The American engine of progress and prosperity is in serious trouble. Innovation has stalled. The number of good, middle-class jobs is dwindling. Wealth and opportunity are increasingly concentrated in a few coastal megacities. And cultural divides are widening. How do we turn this tide?
The answer lies in science — specifically, government-funded science. Investment in science is the ultimate pro-growth policy: It leads to more invention, higher productivity and broad-based economic development.
According to our research, if the U.S. government were to boost funding by $100 billion per year with strategic, geographically dispersed investments and initiatives, the result would be roughly 4 million new jobs.
Sean Jennings, an Executive MBA student at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has gone back to school, decades after dropping out of college. “I don’t need to make any more money; I’m interested in making a difference.”
When people ask me why I—a college drop-out turned tech entrepreneur—decided to go back to school to get my Executive MBA, I tell them about my older brother, Michael. On New Year’s Eve in 1967, Michael and I both came down with a mysterious virus. We were babies at the time—he was two and I was one. No doctor could figure out the cause of it. Ultimately, I got better. But Michael was brain damaged.
I have always known how fortunate I am. I got to grow up and lead a healthy person’s life. Michael, who has the cognitive function of a toddler, spent his teens and twenties in an institution and now lives in a group home.
From a young age, I felt that my purpose was to take care of my brother. When I got older, I realised that would cost a lot of money. My goal was to attend the best college I could and then pursue the highest-paying career I could tolerate. Getting accepted to MIT on an Air Force scholarship was one of the proudest moments of my life. But two years into college, I got injured. The military released me on honourable medical discharge. I couldn’t afford tuition and didn’t want to take on overwhelming debt, so I dropped out. Read More »
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” This quote from Plutarch is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. Still, the misconception of education as a vessel-filling activity remains. In this column, I outline an idea that could reshape our universities while also prototyping new ways of addressing urgent societal challenges. The kindling of the flame that Plutarch talked about has never been more relevant than now.
Let’s start with 2017
Last week my column focused on 2017:
The year 2017 mirrored the epochal year 1917 by putting a new challenge in front of us: the challenge of vertical development.
By “vertical development” I mean the capacity to deal with disruptive change, which requires us to let go of the past and to let come the future, to shift our awareness from one state to another. In the language of tech: vertical development is about suspending your habit of installing yet another app and instead upgrading your entire operating system.
From that perspective we can interpret the current global surge of terrorism, fundamentalism, xenophobia, Trumpism, and autocracy as expressions of the same underlying phenomenon: the missing capacity as a society to respond to challenges in generative ways, by evolving ourselves “vertically,” by upgrading the way we listen and attend, the way we converse and think, and the way we organize and coordinate in the context of larger systems.