I've perused the anwers to The World Question Center
. This is a cool idea for a website, btw.
Some of the answers are predictable: Stop Global Warming! Allow cloning for research. Give scientists more say over politics and government and more grant money.
David Gelernter's reply
is great. " The right answer will have nothing to do with environmental doomsday stories; it will deal with people's everyday lives, making them better." This "make people's lives better" appears in a number of replies, but Gelernter's ideas, NOT going to Mars, but improving transportation with maglev trains, supersonic transport, etc. are refreshingly realistic.Jaron Lanier
focuses on Medicine, Energy, Transportation, and Climate, after a pep talk about how the President needs more scientists among his close advisors, as if all scientists would share his ideas.
looks at education:
First and foremost, we must apply a scientific mindset to the educational process. People outside of the educational establishment are often shocked to learn how little in instructional practice has been evaluated using the standard paraphernalia of social science�control groups, random assignment, data collection, statistics. Instead, classroom practice is set by fads, romantic theories, slick packages, and political crusades. We already know that some methods of teaching reading work better than others; we need more of these assessments, and faster implementations of what works into classroom settings.
I'm not sure that I trust academics to tell us how education works. They've been doing it for years and our schools are worse for it. For example, rote memorization does work, but everybody hates it, especially teachers, because it's BOOOOORING and you can't really write a Doctoral dissertation on stuff like this. I can't think of much that schools have done with new technology that couldn't be done with memorization, repetitive practice problems and flash cards. Until Pinker and his colleagues come up with some really useful new insights, I'd politely put him off.Rodney Brooks'
suggestion is one I definitely would NOT adopt until we have won the war on terrorism. Instapundit
will like Seth Lloyd's
It's a good list and interesting answers, even if some of them are absurd
and some have used the opportunity to pour contempt on the president.
My favorite is Martin Seligman
, who gives some good common sense advice:
The civilized world is at war with Jihad Islamic terrorism. It takes a bomb in the office of some academics to make them realize that their most basic values are now threatened, and some of my good friends and colleagues [anwering this question] seem to have forgotten 9/11. If we lose the war, the laudable, but pet projects they endorse, will not be issues. Fighting fatwahs and no education for women will displace grousing about random assignment of schoolchildren to study education. If we win this war, we can go on to pursue the normal goals of science.
He'd be mine candidate for science adviser. He's a psychologist who has studied and written about happiness, but he seems pretty down to earth.
My view is that perfecting anti-missle defense is more pressing than most of the other points, despite the fact that a lot of these people would say it's impossible. Maybe so, but it has to be a lot more possible than trying to stop global warming, or getting to Mars.Too many of these problems aren't so pressing that they need to be solved in the next 6 years, which is as long as Bush II can affect things. The really pressing ones have to do with defeating terrorists and nutcase nations like Noth Korea and Iraq. Of course, finding a way to deflect asteroids might be more pressing than anything else, but only a few of these scientists would be qualified to advise the president on that.
I'd like it if we spent more on most of these ideas, but the question asks about pressing
problems, not wish lists.