Comments and letters from readers on our January/February 2013 issue.
Dear Mr. President
There are many serious problems facing human civilization. Man-made climate change is hardly the only one. Running out of affordable energy is at least as important.
While Republicans rant about leaving the debt crisis to our children—a crisis they largely created —it pales in comparison to the risk of leaving them an environment in which life on Earth as we know it becomes impossible.
A Business Report on Digital Education
At age 80, I watch my granddaughters take online courses thinking this was always the way. I have been deeply concerned about the way for-profit colleges charge ever more each year. There are few things in life where I can sit back and say “Yeah! The world isn’t coming apart at the seams.” But this concept of online courses is an idea whose time has come—congratulations to all involved.
I never thought I’d see the day that someone like Bono would appear on cover of MIT Technology Review. If readers needed any proof that you’ve lost your way as a once-must-read publication, this is it.
Let’s step back for a moment and look at the article for what it is about, regardless of whose face is on the cover. Bono discusses the impact that technology has and will have on Africa. You can’t deny the advantages that technology has had on farming not only in Africa but across the globe.
The Difference Between Makers and Manufacturers
Someone donated a computer to Bill Gates’s school. What happens when someone donates a 3-D printer to a junior high? We could see a new generation of geek product designers marketing their designs to large manufacturers.
In a very few years, 3-D printers will be multimaterial devices driven by more powerful and easier-to-use design software. How do I know that? Because that’s the path that we’ve followed for 40 years.
A More Perfect Union
What this article makes plain is that big data is a game changer. If you want to get elected, you need to be able to leverage this information. To both access it and use it is prohibitively expensive to the vast majority of Americans. He who controls access to this information controls the election. It further raises the barriers that block entry into politics.
In your essay “Dear Mr. President” (January/February 2013), you could have made an important contribution to the discussion of climate change. Instead, there was a lot of ballyhoo about more research on politically correct but amorphous green technologies but not a word on the one solution that is within our grasp: new, safe nuclear reactor designs. New designs can be made much safer than older ones, to the point that the chance of Fukushima-like accidents becomes less than the chance of being struck by an asteroid, and there is enough readily available fuel to power the entire world for generations to come. And no carbon emissions.
Thomas F. Hafer
The Real Value Revealed
Your biomedicine editor Susan Young was spot on to notice the value of using the genome for dosage and personalization of blood-thinner drugs (“Why We Have a Right to Consumer Genetics,” January/February 2013). That’s exactly where the advantage of this sort of diagnostic lies: not in the prediction or prevention of disease, but in the personalization of treatment after you already have the symptoms. Unfortunately, instead of being adopted by clinics, 23andMe is confined by regulation, and thus is stuck with the “personal entertainment” angle.
Let’s Get Small
Your comment regarding “the smallness of our concerns and the dishonesty of our arguments” (From the Editor, January/February 2013) was perfect. Although party politics took hold immediately after the first election of Washington, for the next 150 years most of the men who ran for the highest office (and other offices) could be called statesmen and were very concerned with the important issues of their day. Good editorial.
Cranford, New Jersey
In “Safer Fracking” (Views, January/February 2013), Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund writes that “the burden of proof is on industry and regulators to show that shale gas development can be done without polluting the water and air or damaging our climate.” I disagree. The burden of proof is on protesters to demonstrate that there is actual or potential damage in the real rather than hypothetical world.
What most people don’t realize is that fracking has been used for over 60 years on vertical wells (I recall as a child seeing it done in the late 1940s). It seems that over a million wells have been hydraulically fractured throughout the world without a single proven case of water pollution. That’s only logical, since the fracturing usually takes places a mile or more through many impervious layers of rock, below typical domestic water sources that are a few or a hundred feet below the ground.
Given the large and very long record of safe hydraulic fracturing per se, it seems to me that scaremongers such as Mark Brownstein should document what the real and specific risks are before advocating misdirected or ineffective regulations.
La Jolla, California