Monday, February 19, 2007

On Larry Page's address at the AAAS Annual Meeting 2007 and more from that event

Excerpts from Larry Page's address at the AAAS Annual Meeting of this year are in the third part of this recent Science podcast (in .mp3 format) from the 17th of February (his talk starts from around min 14 in the podcast). Some very good points that particularly draw my attention (with my summary and further comments):
  • There is a serious marketing problem in science, in general and much more should be done to remedy that. Page explains this state of facts by the typical lack of any expert in marketing in the scientific environment - you can't expect people who are paid to do research, to think of how to sell research ideas to the public (in particular, Page gives as example the enormous time and effort it took him and Brin to even come up with the name 'Google' for their venture).
  • It is necessary to have people in power who "know things" (inter alia, to have some idea about science and technology), which is so hard to come by with respect to current political leaders, for instance
  • Linked to the first point, society should be encouraged to think that 'things are possible', that scientific research has attainable and desirable goals. If people have a positive attitude about this, the rest comes easier. Page underlies that the media is to play a much bigger role in this.
  • Science and engineering should be much more integrated; the scientists should use the engineers' insight in what are the problems requiring priority and what are feasible solutions to them, while the engineers should use the scientists' depth of knowledge and level of abstraction and generalization etc.
  • On scientific publishing, articles and working papers should be made readily accesible (free of charge) for the public, it is in the best interest of both parties. And obviously the issues with the time lags in publishing and all that should be given priority.
  • On USA: USA has a marketing problem in general, in the eyes of the rest of the world, in the opinion of Page. Much more attention should be given right now to making more friends in the world.
  • Creating and taking advantages of great opportunities is a very important part of any succesful strategy and the scientist- entrepreneur should be the model. Page gives the example of the 'cyclicality' between Silicon Valley and Stanford University, a place where interaction of "brains" was at its best (people starting Silicon Valley after leaving from Stanford, others returning to Stanford after having had succesful entrepreneurship spells etc), which could and should be followed in other places.

I also found very interesting the short interview with Stanford's Robert Sapolsky (starts around min 8 in the Science podcast linked above) about the influence of stress on health and general well-being, with the clear difference between short-term "good stress", which can have positive outcomes on the subject, and the severe problems (starting from high blood pressure, to malfunction of the reproductory organs, to nervous breakdown etc.) that can be caused by the chronic, "bad stress". Reminds me strongly of the discussions in the 'stress at the workplace' workgroup that I was part of when attending, years ago, a "Generation Europe" Summit on the Role of Business in Society, in Bruxelles (I must say that I was then thinking much more about the positive role of (short term) stress- alert stimulus, for instance- than of its negative outcomes on, eg., job productivity, but Dr. Sapolsky is obviously right - the hazards of chronic stress are not at all negligible).

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