may be assured on a level comparable to what has been done during the war?

New frontiers of the mind are before us, and if they are pioneered with the same vision, boldness, and drive with which we have waged this war we can create a fuller and more fruitful employment and a fuller and more fruitful life.

War should be understood as the military actions in Asia and the war on terror.

By now you all may have wondered, “What the heck is Deven doing talking about war (good God, y’all, what is it good for)?” Or something like that. And some of you may have figured out that all of the above except “War should be understood as the military actions in Asia and the war on terror”, which I threw in to try and seem like the ideas are from today, is from President Roosevelt’s letter to Vannevar Bush.

Funny how little changes overtime. Jobs, medical progress, public/private collaboration, the future of science education are all on our minds today. They have been a core issue since at least 1944. The full history of Science the Endless Frontier is hosted by the NSF. It is a fun read. Well, if you are absurdly nerdy, it is a fun read.

There are many things to enjoy in the report. One part that jumped out at me is his idea about employment and science. I may write more as I digest the report in general. For now take a read:

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Job Creation: Analog or Digital, Formal or Informal, the Paper or Plastic of Our Day

Quick, everyone dropout because school will fail you, and you can go create JOBS! Jobs, not Steve but those things we all want and need, are the topic of the year. How do we generate them? What skills do new graduates (and really even us old ones) need? Is the future all digital or are we missing something by leaving off analog work? Can tests tell us the future? The list drones on. And, then again Steve Jobs is on our mind too as a symbol and maybe already as a myth for our time. After all, he rose, he fell, he rose again. Somewhere Joseph Campbell is smiling. I do find the life of Steve Jobs inspiring; I just don’t know that we can extrapolate lessons for the world from Jobs or the few like him. A recent Times article asks Will Drop Outs Save America? Jobs, Gates and Allen, the Twitter and Facebook founders, are lauded examples of those who had no college degree but have created some impressive companies. The article claims that schools fail to teach us “skills or attitudes that would ever help you start a business. Skills like sales, networking, creativity and comfort with failure.” Yet, Google has some rather impressive academic roots as do Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Amazon, and others. So what can we make of this? We are over-reading the evidence, and sorry but school plus technology are needed. Most important, they are what we make of them, and we should focus on the systems and rules that foster space for creative endeavors be they in school or the marketplace.

First, there is this claim “It’s time that we as a nation accepted a basic — and seldom-mentioned — fact. You don’t need a degree (and certainly not an M.B.A.) to start a business and create jobs, nor is it even that helpful, compared with cheaper, faster alternatives.”

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