I have been a longtime supporter of the fight against MS. On October 1 & 2, 2011 I will be participating in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual Coastal Challenge Bike Ride in Santa Barbara to raise awareness and funds for a future without MS. This will be my sixth time participating in this event. And due to generous supporters I have been a top fundraiser three times. I am riding for a very good friend who has MS, for your friends and relatives who might be sufferers, and for millions of others whom I don't know. By riding I help raise funds to help the MS Society support more MS research, offer more services for people with MS, provide more professional education programs and further more MS advocacy efforts. National MS Society funded research has so far developed six therapies for the treatment of MS. Unfortunately, the cause and the cure are yet to be discovered, so much more work is needed.
My personal fund-raising goal is $2,500. Please consider helping me achieve this goal by sponsoring my ride. It’s easy to make a difference – I have a fundraising page at http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/nilsdavis2011 where you can make a (tax deductible) donation. The recommended pledge is 50 cents per mile, or $75, but you're welcome to pledge more or less, as your budget and ability to give allow. 79 cents of every $1 raised directly funds cutting-edge research, education, advocacy and local programs that enhance the lives of people with MS and their families.
So far MS is not preventable and there is no cure, although the MS Society has made progress in treatments for the disease. Those efforts have been funded in part by events like the Coastal Challenge ride. Your generosity and enthusiasm will not only help me reach my goal, but will also make a positive difference in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people with MS across the country. Thank you in advance for your support.
I appreciate your support and look forward to letting you know how I do. Thank you so much on behalf of the National MS Society and people with MS!
If you would like more information about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, how proceeds from the Bike MS: Coastal Challenge are used, or the other ways you can get involved in the movement to end MS, please visit nationalMSsociety.org/cal.
Andy Grove, one of the founders of Intel, on why the U.S. needs to get back on the stick in regards to manufacturing. First of all, we are still the largest manufacturer in the world, by the way. And we manufacture a lot of stuff that the rest of the world wants and can't make themselves. But we have a self-defeating internal story about our decline, its inevitability, and that manufacturing is not interesting anyway - all wrong!
The received wisdom is that "everybody knows manufacturing in the U.S. is dead." If you believe those things and act on them, they're going to be true. I think venture investments are influenced by the "everybody knows" factor before the first spreadsheet is run. And if you don't get the money to scale manufacturing here, you won't do it. And if you don't do it, your suppliers won't move to the United States either.
My favorite part of any city is the low-rent tilt-up building section, where amongst the muffler repair and window tinting and upholstery and martial arts supply shops, there people are making actual stuff in little businesses that are critical to our nation's economy.
Just discovered this blog by Roger Schank - he's a former professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon and a few other schools, now retired. I suggest taking a quick look if you want to get mad fast about the state of education in America, especially if you have doubts about "testing our way to quality." (Anyone in software should know that's never going to work - you can't "test quality in.")
His big hobby horse right now is reforming education in the U.S. because he thinks it's pretty stupid right now, especially with all this testing. He points out that the current high school curriculum is basically from 1892, developed by the then-president of Harvard to suit the needs of a university dedicated to turning out scholars. Schank notes that scholars are typically not doers, and doers is more of what we need in our economy at this point. In fact, we have a surfeit of scholars - a lot more qualified people apply for professorships in academe than there are professorships to fill. And he also points out that the curriculum is full of stuff that is not very useful to us - a lot of stuff that gets memorized by rote in order to pass a test in high school, and a lot of stuff that's of no use to your future when you're in college.
I hire American workers. I particularly like to hire American Ph.D.'s (in Russian Literature, History of Medicine and Archeology to name three recent hires of mine.) I like to hire people like that because they are very smart individuals who have bought the stuff that colleges sell and wound up unemployable because of it. I like how smart they are. I have no use for what they learned in their PhD programs however.
So he's proposing a radical new curriculum, based on teaching people to do things that are useful and productive in society, and letting students - to some degree at any rate - choose what they learn. This will help address in particular one of the biggest issues in schools today. What's the number one word that students in high school and elementary school use to describe what they are studying? "Boring." Why are we teaching kids, who are fascinated by so much useful and interesting and mind-bending stuff, to be bored in school? Schank doesn't think it's a good idea, and I tend to agree with him.
I support the American economy by building learning by doing project-based courses and degree programs that teach people how to do things rather than listen and memorize things. Oh wait. That was the Spanish economy since I built those courses for Spain (and for Peru and soon for some other developing countries.) Why don’t I build them for the U.S.? I did initially, but our universities think that what matters most is the brand name of their degree and not the quality of the education entailed in that degree. The best universities in the U.S. are controlled by very conservative faculty who have no incentive to change the system in any way.
What do you think? Is this the kind of change the education needs in this country? My take is that if we changed education along the lines that Schank is suggesting, the U.S. could regain our economic lead in the world despite our aging population. And if we don't do this, some other country or countries are going to figure it out and leapfrog us. That will not be a good era for the U.S., in my opinion.
Getting new material and process innovations to market takes too long, according to the U.S. government, and observers everywhere. The new Federal Materials Genome Initiative aims to reduce the time it takes for advanced materials to go from concept to market by a factor of two. Encompassing a variety of mechanisms, including:
More extensive use of computer modeling
More open sharing of innovation research and development results ("The materials community must embrace open innovation," states the founding report, Renaissance of American Manufacturing)
Improved use of today's best engineering tools - that alone could reduce the current process from an average of seven years down to two or three, according to the report
President Obama has proposed $100 million for this project so far - let's hope it's enough:
With China rapidly closing the funding gap for science research and development--Chinese government support for R&D rose to $3 billion in 2011, seven times the level in 1998--the U.S. will need more than its reputation to stay on top.
What new material innovations are you looking forward to seeing in the market in the next ten years? Leave me a comment!
As I mentioned the other day, I spent part of January, February, and early March getting addicted to World of Warcraft. I was turned onto World of Warcraft as a model for improving applications in general by several podcasts and online talks I listened to over the past year, in particular those by Jane McGonigal of the Institute For The Future. As long time readers know - and you'd have to be a long time reader to have ready any of this before, since it came out more than a year ago - I am an addicted podcast listener. I get to hear around 45 minutes to 1 hour of audio programming every day on my commutes to and from work, and it's my favorite time. The amount of fascinating, education, and inspiring stuff that goes into my head in a week is astonishing.
I heard another great talk by McGonigal, from the 2008 Ideas Festival in Louisville Kentucky last week, so I thought I'd post a couple of great talks that I've heard recently, including McGonigal's on gaming, and another great talk by another great game theorist, Jesse Schell.