AND THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
"HAS THE TIME OF
WITCHES PASSED OVER?"
JOHN H. GIBBONS,
WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF
AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY
Grand Ballroom South
April 14, 1999
FROM TAPE RECORDINGS.]
P R O C E E D I N
MR. GIBBONS: Well, Rich, I
ought to quit while I'm ahead but since I'm up here I do have a few things I'd
like to say and I first want to thank you for that most generous introduction.
After you've been around for a while you wonder if the sort of "this
is your life" all over again but it was very kind of you to give that
introduction to me.
Incidently, the title is--you're right, it's about witches.
The question is "Has the time of witches passed us over or passed
I also, Rich, want to point out that Bill Carey's widow, Ms. Carey, and
her son--Rick, are here today. I'm
greatly honored by your coming and we all miss Bill a whole lot.
Thank you for being here today.
I also want Rich to give my kudos to AAAS, which has been close to my
heart and to the hearts of all of us in this room and people around the world,
for its steadfast dedication to improving the cause of the condition of science,
representing as well as informing its members on their broad responsibilities
and the mutual adventures we're engaged in.
And I do recall with great pleasure our breakfasts at Sherrill's Bakery
when I was running at OTA and you were running AAAS.
What I didn't tell you at the time was a statement by Mark Twain, who was
asked about his advice on something and he said, "Well, always tell the
truth. It will gratify some and
astonish the rest." So you did
tell the truth and you took very, I think, bold actions that have certainly been
enormously beneficial to our association and I'm really proud of you.
I've been outside the Beltway for just about a year this week.
I think it was just this week a year ago. It was wonderful to have that send off at the AAAS
I've had to learn new languages out there in the country.
I still clean up a lot of horse manure like I used to do in town here but
there are different terminologies. You
know, main frame out there is what holds the roof of the barn up.
It's not a computer so you have to remember to learn a new language.
Going to town from where I now live means you're either going to
Fredericksburg or Winchester, not one of those cities to the north. And I found out that--oh, incidently, I'm not going to tell
the frog joke today in case any of you were worried about that but I did find
out and I'm finding out, I think, that the old statement is true, that is in
Washington you go from "who's who" to "who's that" very
quickly, and it's somewhat comforting to be able to be even more incognito than
I was before.
I did enjoy getting here in time today to hear a bit of the panel that
was here. Were a lot of you here?
It was an excellent panel.
Congressman-Doctor-Professor Vern Ehlers was here and did a wonderful job
of talking about Congress and the budget and science policy.
And I may return to that in a moment but I'd like to do is to go further
back than when Vern went. I'm older
than he is, you understand.
When I think about science policy and about national policies, whether
they be economic policy or industrial policy, to me they are all words which
mean the same thing. Namely, the
American spirit as embodied in our history and the way we go about doing things
both as individuals and as a people.
Ben Franklin was a fine scientist and so was Thomas Jefferson, and they
embodied that early tradition of experimental studies, theorizing and the
adventure of exploration. It
appears early, of course, not only in Franklin's time but in Jefferson sending
off Lewis and Clark to explore the west. It
appears in the constitution in the form of a specific protection of intellectual
property rights and the patent laws. There
were great arguments between Hamilton and Jefferson about whether we should be
an agricultural society or an industrial society but the bottom line was that
our founding fathers knew, understood and appreciated the enormous value even in
the late 18th Century of intellectual pursuits as means to achieve personal and
And it repeats itself time and again in our national history from the
federal support of F.S.B. Morris' telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington,
which goes right by the University of Maryland campus or it went by at that
time, to the land grant colleges and universities, the agricultural research
activities, on to aviation and space and electronics, and you can name it all
the way on through to current biotechnology and molecular biology.
It's a pattern of the public investing as a people in exploring the
frontiers of the unknown and capitalizing on that in very practical ways.
It began with a greater focus on invention and the development of
technology and fundamental science picked up over time as it went along, even
more so after the enormous successes of World War II and now, of course, it's
deeply embedded in our institutions.
The result has been absolutely staggering.
In terms of the kind of wealth, health, security, ability to protect the
environment, all the many over-arching goals of our nation aided and abetted by
this constant and successful pursuit of science and technology.
It earned public support for a good cause albeit some of the sobering
realizations after World War II that powerful ideas and discoveries inevitably
can be used for good or for ill. Whatever
the discovery, if it's powerful enough, has that dual capability.
So when people start arguing about do we have a science policy or surely
we should not have an industrial policy, I think that's just stuff and nonsense.
I think we have it. We've
had it for well over 200 years. It
has worked remarkably well. Our
public choices of things to invest in, in terms of technology, are now all our
major leading industries in the United States and I think we should not be
apologetic for this fact that it is a part and parcel of our national history,
and I rather would not get involved in saying whether or not we have just
exactly the right science policy or the right industrial policy.
I think we've had a good one
and we tune it all the time and I'd rather just leave it that way. Let's keep tuning it but also let's keep supporting it.
Now six years ago--it's hard to believe but six years ago when I joined
the Administration from up on Capitol Hill I joined, in part, because things
were looking pretty bad in terms of our projected national deficits. We were going--we were looking out at a string almost of an
indefinite deficit of our federal budget and the implications of that for money
leftover for private investment for inflationary pressures, for so many things,
and for literally stealing from our kids and our grandkids was terribly
disturbing, and I think it was a national--rising national concern.
It certainly was with President Clinton and Vice-President Gore.
So I came in to the Administration knowing that we were going to be
involved in deficit control as the sine qua non of an Administration policy for
an indefinite period of time and that was somewhat discomforting because that
meant we were going to have enormous pressures on our budgets and yet we somehow
had to arrange a situation in which we could allocate the resources we had to
the highest and best uses, the most promising, the most fulfilling, the
most--long--the best long-term investments we can make.
We also knew that we had to move in the wake of the fortuitous--in the
fortunate, not fortuitous--fortunate ending of the Cold War with Russia.
We had to start moving our investment ratio of military research versus
civilian research back towards its more traditional 50/50 kind of ratio rather
than being overwhelmingly dominated by military research so there were going to
be a lot of major changes occurring in the '90s as we prepared ourselves for the
post-Cold War era in the next Century.
This meant at the same time that we needed to identify and defend the
highest yielding investments and try to build some protection around them rather
than simply cutting things across the board and that was part of our job as we
undertook this process in 1993.
There were mounting pressures since that time from the budget agreement,
which we all understand and have talked about, and truly the inexorable rise of
so-called entitlement programs in our budget.
May I have the first transparency, please?
Now the green represents "entitlement programs."
Can you see that from the back?
It goes from 1966, '76, '86 and '96, and the green code are the
entitlement programs. The big
things that help pay our Medicare and other social programs.
You see those rise not only because people in Congress and people in
politics, in general, like to support such programs.
They are great social programs, and we also have an aging population so
the expense of these programs is rising but the consequences of that
simultaneously with trying to get our budget under control meant enormous and
rising pressures on all the rest of the budget.
And if you look at the breakout down below, between '66 and '96
entitlements rose from a third of the budget to over half of the budget and,
meanwhile, the discretionary--sorry, and the interest--because we tripled the
national debt in the '80's--rose from six percent to 15 percent and the
discretionary--nondefense discretionary programs, which includes all of our
research, education, national parks, all these things, fell from 22 percent to
16 percent of the budget, and will likely continue to fall until we somehow
rearrange our priorities or come back in a degree of equilibrium.
This, as Vern Ehlers said earlier this afternoon, is a thing we all have
to keep in our heads. We have to
have an image of that in our heads to understand the pressures on both the
Administration and the Congress to deal simultaneously with a budget that stays
out of deficit and at the same time make investments that are appropriately
targeted toward the highest yield returns to the American Public.
I think I'll just leave that up for a little bit just so it impresses on
our minds. Anytime you get bored
just look at that chart again and see if you can get it memorized.
Now so the first challenge that I want to talk about out of five
challenges is this issue of the rising entitlements, the rising pressures on the
federal budget, and the value, as you will note, the enormous value of economic
growth because having strong economic growth in this time has enabled our
budgets, even if they're smaller
than the total--the smaller fraction of the total they're still increasing in
absolute terms because we're growing our economy, and we hope that can continue
and it is strongly aided and abetted by the fact that we have our deficits down
and don't have to draw so much from new capital formation as we would have had
to do otherwise.
The second challenge I would like to speak to is the dispute over the
federal role in research and development. It's
complicated by the increase of the--sorry, not the increase but the lack of
actually understanding what's happening in the world of science and technology.
A couple of points:
What do we expect from industry?
Industry has a shortening product cycle lifetime.
They have enormous pressures on near term performance and as a
consequence are under greater pressures to draw down on some of their long-term
research, and we have seen it time and time again across the country and I see
no clear sign that that's going to let up over--in the near term future. That's the nature of the increasing competition as well as
those other factors I mentioned to you.
Industry understands its need to innovate but it also understands the
pressure on it toward the shorter term.
Therefore, any notion that somehow industry will help pay for our
fundamental research where the fruits of that research are not capturable at the
firm level but spread all the way across the economy, the notion that somehow
industry will invest in that is really nonsensical.
Industry understands and I think we, the public, understand that that is
a public responsibility to provide the fundamental knowledge and the generic
technologies that are not capturable by the private sector by individual firms.
The second thing is that it's important to understand the reality of the
new competitive world in which industries or firms can compete viciously in the
marketplace and at the same time cooperate in the research area.
This is a reality around the world now and yet it's not that well
understood by many people and for this reason that industry understands exactly
where they profit by cooperating but then will split when they come into
competition and start moving towards the marketplace, it's that reality that
enables us to devise win-win situations in which public interest and private
interest can be matched up so that the whole is greater than the sum of the
And we have a very rationale way of devising public-private partnerships,
which in turn put public money and private money into the same basic ventures in
which each is contributing an appropriate share towards the outcome.
This is a new way of thinking. There
are a lot of people who say you shouldn't deal--governments shouldn't deal with
the private sector except in the courts. This
is totally anachronistic now and we need to understand that and I think I've
been very pleased at the way it has worked out in some of the things we've been
able to do in the last five years.
The third part of this dispute over the federal--it's exacerbated by a
meat axe--what I call a meat axe versus a scalpel approach to budget trimming in
which we took the position that budgets should be trimmed not across the board
but very selectively depending on the value of that expenditure to the nation,
both the near and long-term.
Others took the approach, well, let's just cut.
For instance, there were serious proposals, as you know, to cut research
by about a third or more because that's sort of the amount of the budget--the
whole budget needed to be cut by a third or more.
Vern Ehlers talked about the lack of technical understanding in making
budget decisions a few hours ago when he spoke of a member or two of Congress
who wanted to cut Proxmire-like. Remember
Bill Proxmire, a Democrat, had the Golden Fleece Award.
Every year he would give an award to an NSF project that had a funny
More recently there was an attack on cutting NSF's budget because they
were working on gambling and other forms of pursuit that was not--would not
justify federal investments. Well, the--and
automated teller machines, and that ought to be a private sector activity.
Well, asynchronist transfer mechanisms is not automated teller machines
and gaming theory is not gambling. And
the member had simply caught the words as Bill Proxmire would have done in the
old days but seriously tried to cut the budget on that account.
Fortunately, although we
didn't have an OTA up there, we had Vern Ehlers and Vern had to go down to his
brethren and say, "Fellows, you don't know what you're talking about,"
and he was able to stop it.
So one of the good pieces of news is we have a couple of Vern Ehlers up
there now but it is a problem of people talking about things that they don't
know very much about.
There was another member a couple of years ago who seriously proposed one
day that we should cut out all of this NOAA business and their satellites
because he said, "We've got the weather channel.
Why don't we need all the satellites?"
And he was--the tragic thing is he was serious about it.
Remember Alexander Pope, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Drink not lightly of the Peyerian spring where only by
drinking deeper can sober us again." And
I think we need some deeper drinking or at least some people who give advice in
prompt time to people before their commitment becomes so poured in concrete that
they can't reverse themselves.
And then it was at about that time--I think it was the early summer of
'95 in which I got somewhat despaired about this at a AAAS meeting of, I think,
Scientific Society Presidents--perhaps it was, Rich--and I ended my talk there
by giving a quote from Thomas Jefferson as follows:
"A little patience..." this is Jefferson in 1798.
"A little patience and we shall see the time of witches pass over,
their spells dissolve, and the people recovering their true sight, restore their
government to its true principles."
And that got a particular congressman very mad at me and he wrote the
President with great complaints that I was throwing off on the Congress but what
I was trying to say was that we do need to be better informed about the
decisions that we are making, and that was the first time I used that quote
about witches. It gave me a great
title for today. I hope it
attracted some--a lot of people said, "I'm going to come to your talk.
I don't know what you're going to say but I just want to know what you
mean by the 'witches.'"
All right. So that's a
second issue, is that question and that argumentation over the appropriate
federal role in research and development versus the private sector, and the
interaction between these two. It
is a healthy thing to continue to debate because there is a great wedge that one
always has to adjust but it's one that we should have informed debates about.
The third is, I think, our lack of ability to consider the science and
technology budget as a whole and set priorities within that framework. In the Administration--you know, we've worked--the nation has
fretted about this for a long time but we've worked in the Administration in
trying to draw together the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of
Science and Technology Policy, the departments.
We formed--President Clinton formed the National Science and Technology
Council, which raised that activity in the wise up to a policy level, which
meant things such as Executive Orders and Presidential Decision Memoranda and
other key presidential capabilities finally became a possibility for us.
The NSTC was able to enable more integrated budget preparations across
the agencies. This ultimately
appeared in so-called budget cross-cuts, which I know Bill Carey would have
favored even though he would have argued with me a little bit about it, Ms.
Carey, but it was a way to try to use the budgeting process as a way to force a
better integration of similar activities across the agencies.
And we came up with even the notion that we could not only do these
pieces and have these cross-cuts on such things as information technology, the
Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, the Global Climate Change Research
Program, all of these cutting across a variety of agencies but that we could
form even broader a collection of things that would begin to pull together that
part of the federal research and development budget that Frank Press talked
about in his study of the budget, which consists of about half of the total
federal budget, half of that order.
And it was labeled the 21st Century Research Fund to try to tie it to an
investment for the 21st Century in research across the agencies, including all
of the--essentially basic and applied research, even the fundamental work at the
Department of Defense.
Well, these have been attempts and they're ongoing to try to pull
together the disparate pieces of science and technology into a coherent
framework remembering, though--remember back to the 19th Century the rise of
science and the support of technology arose mostly focused on objectives such as
agriculture, health and the others so the science and technology grew up with
these agencies. It was part and
parcel at each of these agencies. This
is not meant to try to break that apart but rather to take the pieces of that
and put them together in a virtual way that can make the whole greater than the
sum of the parts.
Meanwhile in the Congress what has been going on is we attempt to develop
an oversight responsibility, which is a major responsibility of Congress, and
there are committees now, of course, lined up with each agency and that's why,
for instance, the Science Committee despite their attempts to draw broad
pictures of the support of science, I'll leave out agriculture and health
because--why? Because that's
certainly part of health. Health is
certainly a part of research and development and technology but it's not part of
that committee's jurisdiction so it's an incomplete set despite the fact that
they're trying to do a broader job within the Congress.
OTA tried to help provide that degree of oversight or capability of
oversight when it was in existence but, of course, that was wiped by a Congress
who didn't feel that that kind of information was important.
At the same time we have--how many--when I say the word "602"
does that strike a strong cord in everybody's heart?
Yes, I bet it does because a lot of people wonder what in the world do
you mean, 602? Is that a throw of
the dice? No, it's a part of the
process that's so fundamental in which the whole of the budget is carved up by
the leadership to pieces of the budget and they are assigned to different
committees, different subcommittees of appropriations, and that is the budget
that each of those subcommittees has to work with.
If you look at the budget, for example, for NSF, NASA, the OSTP, the old
OTA, and others, that's in exactly the same subcommittee that has to use exactly
the same dollars to fund the Housing and Urban Development and the Veteran's
Affairs Agency and other very major social programs.
And the tussle, therefore, is not between say NSF and NIH or other
science activities, it's a tussle between NSF and HUD and VA.
So we have to remember the reality of these poor budget subcommittees
having to deal across--not across the realms of science and technology but
across social programs and research programs and everything else all within that
subportion of the budget. It is a
tyranny of small decisions that it is there and it needs reform but it's--I
wouldn't hold my breath until it happens but that's a problem that Congress is
trying to wrestle with in one way or another.
I think the third part of this lack of ability to consider the budget in
an integrated way falls on our shoulders here in the AAAS community.
Namely, our ability to influence and inform that process in the way that
I think AAAS is doing magnificently now and can and probably should do even more
in the future. Timely objective
analysis one step removed from the process of Congress and the Administration
but with timely feedback to those same people in a way that they can fully
utilize the kind of information and thoughtful response that we can give.
Okay. That's enough for our
ability to consider the budget as a whole and help set priorities.
The fourth of my five observations has to do with the question of are we
focusing too much on input and not enough on output.
I think you all know what GPRA is. It's
not a football player or the like. It's
the Government Performance and Results Act, which resulted from a mutual feeling
that we need to do a better job of measuring how well we're doing.
Because as John Young, the ex-CEO of Hewlitt Packard and the chair of the
President's Science Advisory Committee, as John says, "If you can't measure
then it doesn't mean much to you, does it?
You can't tell what's happening."
The question is how can you measure, especially on such ephemeral things
as how can you measure what's going on in monetary terms of the results of
research? It's perhaps one of the
most difficult parts of our whole attempt to become more accountable in our use
of the public funding as we try to measure the output of our investments in
science rather than just the input to the budget itself.
I think there are some promising results so far and I think we have a
long way to go. First of all, we've
done a lot better job in recent years in a retrospective examination of the
influence of research on our nation's economic state.
We know--and there is now widespread agreement in the economics community
that public investments and investments in research, in general, have accounted
for perhaps half of our entire economic growth since the end of World War II. An
astonishing return for the investment made, that the rate of return, the public
rate of return of federal investments in science are of the order of 30 to 50
percent or higher per year rate of return.
I wish I could do a fourth of that in my own investments.
NSF has done an excellent job at correlating patents--patent applications
in the private sector and the references used in those applications and their
relationship to a work that was federally sponsored research, an extraordinary
correlation there. The same in the
Department of Defense.
Harold Varmus has done an excellent job.
He deserves our constant praise from those of us from outside the
biomedical community for his constant bringing up of the utter dependence of
that community on the rest of the science community for its ability to move
I saw him in the Roosevelt Room stand up and make a passionate defense of
a budget in a budget hearing of the agencies with the President--I think the
President was in the room--and it was an extraordinary defense of a budget.
It wasn't his budget. It was
the National Science Foundation budget.
He pointed out how essential that kind of work, computational biology,
advanced computers, physics, chemistry, mathematics, all have to do--and
engineering all have to do with the advances of our biomedical capabilities. That unity of science is the thing that I think we need to
focus on as part of our reporting to our constituents, our clients, our
benefactors about what it is we're doing and what it means what we're doing, not
just knowledge for its own sake, which is important, but the use of that
knowledge sometimes in strange and wondrous ways.
I think that's a job for all of us.
It is particularly a job for this community to play that role of telling
stories that have meaning that get across these ideas in a meaningful way.
The fifth issue I wanted to wrestle with a little bit was how to
accommodate with the two cultures. C.P.
Snow, as you know, talked about the two cultures all the time.
His was more focused on science and humanities and I used to say we need
to simonize the humanist and humanize the scientist but he also talked about two
cultures in another way.
He--and I encapsulated it in this way:
He said, "A sense of the future is behind all good politics.
Without a sense of the future one can leave nothing either wise or decent
Now when he talked about a sense of the future what he was--what he tells
me over that message is a sense of the long time constant things that are
happening in our society.
And if you--especially if you are in politics you understand that there
are very different cultures related to your time perspectives and I guess a
newspaper editor measures it a day at a time.
That's just about what the White House staff meetings measure, a day at a
time. Now there are some longer
time constants in there but it's all a foreshortened process.
I once called a senior staffer of the Senate Formulations Committee when
I was at OTA and said, "We'd like to talk with you about some of your
long-term issues related to science and technology," and they said,
"That's fine but if it has to do with anything more than the next three
weeks we're too busy to talk with you."
I almost fell to the floor.
But this notion of communicating effectively about some of the longer
time events is a tension between the science community, which is comfortable
with long term perspectives, and the political--the policy world, which is very
The President told me once when we were talking about how do we arrange
for actions related to global climate change, and I talked about the need to
look ahead at least say 20, maybe 30 years, for capital stock to turn over and
other things to happen. He said,
"You don't understand. Beyond
10 years it has no value in a political context."
So that was to me a sharp reminder of the difference of these time
When you come to think of it, it seems to me the long term issues, the
long term, is a domain that is particularly a responsibility of society as a
whole. Intergenerational issues,
international issues, these longer reaches in time and space are inherently the
domain of society as a whole rather than as individual firms so it even more
falls to the platter of public investment to be concerned about these issues.
Let me give you three examples:
First, the recent news on the retreat, both from the Administration and
the Congress, on investments in defense research programs, the so-called 6.1 and
6.2 programs, which are really suffering pretty heavily now, in part, because of
the pressures of a lower defense budget on the needs of--the perceived needs of
the services to buy equipment and to pay for people, that is the near term
focus. If your job only lasts you
two or three years you're not going to be that much interested in something that
may take 15-20 years to pay off. So
there's a natural pressure from within the services to focus on acquisitions and
equipment. Whereas a natural focus
on long term defense planners is to think about keeping that storehouse of
frontier technology in hand because that's the technology we're going to be
needing 15 years from whenever it becomes evident, and that pressure, I think,
is very disturbing.
That commitment, especially in the face of now this new commitment to
deploy a continental ballistic missile defense system, which not only, I think,
has yet to be proven that it will work--it's Disney first law, "Wishing
will make it so" but it doesn't really work that well in ballistic missile
It could void the ABM Treaty. It
could seriously threaten our capability to move ahead with the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty, other vital defense issues being driven by people who want to
sort of rekindle the notion of Star Wars.
I think it's a tragic mistake and I hope it doesn't--I hope it doesn't
happen because it's so easy to avoid that Maginot line with technology and with
other mechanisms but I worry about that because the BMD--sorry, the ballistic
missile defense thing is more of a near term fighting the last war or fighting
the presently perceived threats, and if that is done at the sacrifice of all of
our long term investments in the long term then we are going to win a battle but
lose--possibly win a battle but certainly lose a war.
The second example I would give is our--is the concern about global
climate change and climate variability on the one hand and the accompanying
issue of the 21st Century energy transitions that lie before us and I want to
spend just a moment on these two.
Let me have the next transparency.
You may be familiar with this chart.
The vertical is the carbon dioxide concentration and the abscissa is time
from about 17 something to about 2100 on the far right.
And the vertical line in orange is simply present time. These are plots of global average temperature.
(End Tape, Side A.)
The thing widens as you go out towards the future simply for the
uncertainties of the models and of what human activities might do but you see
that they both--it sort of looks like population--they both are rising up
exponentially and they are undoubtedly related, one related to the other since
greenhouse gases are the control on our global temperatures.
The main thing out of this is that if you look ahead to the year 2100,
just one Century away.
And I'm old enough to have lived in a time in which I have lived almost
two-thirds of this past Century and so it's getting to be a shorter time all the
time as far as I'm concerned. I've
got grandkids that may make it all the way out there to 2100.
But the question is if you look at this and then you ask the
international scientific community what is a reasonable number at which we ought
to be thinking about leveling this thing out at least until we know something
about it better than we do now because this could lead us into really
catastrophic global conditions in terms of changes in ocean levels, and the
precipitation, and storms, and everything else.
And the general feeling is, well, we don't really know for sure but if we
do more than about double the preindustrial number we're already out there in
no-man's land and if we do much more than that we are really doing an
unforgivable uncontrolled experiment using the planet as our laboratory.
Now if you go to the next chart and take those numbers and say, "All
right. Let's see what it will take
if we slow down this expansion of greenhouse gases to the point that we do more
than--no more than double the preindustrial concentration," and you arrive
at a set of curves.
The one that goes on up out of sight is if we don't do anything, that's
the so-called business as usual.
The next one down is if you are really speculative and you're willing to
let the concentration go to three times preindustrial.
The green curve is twice preindustrial.
The one that most people say that's probably as high as we ought to go.
The bottom curve is what some people are seriously saying we shouldn't go
above 450 parts per million carbon dioxide.
But let's take the green curve for a minute and say, "What does that
imply? What does that curve tell us
about the responsibilities to the science and technology community in the next
Well, you know, I think it was Bertram Russell that said, "A mark of
the educated person is one that can be emotionally moved by statistics."
So that green curve should make you cry because it paints a very
challenging picture for science and for technology to achieve a transformation
of the way--particularly the way we make and use energy and other industrial
It does--it's devised in that particular form to be the least cost paced
process of moving from where we are now to where we would need to be by the year
2100, again in order to hold ourselves to no more than twice the preindustrial
C02 level. It does imply a lot of
excitement in terms of what one can do and you can get there, especially if you
start early and take your time in getting to that place but you can't wait until
you get to the end of the Century and expect to do much about it. It is a Century
of decision making and action in terms of protecting global climate.
Now what that means for energy, because energy is where most of these
green house gases come from, is that we need to be--understand that we are
moving now through the next cycle of energy systems for humanity's benefit.
We've gone through wood. This
is expressed in fraction of total energy. Of
course, the total energy itself is going up out of sight but this is a fraction
of the total.
We've gone through the peak of coal as a fraction of total energy. We are now probably at or maybe a little bit beyond the peak
for oil give or take a couple of decades, which is nothing in terms of human
history. And we are on a rapid rise
with natural gas as you see and that looks like it's going to peak somewhere
around maybe the middle of the coming Century.
And in behind that has to come a successor because these are all
depletable sources that we've talked about up to here and that's that curve that
starts at around 1970 and rises, and it's called "Nuclear 21st Century
As most economists put on it, it's just the new sources.
Now new sources are--there are a lot of ideas but they don't come without
a lot of work. It's an enormous
challenge and as you know there are lots of opportunities but the fact is that
we need to be moving on that curve even as we sell gasoline for less than
distilled water. "So it takes
a sense of the future..." as Snow said, "...to understand the context
of cheap gasoline and petroleum gas wars in order to understand that at the same
time those are going on we need to be making the investments to devise and
develop these successor sources." A
sense of the future.
Now next I want to shift to the third of these three long-term examples,
and that is the issue of question of reaching population equilibrium and
effecting the demographic transition. Again
a 21st Century demand.
The chart is blocked off to the right of the year 2000, to the left of
that the yellow is the growth of population in the so-called developed nations,
and the blue is the growth of population in the so-called Third World.
About 90 percent or more of population growth now occurring is in the
sort of so-called Third World.
Now we're optimistic about what can be done as family size falls; as
education, especially of women, increases; and that, in fact, the 21st Century
will witness, if we work at it, a leveling off of this inexorable growth of
population. You can remove the
black now. And the optimists seem
to indicate that we might look something like that by the time we get to 2050 or
I would remind you that this is a--this is a lick and a promise.
I'm reminded of the old story of the quest for controlled thermonuclear
fusion. It was called Project
Sherwood. It was classified.
And I said, "Why Sherwood?"
And they said, "Well, it's Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood.
We'll rob the rich oceans and give the poor people free energy."
But they said, "What it really means is 'sure would be nice if it
Without effort, this will not obtain and if this does not obtain then
we're in for a real pickle in terms of the hope to have humans represent the
best in the creative process rather than people that will bring down the globe
with our over population.
Now, let's just take a couple of quick lessons because I want to have
some emotional movement by statistics here.
The next chart is sort of lesson number one in demographic transitions. This is a picture of the United States of males to the left,
females to the right, age groups by horizontal slices.
And what you see is a dynamic snapshot of a very dynamic movement of the
falling birth rates after World War II and the baby boom generation, which is
the widest of the lines, moving on up towards old age.
And the transition is very traumatic in terms of a decreasing labor
force, of increasing costs of elderly care, an increasing load of the retirement
community on the working community. A
lot of issues are having to be resolved here as we make our way through this
It has raised a point in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs
by Pete Peterson, who is deeply concerned about the economic implications of
this kind of transition over time.
Now let's go to the next chart.
This is a picture of Mexico. Now
the good news is there are going to be a lot of new workers.
The bad news is that there are going to be a lot of new workers.
It is--that kind of picture is frightening in terms of its implication of
the need for job creation and for the ultimate issue of changing from this
exponential growth to one in which we have some degree of stability and
Herb Stein once said, "That which cannot go on forever must at some
point come to an end." That's
And it's hard to do, Rich. It's
hard to move from an exponential world to a steady state world.
And this is enough to make a grown man cry because it tells you that if
you wait and wait and wait, the problem is going to get worse and worse and
worse because you have less time to effect a transition.
The next curve, the final, is a picture of the situation in Africa under
three different assumptions.
On the vertical line is a measure of population of, I think it is,
Sassaheil (ph), Africa, and the horizontal is the year.
It goes from about--near the--well, present 1990 up to about the end of
the 21st Century. There are three
calculations here, three lines.
The first one, the bottom line, has little asterisks on it and that's the
time at which fertility rates in Africa would reach replacement level.
They are coming down but this is the time in which it would take to get
there and that one is at year 2030, about 30 years from now.
The next curve up assumes not an approach to replacement fertility rates
until 2045, a 15 year delay.
And the final one assumes that you don't get to replacement level until
the year 2060, about 30 years after the first curve.
A 30 years delay, people would say, "Well, that's not all that much,
30 years." Thirty years delay
implies the ultimate population of that part of the world would not be 1.4
billion people but 4.5 billion people. The
momentum of population is staggering and by the time you reach replacement level
it's another 70 years before population levels out.
A sense of the future. A
sense of the future.
Now let me comment on that a moment.
I mentioned Pete Peterson in Foreign Affairs.
A friend of mine, Son Gin, in China has written a paper about the dilemma
China has in population growth. He
talks about the fact that China began on a one child family in order to try to
slow this population growth down and move more gracefully into this transition
so that they could have a sustainable economy and that was too much.
It changed the number of young people compared to the number of old
people far too rapidly. It was
sociologically simply not acceptable so they shifted to a two child family as an
exhortation knowing that that would cause China's population to go well beyond
what they calculated was a sustainable number of people, namely a population of
over 1.6 billion--sorry, of a population, yes, of over 1.6 billion people where
they sort of think they can maybe handle 1.2 billion if they use advanced
technology and with a higher standard of living.
So they went to the two child family knowing that they faced an overrun
of sustainable population but they figured that maybe within a couple hundred
years they can work it back down to a sustainable number and they can't--if they
wait much longer then it gets that's much worse.
A sense of the future.
I wish we had that degree of willingness to think about our future, our
descendants in the way that I think some others are doing.
George Bernard Shaw once said, "Man would rather commit suicide than
learn arithmetic," and I think that's true.
Well, what do we do? I'm
going to quit here in a minute.
I think we have--as Vern Ehlers said, "We have to have more
effective reporting on progress and the way we present--prepare and present our
budgets." We have to have
learned some hard lessons from the biomedical community on the effectiveness of
those budgets in order to do a better job of reporting to our benefactors.
We need more vigorous and timely budget and authorization commentaries so
that the benefit of the nongovernment community can be felt and be received by
those that have to make these decisions and we need improved articulations of
What does make sense? What
are the bench marks of progress that we should be identifying and then reporting
For instance, how well is our economy doing and how well is our research
and technology contributing to that result, to jobs, to patents, and other
things that portend our future?
How well is our health system improving in terms of indices of health?
How well is our environment going? You
know, the vice-president has asked for a comprehensive report card on
environment, not so much absolute numbers necessarily but how are we doing
compared to where we were five or ten years ago.
If you don't know where you are then it's hard to measure how well you're
What about our contribution towards global sustainability?
What is--what about the dynamics of population growth?
What about carbon per GDP produced around the world?
And what about our contribution to fundamental knowledge in terms of our
shares of Nobel Prizes and other things?
Well, I began this question--this comment--set of comments about how--has
the time of witches passed over and I think there is some good news to report in
We have seen a return of congressional support for science and
technology, especially in the basic sciences.
We have seen a softening of resistance to public/private partnerships.
We see the presence in Congress now and feel it--have it felt rather
strongly. The presence of people
like George Brown, Vernon Ehlers, Bill Frist, Rush Holt, other members of the
science and medicine community. We
need more but they are a wonderful addition to the flavor of the Congress.
On the downside, though, we have loss of support for the DoD research,
which includes about over half of all of our computer science activities in our
universities, and have that displaced or in contrast to the funding or
deployment of Star Wars. We have
attempts to deny research in climate change by federal agencies or even to
discuss climate change in our federal agencies by some members of Congress.
We have the elimination of U.S. funding of the U.N. Family Planning
Association. This is a major set
back in our attempts to try to help meet unmet need for family planning around
We have an aggressive discouragement of research of family planning
technologies, even of infertility research, even of stem cell research, and I'm
afraid that we're witnessing religious doctrine being confused as moral
statements and I think we need to stand up and make ourselves--our concern
We have a recent flap over possible but unproven espionage at Los Alamos
about a decade ago and the result now is that the Department of Energy in one
case at least, a contractor, who works in energy--cooperation with other
countries on energy efficiency, energy conservation technologies, now can no
longer allow any of his foreign scientist collaborators in his office here in
Washington. Now are we so
desperately in need of a new evil empire that we're going to be that silly about
the way we go about our business?
Therefore, my bottom line: The
evidence is that the veneer of progress against the witches of "ignorance,
superstition, greed, disregard for future generations," the veneer is
thicker than it was a few years ago but it's still only a veneer.
And finally the 21st Century, I think, is the Century for testing. It's a long moment of truth for humanity.
And whether that is--whether our ingenuity and our humanity can enable a
transition from exponentiation to sustainability, the challenge is a central
responsibility for science and technology so let's go for it.