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jerryking : fundamental_discoveries   8

A Spur to the Biotech Century Ahead; The effort to defeat the coronavirus will focus the attention of a new generation of scientific pioneers
26 Mar 2020 | Wall Street Journal | by Walter Isaacson.

The coronavirus plague will hasten our transition to the third great innovation revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from t...
21st._century  Albert_Einstein  atoms_&_bits  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  catalysts  COVID-19  CRISPR  dark_side  disease  DNA  fundamental_discoveries  gene_editing  genetics  innovation  life_sciences  pandemics  plagues  viruses  Walter_Isaacson 
6 days ago by jerryking
Where Computing Is Headed—Beyond Quantum
Feb. 4, 2020 | WSJ | By Sara Castellanos.

Startups are coming up with new ways to make computer chips and store huge amounts of data in DNA........dozens of companies gaining interest from investors and corporations because of their novel approaches to computing. They are using light, quantum physics, molecular biology and new design methods to build chips and create data-storage techniques for future computing demands.
data  DNA  engineering  fundamental_discoveries  good_enough  high-risk  innovation  light  molecular_biology  Moore's_Law  novel  quantum_computing  semiconductors  software  start_ups  technology  up-and-comers  vc  venture_capital 
8 weeks ago by jerryking
Venture capital investors should harpoon more whales
February 3, 2020 | Financial Times | by John Thornhill.

*VC: An American History by Tom Nicholas.
* The worry for Silicon Valley is that the impulse for creative destruction is now fading
* It is easy to be rude about the venture capital industry. So here goes. The criticism runs that the VC sector is full of too many over-funded, ill-disciplined chancers who pass off hype for reality, groupthink for insight and luck for good judgment.....What’s more, a staggering 95 per cent of VC firms fail to make a decent enough return to justify the risks their investors run......the current mindset of the VC industry is responsible for the slowdown in new business formation and lack of economic dynamism in the US. All too often, addicted to capital-light, metric-heavy software businesses, VCs are failing to bet big enough on the breakthrough technologies that tackle our biggest challenges, such as climate change or cancer.........Katie Rae, chief executive and managing partner of The Engine, a Boston-based “tough tech” venture fund, says that many VCs have lost sight of their original purpose......VCs were all about funding tech breakthroughs but that has got lost,” ...... “A lot of VCs look more like private equity companies that do not want to lose any money so they end up backing dog-walking apps rather than quantum computing.”......Historically, the best venture capitalists have performed a vital capitalistic function: turning seemingly outlandish ideas and transformative technologies into everyday realities. Semiconductors, recombinant insulin and internet search engines have all come to market largely thanks to VC backing........“The VC industry is cut-throat. .....It provides the capital and expertise for start-ups to succeed.”.......In VC: An American History, Tom Nicholas traces VC’s high-risk, high-reward mentality back to the 19th-century whaling industry, which developed a novel form of venture financing. The idea was to back an expert captain who could fit out a robust ship, hire the best crew and endure an average of 3.6 years at sea. On landing a whale, the captain would return investors’ money several times over. But many ships returned empty-handed or sunk.........the pattern of financial returns made by Gideon Allen & Sons, the smartest backers of whaling ventures, were almost identical to those achieved by Sequoia Capital, one of the best VC firms operating today..........one of the striking features of the subsequent evolution of the VC industry.......was how contingent it was on time, circumstance and people. The west coast model of VC investing, owed an enormous amount to massive government investments in technology during the cold war, the expansion of world-beating universities in California and the emergence of some remarkable entrepreneurs and visionary investors, such as Arthur Rock, Tom Perkins and Don Valentine.......The worry for Silicon Valley is that some of that Schumpeterian impulse for creative destruction is now fading. One argument has it that Silicon Valley is becoming increasingly “corporatised” with Big Tech firms, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, championing the mantra that “big is beautiful” in the face of emerging competition from China.

The benign view is that Big Tech may be internalising much of the innovation once carried out by start-ups; the malign interpretation is that Cupertino, California [JCK: that is, "Big Tech"] is snuffing out smaller rivals.......

“Silicon Valley is overdue a disruption. It is not a hotbed of start-ups any more,” ..........Metaphorically, at least, the VC industry needs to get back in the business of funding wildly ambitious entrepreneurs intent on harpooning some more whales.
19th_century  Arthur_Rock  big_bets  Big_Tech  books  breakthroughs  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  cancers  climate_change  creative_destruction  disruption  Don_Valentine  entrepreneur  finance  financing  fundamental_discoveries  funding  HBS  high-risk  high-reward  innovation  investors  Joseph_Schumpeter  moonshots  public_investments  semiconductors  Sequoia  Silicon_Valley  thinking_big  Tom_Perkins  tough_tech  unimaginative  vc  venture_capital  visionaries  whaling 
8 weeks ago by jerryking
Opinion | Useless Knowledge Begets New Horizons
Jan. 3, 2019 | The New York Times | By Bret Stephens, Opinion Columnist.

Fundamental discoveries don’t always have practical uses, but they have soul-saving applications......In October 1939, as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were plunging the world into war, an American educational reformer named Abraham Flexner published an essay in Harper’s magazine under the marvelous title, “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.”

Noting the way in which the concerns of modern education increasingly turned toward worldly problems and practical vocations, Flexner made a plea for “the cultivation of curiosity” for its own sake.....The marriage of disinterested science and technological wizardry on the farthest-flung adventures of the human race is what John Adams had in mind when he wrote that he had to “study Politicks and War that my sons may have the liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.” It is among the greatest fulfillments of the American dream.....Typically, we think of the American dream in materialistic terms — a well-paid job; a half-acre lot; children with better opportunities than our own. Or we think of it in political terms, as an ever-expanding domain of ever-greater freedom and equality.

But prosperity, freedom, equality for what? The deep critique of the liberal society is that it refuses on principle to supply an answer: Each of us lives in pursuit of a notion of happiness that is utterly subjective, generally acquisitive and almost inevitably out of reach — what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill.” Religious cults and authoritarian systems work differently: Purposes are given, answers supplied, questions discouraged or forbidden, and the burdens of individual choice and moral agency are largely lifted. They are dictatorships of meaning.....Flexner’s case for such untrammeled freedom isn’t that it’s a good unto itself. Freedom also produces a lot of garbage. His case is that freedom is the license the roving mind requires to go down any path it chooses and go as far as the paths may lead. This is how fundamental discoveries — a.k.a., “useless knowledge” — are usually made: not so much by hunting for something specific, but by wandering with an interested eye amid the unknown. It’s also how countries attract and cultivate genius — by protecting a space of unlimited intellectual permission, regardless of outcome....All of this, of course, has its ultimate uses — hence the “usefulness” of Flexner’s title. Newton’s third law of motion begets, after 250 years, the age of the rocket; the discovery of the double helix delivers, several decades later, Crispr. It’s also how nations gain or lose greatness. The “reorganized” universities of fascist Italy and Germany had no place for Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi or Albert Einstein. They became the Allies’ ultimate weapon in World War II.

Which brings us back to New Horizons, Osiris-Rex, InSight and every other piece of gear flying through the heavens at taxpayer expense and piling up data atop our already vast stores of useless knowledge. What are they doing to reduce poverty? Nothing. Environmental degradation? Zippo. The opioid crisis? Still less.

And yet, in being the kind of society that does this kind of thing — that is, the kind that sends probes to the edge of the solar system; underwrites the scientific establishment that knows how to design and deploy these probes; believes in the value of knowledge for its own sake; cultivates habits of truthfulness, openness, collaboration and risk-taking; enlists the public in the experience, and shares the findings with the rest of the world — we also discover the highest use for useless knowledge: Not that it may someday have some life-saving application on earth, though it might, but that it has a soul-saving application in the here and now, reminding us that the human race is not a slave to questions of utility alone.
breakthroughs  Bret_Stephens  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  Colleges_&_Universities  Crispr  curiosity  exploration  expeditions  free_speech  free_will  freedom  fundamental_discoveries  human_race  Joseph_Stalin  knowledge  op-ed  serendipity  soul-enriching  space_exploration  the_American_dream 
january 2019 by jerryking
Humanity’s Last Great Hope: Venture Capitalists - WSJ - WSJ
By CHRISTOPHER MIMS
Oct. 20, 2014

as government has pulled back from spending on basic R&D, in general so too has big business. Long gone are the days when large corporate research campuses like Bell Labs came up with fundamental breakthroughs like the transistor.

This is where venture capitalists could step up—if they choose to fund the right startups.

Much of the basic research that used to be conducted within companies is now resident in startups, which technology companies gobble up at every opportunity. Acquisitions are the new R&D, and “acqui-hires” are the new staff development. Successful venture capitalism is about managing risk, so partners at most VC firms invest in businesses they think will become viable, or at least worthy of an acquisition, in the shortest time possible.
acquihires  Bell_Labs  breakthroughs  Christopher_Mims  fundamental_discoveries  hiring  innovation  mergers_&_acquisitions  risk-management  R&D  start_ups  vc  venture_capital 
october 2014 by jerryking
Silicon Valley innovation: Venture capital is not the problem.
JULY 9, 2014 |Slate | By David Auerbach.

Are venture capitalists ruining Silicon Valley? Has Silicon Valley jumped the shark? Wall Street Journal tech writer Christopher Mims thinks so. “The entire Bay Area appears to have given up on solving anything but its own problems,” he writes. Instead of revolutionizing the world with basic research in safety, energy, and medicine, Mims writes, venture capitalists are unimaginatively chasing advertising dollars and focusing exclusively on the first-world segment of twentysomething yuppies. T
broad-based_scientific_enquiry  Christopher_Mims  fundamental_discoveries  innovation  Marc_Andreessen  Silicon_Valley  unimaginative  vc  venture_capital 
july 2014 by jerryking
Address by Mike Lazaridis, PI Board Chair, to the Public Policy Forum - Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
April 2, 2009 | Address by Mike Lazaridis, PI Board Chair, to the Public Policy Forum

First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science (Paperback)
by Howard Burton (Author) . It's an account of how the Perimeter Institute was built from scratch.

This year’s testimonial dinner was held on April 2, 2009, and honoured several Canadian leaders, including Mike Lazaridis, Founder and Board Chair of Perimeter Institute, who conveyed the importance of long-term thinking by those involved with shaping policy relating to science and technology. The following text, building on those remarks as reported by the national media, shares the messages provided to the PPF.
+++++++++++++++

So imagine this story. A granting council has been tasked with driving the economy, really building commerce and commercializing technology and doing important things for the country. And so, of course, what are they thinking? They’re thinking we need more horses, we need better ways to clean up the streets, and we need to figure out ways to build better stagecoaches and carriages. Now this physicist comes into the room and he sits down. And they ask him, "Dr. Einstein, why are you here?" He says, "Oh, I’d like to have an office and a stipend." "For what?" they want to know. So he explains, "Well, I need a desk and blackboard and maybe a shelf for my books and my papers. And I need a small stipend, so I can go to a few scientific conferences around the world and have a few postdoctoral researchers." They ask, "Why?" And he says: "Well, I have these ideas about light and it’s very complicated, but light can …" And the council members start wondering, "What’s that got to do with horses?"

So, that gentleman actually had to go and get a day job. He went to work at a patent office, where he came up with, a few years later, the four most important papers of all time. Ideas that transformed everything we knew and put mankind in a new direction. He came up with one of the basic ideas leading to quantum technology, when he predicted the quantum properties of light, explaining an observation called the photo-electric effect. He came up with special relativity, a new understanding of space and time. He also discovered that mass and energy are the same thing at a fundamental level. By thinking and calculating the way he did, he came up with E=mc2, the most famous equation of all time. These discoveries, over time, led to nuclear energy, semiconductors, computers, lasers, medical imaging, DVDs and much more. The powerful ideas happened from pure thought and research by someone who basically would have had to give up a comfortable salary at the patent office to take a research or teaching position at a university.

Now let’s fast-forward to today. We have all these issues. We’re running out of energy any way you slice it. And the energy sources that we have today are changing our climate and the environment catastrophically and irreparably. At the same time, we have this enormous need for value creation because our financial system basically ran onto a coral reef. We’re taking on debt to try to get ourselves off the reef, and there’s all this need for value creation and innovation. It’s kind of staring us in the face.

We only have to flashback to that gentleman thinking about light to realize that we need to fund our scientists and our researchers and our students. We not only need to fund them imaginatively, we need to have faith that what they are doing is going to be important in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years from now, and that we haven’t got a chance of understanding its relevance today.

And so we need to be very careful with policy, not to try to put everything in short-term context – not to try to figure out how something is only relevant today – because, if we do, we will make a mistake. We will go the wrong way. We will be investing in horses, carriages, and cleaning manure in the streets instead of fostering the research that can give rise to an idea or super technology that’s going to change the world.

Right now, there is some pandemonium in physics because we are running up against some paradoxes and some data that don’t make any sense. For example, Moore’s Law, which describes the miniaturization of computer chips, will reach its limit in 10 years. Everything we built our telecommunications industry and information age on is going to hit this limit, if we don’t find a new base. We need a new discovery. It’s going to happen, and we need to put major investments in these esoteric studies like quantum computing, quantum information science, quantum gravity, string theory and other areas, because I can guarantee you that one of the discoveries that will emerge is going to solve one of those scientific paradoxes and make sense of that weird data. And when that happens, 20 or 30 years from now, you won’t recognize things.
Albert_Einstein  Blackberry  books  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  first_principle  fundamental_discoveries  Mike_Lazaridis  miniaturization  Moore's_Law  paradoxes  Perimeter_Institute  physicists  public_policy  quantum_computing  RIM  semiconductors 
april 2009 by jerryking

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