Innovation, competitiveness, sustainability, winning the future, playing to win, invest in the future…. We’ve been hearing these words a lot lately, from our President, from smart business men and just about every talking head on news media but what does it mean?
While watching the State of the Union on Tuesday, President Obama used these terms a lot and they did not ring true to for me. They seemed dull, boring and had the exact opposite effect of inspiring me. It felt like more of the same PR spin mumbo-jumbo we continually hear.
So what did I want to hear?
I wanted concrete plans whose corollary effects are innovation and competitiveness. I think of things like the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam or the space program as real actions that can push our competitiveness forward. We need a big concrete goal that means something, something concrete that solves a problem for the people. It’s these sorts of large government sponsored ideas to drive innovation. Abstract terms are empty without a plan to see something that the people can touch, feel and use.
Here are a couple of things I can think of that could draw that out of us.
– High speed transcontinental railroad.
Relive the 19th centuries biggest tech moment. Put a 300 mph train through the middle of the US.
– Manned spacecraft to Mars.
Bush said this, but he wasn’t committed. Be really committed and actually do it.
– Eliminate human paralysis, period.
Through bio-tech set a goal that no wheelchairs will exist in 20 years.
– Treat high-speed internet access like electricity,
It must be everywhere, available and fast. Don’t simply plan catch up, but raise the standards. Aim for what the standard speeds will be in fifteen years.
– Revive cities by destroying highways within them.
Admit that the 20th century’s obsession with the car was a failure and re-invest in urban areas. Rebuild cities in the image of the pre-automobile era, walk-able, ride-able or accessible by waterways.
– Reboot urban renewal programs
After World War II the United States leveled much of its old city slums and put up Le Corbusier inspired “cities of the future” This was a failure. Let’s destroy the soul crushing architecture and take the Jane Jacobs model of mixed use living. (urban renewal, Le Corbusier)