Converging Technologies and Competitiveness

The Honorable Phillip J. Bond, Undersecretary for Technology Department of Commerce

Good morning, and thank you all. It is a pleasure to be here as a co-host, and I want to give you all greetings on behalf of Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, whom I am thrilled and privileged to serve with in the Bush administration. Thank you, Mike Roco and Joe Bordogna for bringing us all together. Charlie Huettner, please give my best wishes to Jack Marburger. Dr. Marburger and I were confirmation cousins, going through our Senate hearings and then floor consideration together.

It is a rare thing to see people inside the Washington Beltway coming together to actually think long-term in a town that is usually driven by the daily headlines. I believe it was George Will who observed that most people inside the Beltway survive on the intellectual capital they accumulated before they came inside the Beltway. I certainly hope that's not true in my case. I do want to encourage you and join you. Let us lift our eyes, look at the future, and really seize the opportunity for some of the policy implications.

I stand before you today not as a scientist, but as an advocate. My background as the head of Hewlett-Packard's office here in Washington, before that with an IT association, and then on the Hill, and before that with Dick Cheney at the Pentagon, implies that I am supposed to know something about moving the gears of government toward positive policy outcomes. With that in mind, I now have the privilege of overseeing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Office of Technology Policy, and the National Technical Information Service that I am sure many of you periodically go to for information, as well as the National Medal of Technology.

I am sure that many of you saw the news this morning that one of our past National Medal of Technology winners has unveiled what was previously code-named Ginger, which I now understand is the Segway Human Transporter — Dean Kamen's new project. So, next time we can all ride our two-wheelers to the meeting. At any rate, I want to pledge to you to really try to provide the kind of support needed over the long term on the policy front.

Historical perspective is useful for a meeting such as this, and for me this is best gained in very personal terms. My grandparents, Ralph and Helen Baird, just passed away. He died earlier this year at 101 and she two years ago at 99. They taught me about the importance of science and technology to the human condition. Before they passed on, they sat down and made a videotape reviewing the things they had seen in their life.

In that arena, what was particularly relevant is the fact that Ralph had been a science teacher. Both of my grandparents saw men learn to fly and to mass-produce horseless carriages. They told great stories about living in Kansas and getting on the community phone, ringing their neighbors and saying, "Quick, run down to the road. One's coming. Run down to see one of these gizmos rolling by." They saw the generation and massive transmission of electricity, the harnessing of the power of the atom, the space-travel to our moon, the looking back in time to the origins of our universe, the development of instantaneous global communications, and most recently, the deciphering of the human genome and cloning of very complex organisms. Each of these is extraordinary in its technical complexity but also profound in terms of its economic and social significance.

This is one of the challenges we have for you in the discussions. To borrow from Churchill, as everybody seems to do, this is "the end of the beginning." As we head into the 21st Century, we are going to have not only accelerating change, but accelerating moral and ethical challenges. Again here, I take a very personal view of this. My daughters Jackie and Jesse are 10 and 7. So when I look at the future and think about the ethical possibilities and possibilities of robo-sapiens, as Wired magazine talks about, I think in terms of what my daughters will face and how we as a society can reap the harvest of technology and remove the chaff of unethical uses of that technology. We have a real balancing act moving forward. The future of all of us — and my daughters' futures — are on the line.

Other speakers have mentioned the exciting fields that you're going to be looking at today and how they converge. I will leave most of the description of that to others, including the always provocative and mesmerizing Newt Gingrich and my friend Stan Williams from HP, and to your breakout discussions. However, as a political appointee, let me do what I do best, and that is to observe the obvious.

Obviously, powerful technologies are developing. Each is powerful individually, but the real power is synergy and integration, all done at the nanoscale. There's plenty of room at the bottom. Intel recently announced it expects to produce a terahertz chip about six or seven years out — 25 times the number of transistors as the top-of-the-line Pentium 4. Within the next few years we're going to be looking at computers that are really personal brokers or information assistants. These devices will be so small that we'll wear them and integrate them. They will serve as information brokers. Again, when I think about my daughters, if current trends hold, one of those information brokers will be looking at science and horses and the other will be looking at hairstyles — but to each their own. Seriously, that day is coming fast, based on breakthroughs in producing computer chips with extremely small components.

If we do policy right, with each breakthrough will come technology transfer, commercialization, economic growth, and opportunity that will pay for the next round of research.

In all of this, at least as a policy person, I try to separate hype from hope. But the more I thought about that, the more I determined that in this political town, maybe the separation isn't all that important, because hype and hope end up fueling the social passion that forms our politics. It gets budgets passed. It makes things possible for all of you. Without some passion in the public square, we will not achieve many of our goals. Those goals are mind-boggling — what we used to think of as miraculous — the deaf to hear, the blind to see, every child to be fed. And that's just for starters.

Always, each advance in technology carries a two-edged sword. As a policy person I need your help. One hundred years ago, the automobile was not immediately embraced; it was rejected as a controversial new innovation. Eventually it was accepted, then we had a love affair with it, and now it's perhaps a platonic relationship. Our journey with these other technologies is going to have similar bumps in the road. And so, as you set out today, I think you should include these three important considerations in your mission:

• to achieve the human potential of everybody

• to avoid offending the human condition

• to develop a strategy that will accelerate benefits

Earlier, we talked about the network effect of bringing you all together, and these new technologies are going to enhance group performance in dramatic ways, too. We really must look at some of the ethical challenges that are right around the corner or even upon us today. Our strategy must establish priorities that foster scientific and technical collaboration, and ensure that our nation develops the necessary disciplines and workforce. We need a balanced but dynamic approach that protects intellectual property, provides for open markets, allows commercialization, and recognizes that American leadership is very much at stake.

Look all around the globe at the work that's going on at the nanoscale. American leadership is at stake, but we need a global framework for moving forward. The federal government, of course, has an important role: ensuring a business environment that enables these technologies to flourish, to work on that global aspect through the institutions of government, to continue to provide federal support for R&D. I am proud that President Bush recommended a record investment in R&D. I know there are concerns about the balance of the research portfolio. We need your help on that. President Bush specifically requested a record increase in the nano budget, over $604 million, almost double what it was two years ago.

The federal government has a clear fiscal role to play but also should use the bully pulpit to inspire young kids like one daughter of mine who does love science right now, so that they will go ahead and pursue careers like yours to reach the breakthroughs, so we will have more people like 39-year-old Eric Cornell at NIST, one of our recent winners of a Nobel Prize for Physics.

I think we can achieve our highest aspirations by working together as we are today — and we've got some of the best minds gathered around this table. But my message is distilled to this: If we set the right policies and we find the right balance, we can reap the rewards and avoid the really atrocious unethical possibilities. At every step — whether it's funding, advocacy, policy formation, public education, or commercialization — we're going to need you scientists and engineers to be intimately involved. I look forward to being a part of this promising effort. Thank you.

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