|English: Apollo insignia. Italiano: Stemma del programma Apollo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
"It takes about the same amount of computing to answer one Google Search query as all the computing done — in flight and on the ground — for the entire Apollo program."
Why We Can't Solve Big Problems
the greatest peacetime mobilization in the nation's history ..... a lavishly funded, semi-militarized project .... In all, NASA spent $24 billion, or about $180 billion in today's dollars, on Apollo; at its peak in the mid-1960s, the agency enjoyed more than 4 percent of the federal budget. The program employed around 400,000 people and demanded the collaboration of about 20,000 companies, universities, and government agencies. ..... Kennedy's challenge required NASA to solve a bewildering number of smaller problems decades ahead of technology's evolutionary schedule. ...... Men died, including the crew of Apollo 1, who burned in the cabin of their command module. But before the program ended in 1972, 24 men flew to the moon. Twelve walked on its surface .... Why did they go? They brought back little—841 pounds of old rocks, Aldrin's smuggled aesthetic bliss, and something most of the 24 emphasized: a new sense of the smallness and fragility of our home. (Jim Lovell, not untypically, remembered, "Everything that I ever knew—my life, my loved ones, the Navy—everything, the whole world, was behind my thumb.") ..... the strongest emotion at the time of the moon landings was of wonder at the transcendent power of technology. ..... "Treading the soil of the moon, palpating its pebbles, tasting the panic and splendor of the event, feeling in the pit of one's stomach the separation from terra—these form the most romantic sensation an explorer has ever known." ..... To contemporaries, the Apollo program occurred in the context of a long series of technological triumphs. The first half of the century produced the assembly line and the airplane, penicillin and a vaccine for tuberculosis; in the middle years of the century, polio was on its way to being eradicated; and by 1979 smallpox would be eliminated. More, the progress seemed to possess what Alvin Toffler dubbed an "accelerative thrust" ...... By 1961, a rocket-powered X-15 had been piloted to more than 4,000 miles per hour; in 1969, the crew of Apollo 10 flew at 25,000. ...... Since Apollo 17's flight in 1972, no humans have been back to the moon, or gone anywhere beyond low Earth orbit. No one has traveled faster than the crew of Apollo 10. (Since the last flight of the supersonic Concorde in 2003, civilian travel has become slower.) ...... people say there is a paucity of real innovations. Instead, they worry, technologists have diverted us and enriched themselves with trivial toys. ...... "We wanted flying cars—instead we got 140 characters." ...... the "PayPal Mafia," currently the dominant faction in Silicon Valley ....... Thiel is caustic: last year he told the New Yorker that he didn't consider the iPhone a technological breakthrough. "Compare [it] with the Apollo program," he said.The Internet is "a net plus—but not a big one." Twitter gives 500 people "job security for the next decade," but "what value does it create for the entire economy?" ........ VC has ceased to be the funder of the future, and instead become a funder of features, widgets, irrelevances. ....... half of all funds have provided flat or negative returns for the last decade ....... In 2010, less than 2 percent of the world's energy consumption was derived from advanced renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels. (The most common renewable sources of energy are still hydroelectric power and the burning of biomass, which means wood and cow dung.) The reason is economic: coal and natural gas are cheaper than solar and wind, and petroleum is cheaper than biofuels. ...... one political party in the United States is reflexively opposed to industrial regulations and affects to doubt that human beings are causing climate change, and because the emerging markets of China and India will not reduce their emissions without offset benefits that the industrialized nations cannot provide ........ Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate economist, has shown that famines are political crises that catastrophically affect food distribution. (Sen was influenced by his own experiences. As a child he witnessed the Bengali famine of 1943: three million displaced farmers and poor urban dwellers died unnecessarily when wartime hoarding, price gouging, and the colonial government's price–controlled acquisitions for the British army made food too expensive. Sen demonstrated that food production was actually higher in the famine years.) ........ The most efficient solutions to the problem of malaria turn out to be simple: eliminating standing water, draining swamps, providing mosquito nets, and, most of all, increasing prosperity. ..... the vanity of trying to impose a technological solution on what is a problem of poverty. ....... President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971; but we soon discovered there were many kinds of cancer, most of them fiendishly resistant to treatment ...... by 2050, palliative care in the United States alone will cost $1 trillion a year. Yet we understand almost nothing about dementia and have no effective treatments. Hard problems are hard. ...... going to the moon was easy. It was only three days away. Arguably, it wasn't even solving much of a problem. ..... We don't lack for challenges. A billion people want electricity, millions are without clean water, the climate is changing, manufacturing is inefficient, traffic snarls cities, education is a luxury, and dementia or cancer will strike almost all of us if we live long enough.