What will fuel a re-bound?

Part of the answer is highly dependent on how people in the US react and take action under a new government. There are several unprecedented transformations ahead of us that will require both incredible governmental leadership and public support and action. The first of these is the fundamental re-building of the United States operating infrastructure. Our underlying infrastructure systems are all aging, out of date or in need of massive upgrades. From roads, to electrical generation and distribution, to water and sewage, to air traffic control, cellular, television, etc. You name an infrastructure and we are either in dire need of building or upgrading it, or have already decided to do so and are trying to find the funds, engineers and resources to do so. This will require governmental priority. It will not only require citizens to vote for change, but to act on that need with their personal sweat and focus. It will require new technologies and new approaches. Never before have we had to “rewire” the country in such a dramatic way. Most of our prior infrastructure build-outs were new, without a need to navigate the replacement of something aging – or they were the equivalent of “paving the cow paths”.

The revamp of the air traffic control system will not proceed in this fashion. We have to keep 8000 planes flying on radar and radio towers each day while launching GPS-based systems that can take advantage of safer, more efficient routes. New regional, hub-based systems will increase the number of planes, reducing costs, increasing efficiency – but also complicating the overall situation.

The revamp of our electrical systems means finding new ways to clean our coal-fired generation plants immediately, while we find the next best solutions for powering our country in the fastest way possible (solar, hydro, nuclear, etc.). This will require new technologies in generation and in environmentally sound cleaning. It will require that we look at where the generation is and where the people are and build or revamp transmission facilities in an economical, safe and environmentally sound way. The full solution for a more efficient and stable electrical infrastructure will require the use of “Smart” metering at the home for instantaneous monitoring of our electrical use. These meters will give consumers the ability to see the direct effect of their usage immediately and will allow them to buy the cheapest, greenest energy and use it wisely. It will involve exploring nano-technologies for more efficient solar power. And it will require a country-wide focus on conservation and awareness of our energy use.

With the US drinking more bottled water per capita than most of the rest of the world, (according to the most “developed” country in the world has a water crisis. Whether this is just a social/cultural issue or an issue of real health concern seems to depend on your economic status or daily consumption of self-help literature, but either way we have work to be done to make our water sources safe, to communicate this and to eliminate our addiction to this irresponsible environmental irrationality.

The ever marching “advances” of cellular (now going open source, multi-network and exclusively digital – making obsolete any remaining analog handsets) and television, (also going “open” at the set-top and shutting down all analog transmissions) will create a wave of new technologies and new interaction models that will open yet another flood of communications channels for us to figure out, to exploit, and to manage.

The second family of transformations center around taking action against climate change – the “green revolution”. There have been few issues that are in so much need for endemic change across all political boundaries as does the need to combat climate change. No matter what your proof that it is happening or your conclusion as to why, the reality that we have to learn to manage our environment better, waste less and preserve more is clear and it is a national and global concern. The need for innovation in this space is awesome: from new ways to carry our groceries, to packaging, building materials, lighting, clothing, production, transportation and farming. You name it and it can probably be created, used, re-used and recycled cheaper, faster and with a smaller carbon footprint than it is now. With additional motivation from prizes such as the Ansari X-prizes and research and government grants, this will be a hotbed of innovation over the coming years at a time when we need it most.

So, we could be entering an era reminiscent of the golden infrastructure days of railroad, telephone, interstate highways, and moon shots with jobs-a-plenty and innovations everywhere. Or, we could slumber and stumble into a spiral of international alienation and forgotten technologies akin to east Germany in the height of the cold war.

Oh, and mentioning war, if you are wondering where some of the funding for these monumental efforts might come, consider the fact that we are spending somewhere around $1 Billion per DAY on military activities at the moment.

There are many clouds over the US at the moment but as is evident from this simple discourse, there is also incredible hope for the US economy and for technology as a fuel for recovery. Success will only come if each and every one of us takes action and commits to working toward a more responsible, more tolerant and more sustainable future. Each in our own way, to the best of our abilities.


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