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jerryking : publicly_funded   4

Why moonshots elude the timid of heart
February 14, 2020 | Financial Times | by Tim Harford.

* Loonshots — by Safi Bahcall.
* Major innovations tend to result from investment that is high-risk, high-pay-off.
* Executives at the Cambridge, UK outpost of an admired Japanese company fret that success rate of their research and development, at 70%, was far too high. It signals that research teams had been risk-averse, pursuing easy wins at the expense of more radical and risky long-shots.
* Disney, the belief is that Disney if you weren't failing at half of your endeavours, you weren’t being brave or creative enough.
* The problem is a societal/systematic preference for marginal gains over long shots---It is much more pleasant to experience a steady trickle of small successes than a long drought while waiting for a flood that may never come.
* marginal gains do add up, but need to be bolstered by the occasional long-shot breakthrough.....Major innovations such as the electric motor, the photo­voltaic cell or the mobile phone open up new territories that the marginal-gains innovators & tinkerers can further exploit.[JCK: from Simon Johnson, "public investments in research and development contribute to what the authors call the “spillover effect.” When the product of the research is not a private firm’s intellectual property, its impact flows across the economy."]
* the UK Conservative party’s promise to establish “a new agency for high-risk, high-pay-off research, at arm’s length from government” — a British version of the much-admired US Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency.
* DARPA's failure rate is often said to be around 85%.
* a low failure rate may indeed signal a lack of originality and ambition.
* Arpa hires high-quality scientists for short stints — often two or three years — and giving them control over a programme budget to commission research from any source they wish.
* the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a foundation, deliberately looks for projects with an unusual or untried approach, but a large potential pay-off.....HHMI gets what it pays for — more failures, but larger successes, compared with other grant-makers funding researchers of a similar calibre.
* how long will UK politicians tolerate failure as a sign of boldness and originality? Eventually, they will simply call it failure.
* the trilemma: Be cautious, or fund lots of risky but tiny projects, or fund a few big, risky projects from a modest budget and accept that every single one may flop.
audacity  big_bets  boldness  books  breakthroughs  Cambridge  DARPA  failure  game_changers  high-reward  high-risk  incrementalism  industrial_policies  innovation  jump-start  marginal_improvements  moonshots  originality  politicians  public_investments  publicly_funded  quick_wins  R&D  risk-aversion  science  small_wins  spillover  success_rates  thinking_big  Tim_Harford  timidity  United_Kingdom 
6 days ago by jerryking
Opinion | America’s Risky Approach to Artificial Intelligence
October 7, 2019 | The New York Times | By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.”

The brilliant 2014 science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem,” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, depicts the fate of civilizations as almost entirely dependent on winning grand races to scientific milestones. Someone in China’s leadership must have read that book, for Beijing has made winning the race to artificial intelligence a national obsession, devoting billions of dollars to the cause and setting 2030 as the target year for world dominance. Not to be outdone, President Vladimir Putin of Russia recently declared that whoever masters A.I. “will become the ruler of the world.”..... if there is even a slim chance that the race to build stronger A.I. will determine the future of the world — and that does appear to be at least a possibility — the United States and the rest of the West are taking a surprisingly lackadaisical and alarmingly risky approach to the technology........The plan seems to be for the American tech industry, which makes most of its money in advertising and selling personal gadgets, to serve as champions of the West. Those businesses, it is hoped, will research, develop and disseminate the most important basic technologies of the future. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are formidable entities, with great talent and resources that approximate those of small countries. But they don’t have the resources of large countries, nor do they have incentives that fully align with the public interest (JCK: that is, "business interests" vs. "public interest"]..... The history of computing research is a story not just of big corporate laboratories but also of collaboration and competition among civilian government, the military, academia and private players both big (IBM, AT&T) and small (Apple, Sun)......Some advocates of more A.I. research have called for a “Manhattan project” for A.I. — but that’s not the right model. The atomic bomb and the moon rocket were giant but discrete projects. In contrast, A.I. is a broad and vague set of scientific technologies that encompass not just recent trends in machine learning but also anything else designed to replicate or augment human cognition.....the United States government should broadly fund basic research and insist on broad dissemination..... the United States needs to support immigration laws that attract the world’s top A.I. talent. The history of breakthroughs made by start-ups also suggests the need for policies, like the enforcement of antitrust laws and the defense of net neutrality, that give small players a chance.... the computer scientist and entrepreneur Kai-Fu Lee, in his book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order,” describes a race between China and Silicon Valley, as if the latter were the sum total of Western science in this area. In the future, when we look back at this period, we may come to regret the loss of a healthy balance between privately and publicly funded A.I. research in the West, and the drift of too much scientific and engineering talent into the private sector.
antitrust  ARPA  artificial_intelligence  Beijing  Bell_Labs  Big_Tech  business_interests  China  China_Rising  FAANG  high-risk  immigration  industrial_policies  Kai-Fu_Lee  Manhattan_project  publicly_funded  R&D  risks  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  talent  Tim_Wu  Vladimir_Putin  Xerox 
october 2019 by jerryking
A Spanish lesson in economics - The Globe and Mail
TODD HIRSCH
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jun. 20 2014

The lesson here is that public infrastructure projects are necessary to promote arts and culture, but they need to be considered carefully in terms of size, scope and cost. They should be beautiful and inspiring, but they cannot become the ego-driven projects of mayors or architects. Unlike government spending on education or health, which can be scaled up, down or redesigned over time, a huge public infrastructure project has one chance to get it right.

I’m certainly no expert on the Spanish economy, and the country and its people have so many wonderful attributes that it’s impossible to not love the place. And certainly Canada has its share of service failures, publicly funded white elephants and other blunders. The point is that economics is everywhere – even when you’re at a Spanish café gulping an ice-cold Agua de Valencia (don’t ask – just go to Valencia and order one.)
circumspection  cultural_institutions  economics  infrastructure  olive_oils  publicly_funded  Spain  Todd_Hirsch  tourism  travel  Valencia  white_elephants 
june 2014 by jerryking
Chief Spence’s hunger strike is a desperate plea for answers
Dec. 29, 2012 | The Globe and Mail| editorial.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence should not risk her health with a hunger strike, nor is coercion a reasonable or responsible tool to be used in making a request to meet with the Prime Minister and a representative of the Crown. Ms. Spence’s actions do, however, reveal a depth of desperation over the challenges confronting her struggling first nation that should concern Stephen Harper...Attawapiskat, a Cree first nation of only 2,000, is on James Bay, and by its isolation is on the fringes of contemporary Canada. It made headlines for a winter housing emergency that had families living in temporary shelters, some without plumbing or insulation, conditions of poverty that should embarrass all Canadians. A heavy-handed government response to install a third-party manager was overturned by a court. But then all Canadians should be equally embarrassed by the investment of millions in public funds that failed to alleviate an appalling situation....respect and the reform go hand in hand, and they are equally welcome....The Chief should give up her hunger strike, and agree to meet with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, who has offered such a meeting and is the appropriate ear to hear such complaints. If she does not, Mr. Harper could make a magnanimous gesture. He has already shown he is a friend of aboriginal peoples.
editorials  aboriginals  Stephen_Harper  hunger  protests  publicly_funded 
december 2012 by jerryking

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