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Rebuilding a Real Economy: Unleashing Engineering Innovation - Summary of a Forum Prospects Despite the many challenges confronting the United States, the panelists were generally optimistic about the nation’s prospects. Tan observed that from an outsider’s perspective, the United States retains unique strengths. “Non-Americans are usually much more optimistic for America than Americans,” he said. “People [in the United States] are more focused on short-term problems and forget the resilience and diversity and strength of American business and American society.” Despite the difficult problems facing the United States, the country still represents the largest single destination of Singapore’s investments. “There is no other country in the world with a depth of markets and a breadth of markets where you can deploy large sums of money.” The United States has a unique strength—the ability to attract large numbers of the brightest people in the world…. this is a key to American success…. Tony Tan The United States has another unique strength that no other country shares, said Tan—the ability to attract to its shores large numbers of the brightest people in the world. These talented and ambitious people work in universities and corporations and bring their skills and persistence to their adopted country. “I think that this is a key to American success over the centuries.” Many of the industries in which innovation and growth will be strongest can already be identified, said Estrin, particularly in energy science and technology, health care, and education. Many of the panelists were especially encouraged by rapid recent progress in the life sciences. The ability to sequence human genomes quickly and cheaply “is going
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Rebuilding a Real Economy: Unleashing Engineering Innovation - Summary of a Forum to revolutionize medicine, making it preventative and predictive,” said Diamandis. According to Koonin, the interface between biology and energy will be “incredibly fertile.” The combination of chemistry with biotechnology will make it possible “to solve problems that we couldn’t solve before,” said Holliday. “There is no other country close to where we are today.” The U.S. government has demonstrated its ability to cope with major problems. The government gave out more than a trillion dollars in a short period to bail out floundering banks because the industry was failing. “The crisis we are talking about today is a more serious long-term crisis than the one we just dealt with,” said Holliday. “Somehow we have to muster the attention.” “Every challenge and every problem … we face on this planet can … be solved by the passionate and committed human mind.” Peter Diamandis One major challenge in capturing the attention of the government and voting public is to foster long-term rather than short-term perspectives. The stimulus funding was designed to have an immediate impact, whereas innovation may not create new jobs for several years. “But we have to start today, because if we keep waiting, we keep delaying that process,” said Estrin. “We don’t as a country think long term.” Many engineers were heavily influenced by the Apollo project, Diamandis pointed out, and the lessons of the Apollo project can still inspire the American public, just as they inspired him when he was a boy. “Every challenge and every problem that we face on this planet can in fact be solved by the passionate and committed human mind.”