21st Century Goals

Let’s not lose sight of the future, because it’s going to happen, no matter what the debate of the moment is. Both parties seem to have done so. The Republicans are so focused on winning the war [admirable to a point,] that many are not looking beyond the next ten years. The Democrats are so invested in shifting political debate back into the last century’s philosophical Gordian knot that most can’t see beyond the last news cycle, and even their best strategists and soothsayers can’t see beyond the next election cycle.
Neither party is offering the electorate a reasonable vision of the future, in both parties the future appears bleak; and who wants to vote for nihilists?

Whether it’s a bleak generational struggle, or a grim global warming catastrophe, the future is transformed from something gleefully anticipated into a bogeyman to scare up votes. Grim nihilism coupled with clear lack of direction beyond the moment are the banners waving in both major political camps right now.

So with that in mind, let’s look at goals that are common to both parties, apply some reason, and extend them farther into the future than either party is willing to look.

First, both pay lip service to energy independence, so let’s evaluate that.

Is independence enough? Indeed, isn’t energy the most valuable thing on the planet at the moment? Without energy we can’t clean the environment, without energy we can’t feed the 9.2 billion people who will be here on planet earth in another forty three years.  Would Pakistan’s North Waziristan province be a hellhole for terrorist monsters if they were energy rich instead of freezing every winter and load shedding electricity? Would Africans have such brutally short lifespans if they had refrigeration, water purification, and simple things like air conditioning? Do you think there will be more wars, or fewer wars if most of the world is energy-rich instead of energy poor?

So Energy independence is a nice buzz word, but it’s really not enough. America instead must become a net energy exporter, and we must lead the way to cheap, clean, plentiful power for all the world. Besides, if Energy in any form is the new coin of the realm then exporting energy will keep your great-grandchildren employed and our nation great.

American Education is a concern for both parties, but it’s time to revisit and revise the value a four year degree provides in the modern world. Knowledge is advancing at such an exponential rate that for students right now your curricula is sometimes outdated before you complete it. The courses you took in your first year are revised, expanded, and renewed before you finish your fourth — some things you were taught no longer hold true at that point. It’s a wonderful time to live in, however colleges must come to grips with the diminishing worth and increasing cost this creates for a degree.

Degrees must instead progress from a certificate of proof that hangs on the wall to a lifetime ticket for updated knowledge and continuing curricula in your chosen field of endeavor. To add the value demanded by the cost of a degree, the degree must now become a subscription. MIT is taking the first tentative steps towards this, but they must extend beyond just placing courseware online. When knowledge changes, when classes are updated, then those updates should go to all who completed the class in the past.

Education for the third world must be enhanced as well, and it’s America’s duty to enable this, if the third world becomes more educated then there are fewer pawns for evil tyrants. All of the content of a basic education k-12 can now be compressed and put on thumb drive, and nearly indestructable low-power flat tablet devices will soon become cheap. A chip and a screen coupled with a keyboard and the k-12 education can be published as a basice device and mass manufactured for distribution everywhere, and this could be done with less cost than many of our foreign aid programs. Solar panels could power them, or we could make them standard battery powered.

On  transport both parties disagree in several areas, but they both like mass transit. It would be a boon to both parties to create a right-away for transcontinental high speed rail. The lines should be four, one each way for freight, one each way for passengers. Along that fast rail corridor you could also build a new coast-to-coast OC-192 or 768 corridor for an information superhighway. During times of peace, the Romans built roads for many reasons, but heavy, high speed coast to coast troop transport is something the military would like as well. Let’s not even mention the economic boom this would create.

So, there you have three areas of bold initiative for a better future that either or both parties could get behind. Will they do it, or are they more interested in the current internecine struggles?

Update: More on point number one at Captain’s Quarters

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