Neal Stephenson blasts our minds with a much-needed reality check about the death of science progress in America.
Stephenson is shy about providing examples, but I'd be more than happy to show what kinds of progress we could be making:
Energy independence - Even without worrying about nuclear power or other "scary" concepts, plain old dumb wind and solar power could easily power the whole country. Why aren't we building windmills at the same rate we built oil-wells all across America?
Transportation - I just recently posted about "smart road surfaces", which could power electric cars, store data such as directions, and even possibly steer the vehicles themselves. Why aren't we laying these suckers all over the country at the same rate we laid transcontinental railroads?
Medicine - Stem cell and genetic technology has regenerated organs, reversed aging symptoms, and helped treat degenerate diseases. Why aren't we pushing forward with this technology at the same rate that we eliminated polio?
For that matter, even computers could be put to better uses. Why do we still have colleges and universities, when we could do all of our teaching online? MIT has led the way with online university courses, but there they sit unused. Why haven't elections gone on the Internet? We can conduct banking transactions online, but we still have to fill in bubbles on a paper ballot and mail it in? Why aren't telemetrics automating more tasks in life, like lawnmowers and street sweepers?
There's nothing to stop us from doing these things. The technology is simply there, all ready to go. We could do research until we're blue in the face, but America does nothing with the research we already have. And don't tell me "well, there's a budget crisis." There's always a budget crisis.That never stopped us before.