Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Technology, Reassurance, and Beards



So… cold fusion sounds crazy.

TED is a great place to go when you want some reassurance that the world isn’t going to end. It’s a reminder that human beings are amazing creatures, capable of the kind of breathtaking ingenuity required to overcome all the obstacles we've created for ourselves over the years.

TED reminds me that innovation is constantly happening. It’s a generally accepted principle among nerds that human knowledge increases exponentially every year. Many people believe this exponential growth means we will either become robots or be enslaved by robots. While I agree on both accounts, I also believe it means we can achieve all sorts of amazing technological breakthroughs along the way. We are limited only by our imaginations.  And you've read in Dr. Seuss, you'd know our imaginations are limitless. Those books are crazy.

TED also reminds me that we must value the right things if we want to see positive change. With the right kind of focus, we can harness our amazing ability to create technology, and create a better tomorrow. Things like alternative energy, sustainable design, and all the other things Portland State brags about on their website. It’s good that we’re bragging about them. The more people adopt these kinds of values, the more our society will demand this kind of change. If we funnel money in the right direction, the brilliant minds will come out of the woodwork. Of course we’ll have robot butlers, because we’ve always wanted robot butlers, but we can also create a completely sustainable, energy efficient civilization. That’s almost as cool as having breakfast in bed served to you on a hover-tray when you wake up. Robot butlers.

It’s also important that we value education. Our education system needs money, and it needs reform. We need to invest in our education system, so we can create the kinds of nerds that will grow up to be our saviors. Budgets are a big deal right now, but it’s critical that we don’t neglect the kids who are going to save the world later. Our school system ought to be the last thing to receive cuts, not one of the first. The less bummed out and pissed off our teachers and administrations are, the less likely our kids will be bummed out and pissed off to go to school. I know it sounds like another "it's about the children!" argument, but it's not. It's about me. I want those kids to cure my various cancers when I'm older, and if I have to raise taxes on investment bankers to do it, well then that's just something I'll have to accept.

Our education system also needs reform. I’m gonna put on my beret and grow my goatee for this next point, but bear with me. It’s time our best universities do away with their legacy programs, and double the amount of financial aid they offer prospective students. I don’t want George W. Bush to get into Yale. I want the poor kid down the street building a robot butler prototype in his garage. It’s better for Yale, and it’s better for the country if nerds like that get the financial assistance they need, and the education that’ll help them invent the kinds of robots that will save America. Okay, the beret’s off. The goatee’s shaved. All that’s left is a kid who thinks we might have a chance, as long as everyone listens to me.

By Jeff Kelsay

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