Innovation

04/19/2016

Exploring “innovation,” it’s interesting that two very geographically small countries in the world rank among  the foremost leaders. Singapore is internationally famous for its business friendly culture and focus on education and science, essentially its only national resources, but which enable it to take its place as one of the most important contributors to international business, trade and scientific innovation in the world. As well, Israel has been famously referred to as a premier business  “Start-up Nation” (Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer), similarly focused as an entrepreneurial mecca, a business friendly culture with renowned and diverse educational and scientific research resources.

But the two also share some unique history and a not well known relationship on the geopolitical stage, when Israel was critically and uniquely important in supporting Singapore militarily at its very beginning. In this tower.org linked article is the account of the visit by SIngapore’s Prime minister Lee Hsien to Jerusalem and his gracious speech at Hebrew University. It’s a redeeming commentary that all the news emanating from that part of the world isn’t violence fraught and contentious. In fact, there’s more positive than not, but which simply needs greater exposure and recognition.

Compliments of You Tube (Standard YouTube License):

01/08/2016

 

James Bennet Interviews Microsoft’s Bill Gates

During his interview with James Bennet for The Atlantic Magazine’s November 2015 issue, Energy Solutions (‘We Need an Energy Miracle’), Microsoft founder Bill Gates stressed that potentially catastrophic climate change, global warming “2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels,” is an urgent problem, and that “wealthy nations like China and the United States” that cause the greatest emissions of warming greenhouse gases, particularly carbon associated, are responsible for finding innovative solutions, and that by 2050 they should be emitting essentially zero carbon into the atmosphere.

Gates doesn’t accept arguments that transitioning from predominantly coal and heavy petroleum energy sources for power plants and transportation, into natural gas fired technology, is adequate to avoid the catastrophic consequences of human induced greenhouse global warming. Although natural gas is significantly cleaner, “it still contributes” to the problem, “and that our best chance to vault over natural gas to a globally applicable, carbon-free source of energy is to drive innovation “at an unnaturally high pace.”

Mr. Gates acknowledges that solar and wind technologies are somewhat effective, essentially carbon free, and gaining in importance, but while significantly government subsidized, neither is adequate nor evolving fast enough. Geography inherently limits expansion of carbon free hydroelectric power. Capable of partial contribution to power grids, intermittent wind and solar powered electricity sources aren’t yet independently reliable, especially since “grid scale” battery storage is still at a formative stage of development, and which Gates believes is “a factor of 10 away from the economics” required. Nuclear technology is CO2 free, and may represent the next viable stage of carbon free power, but he believes there are daunting challenges “in terms of costs, big safety problems, making sure you can deal with the waste, making sure the plutonium isn’t used to make weapons.”

While Gates acknowledges that warming has not “exactly” correlated with “the climate models,” he still believes “it’s all within the error-bar range,” and that “there’s nothing that relieves this as a big problem.” He also acknowledges that exaggeration/association of non-carbon related, short-term affects, ie. “Pacific oscillation,” with actual greenhouse induced warming, can only “undermine the credibility,” for the benefit of “skeptics.” Nonetheless, he is adamant that “climate change keeps climbing all the time… summing, summing, summing, and adding up. So, as you get up to 2050, 2080, 2100, its effect overwhelms the Pacific oscillation,” why we critically require “an energy miracle,” which only greater research and “innovation” can provide.

However, Mr. Gates is optimistic about the future, regardless that coal and other hydrocarbons will continue to be major energy sources in India and other places. Stressing the importance of increased investment in research and development, whether private sector or government sourced, Gates is reconciled, even philosophical about this “uncertain process” which will eventually provide critical solutions, “because the whole modern economy and our lifestyles are an accumulation of innovations. So I want to tilt the odds in our favor by driving innovation at an unnaturally high pace, or more than its current business-as-usual course.” [1]

We can conjecture that the generally erudite Bill Gates may be caught up in an, arguably, only trendy, sensationalized and politically grounded issue, that of artificially induced “climate change.” He does have a lot of company, after all, but there are plenty of credible and qualified authorities who disagree that mankind generated carbon dioxide (pollution or plant food?) is really a critical factor and problem, or that radically reducing the use of hydrocarbons will actually protect the planet from the unnatural, catastrophic affects of Mr. Gates’ so-called “summing” affect, in the near or distant future. But his observations about the importance of innovation are certainly profound, especially considering his personal experience and contributions as a pioneer of the digital age, without which there would be no computer modeling to fuel the rampant speculation concerning man-made global warming. In any case, if you are worried about heat, perhaps nuclear (or biological) weapons in pathological hands should be of greater immediate concern.

[1] The Atlantic – November 2015 Issue – Energy Solutions (We Need an Energy Miracle) by James Bennet.

 

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Geopolitical Commentary & Dialogue, WWW Publication