Post about "Technology"

Think Tank and Radio Thoughts on Domestic Technologies for Americans

Welcome to this 21st day of October, 12-years into the 21st century. I wish thank all my online readers and radio listeners for their continued support. For today’s talk I will discuss many items having to do with our technology for domestic purposes; entertainment, safety, education, and personal communication. It all matters and it is changing the way we live, how we think, and our path forward into the future. Indeed, these are all interrelated topics which shouldn’t be necessarily viewed as separate issues in my humble opinion.Okay so, before we being let me remind you of the format here; I talk and you listen, then it will be your turn to “like” or shout out pro or con with your own opinion – provided that your arguments are not pandering, preaching to the choir or mere talking points of some particular political persuasion – no need to repeat what’s been said elsewhere – for this is the place of original thinking and drilling down into the subject matter which affects us all whether we care to realize it or not. Fair enough? Let’s begin.Is The Internet Changing the Way We Use and Buy Dictionaries?Not long ago, I went to the thrift stores nearby to seek out used books. A friend of mine asked me if I could look for a dictionary, something he could use to flip-through perhaps 160,000 plus words, so not a small one, but definitely not a large unabridged version either. Without thinking, I said, “sure, I’ll see what they have,” and then departed for my used book shopping spree for the month. Generally, I find a dozen or so books to read, mostly nonfiction, but I do like everyone have a few fiction series I like to read by my favorite authors.Due to all the new e-books and e-readers, one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s difficult to find the hardbound books at the used bookstores, or thrift stores before six months after they’ve been published. Previously it was quite easy to do this, but since fewer people are buying hardbound books, and are buying e-books instead, they are not being bought in the numbers they were before. It is quite evident that some of the big box retailers have been challenged by this, that is to say new book sales, but it is also affecting the used book market because people that have e-books aren’t allowed to resell them later. Therefore, it is affecting the hand-me-down market.Now then, while I was looking for a used dictionary for my friend I found hundreds of them, I couldn’t believe how many there were available. But then again consider this, more and more people are merely typing a word into a search engine which auto corrects spelling, and then lists online dictionaries. Since most people are online all the time, and those who are writing or doing reports for school have the Internet running in the background along with the Google search engine, they merely “google it” and so they no longer need a dictionary at their desk. This is why everyone has donated them to the used bookstores and/or thrift shops.Do you remember when you were in school and you had a writing assignment, and if you asked your teacher what a word was, she told you to “look it up” because that’s what dictionaries are for. Today, kids are using tablet computers in the classroom for learning, so when they look something up they also look it up online, and therefore this habit will probably follow them well into adulthood. In any case let’s talk about some of the technology in the classroom and how that will also affect the way we learn, think, and solve problems for ourselves in later life.Technology in The Classroom – What About ADD and ADHD?There was an interesting article in the science news from a psychologist specializing in learning disorders, she made a very interesting statement; “while videogames do not cause ADD or ADHD, if someone is on the borderline, it’s enough to push them over the edge,” and so, it could be said for the average Internet surfer that spends only 12 to 15 seconds on average on any webpage before clicking out, or going to a different page – that they are at risk of ADD or ADHD?What we’re doing is we are training the attention span, and diminishing the level of human concentration with all of our technology. If we are to use the same technology in the classroom learning, that may appease the children, or keep high schoolers learning online and doing their assignments perhaps provoking their curiosity with novelty, but what about pushing kids over the edge towards ADD or ADHD? Do you see that point?What about the challenges with human eyesight? Have you ever spent hours working on a computer project, or doing computer work, and then tried to refocus on something far away, or something very tiny like reading the label on a food package? Have you noticed that you can’t do it, and you have to wait for your eyes to readjust? Much the same as walking into a dark room, it takes a moment to readjust.There are many challenges with learning that have to do with eyesight, the common ones are; lazy eye and dyslexia, along with kids who are nearsighted who have trouble seeing the chalkboard or viewing the lecturer – likewise there are kids who are farsighted and have a difficult time reading, they are completely challenged. Not only is it embarrassing for them when reading out loud in the classroom, but it often causes them nausea or they get tired easily with a read for over 30 minutes, meaning it is difficult for them to get through their schoolwork. Is our technology causing more of these problems in our schools?There is an effect, and that effect would not be zero, thus, in effect we are experimenting with the next generation of schoolchildren? Surely, all those that make tablet computers and personal tech devices for education wish to push this technology into the classroom to drive sales and profits. Still, do we really know what we are getting ourselves into?Further, if the kids can look anything they want up online, they start to trust that device or medium of education technology. We know what happens when adults start believing everything they see on TV, or what happens when folks of a certain political persuasion start reading only things which agree with them and their current POV (point of view) as they become jaded, and mentally boxed-in in their political views.If people trust what their teachers say, or what they learn in college and there is a socialist or left-leaning slant, we will have more voters leaning that way, likewise, if folks trust the Internet, and there is any amount of filtration of content at the search engines, even by only one or 2% then it is enough to swing an election, and if you swing two or three elections in a row, you will end up with a different country in the future. People often note this problem with the mass media, but have they considered the Internet as it is integrated into our education system – we cannot stop the integration, it’s part of our society, nor should we, but we need to all be cognizant and question not only authority, but the devices which deliver us information, and the software and companies behind them – and their agendas, as they are not ALL purely profit motivated.Now then, you can definitely see that, right? Just as TV has changed our society in many ways, most of them not for the better, and it has helped people into a bizarre type of consumerism due to branding, advertising, and marketing. Okay so, let’s get back to the political challenges and implications of all this in a few minutes, and instead address the challenges we have with e-commerce, advertising, marketing, branding, and perhaps the unethical side of it all online.Internet Reviews and The Shrill FactoryCurrently, we have a huge problem with Internet reviews. Unfortunately, if a business gets a bad review, or too many complaints and consumers stop shopping there. They trust what they read on the Internet, even though it was written by untrustworthy or unknown sources. Many times it was written by shrills or competitors trying to uplift their ratings while trashing their competitors. Why should this surprise anyone?It happens all the time in the real world with consumer groups, or nonprofit consumer bureaus. It’s happening online, but unfortunately more and more people trust what they read online, and some people even reason that; it if everyone likes it, that reality will overcome the few negatives written by competitors posting negative comments. Well, one problem we have is that there are companies who will post positive reviews online for a fee by the dozen, 100s or even 1000s. You see that problem; okay, now back to the topic of political indoctrination in our schools.Pre-Indoctrination Before the Vote – Religion and Socialism in Our SchoolsFor those who are without religion, they duly note the indoctrination of many world religions in private religious schools, churches, and communities. Folks grow up believing in a certain type of philosophy, or a certain version of history, even to the point that they choose not to look at the fossil record of dinosaurs because it can’t possibly jive with what they’ve been told. Therefore they merely overlook that and hold their same views.Those who are religious can’t understand why anyone who is nonreligious thinks that everything just was started with some big bang, or why they don’t believe in God. In fact many religious folks wish to convert other people so that they can know the truth, even if they themselves can’t prove it. When asked for proof they simply say; it’s a matter of faith.When our schools choose to participate in pre-indoctrination they must cover up factual evidence, scientific discovery, and continue to play along with the close minded view of the world. Is that really learning? Is that really teaching our kids to think? Of course, there is significant risk and reason for those who are religious to continue to force their will onto the schools to maintain their numbers and percentages of our population to serve their political will.Indeed, the other side is just as bad, as there are so many left-leaning and socialist views coming out of our high schools and colleges, that those graduating with college degrees are twice as apt to vote for the left-leaning agenda, even if it goes against basic economics and free-market capitalism which historically has made our country great, whereas socialism has destroyed economies, lives, and entire civilizations, forcing them into bankruptcy.Now then, it’s great to have tablet computers and personal tech tools and it is possible that they will speed up learning, it also saves trees from being cut down for textbooks I suppose, but nevertheless any new tool which increases learning, also increases the ability to indoctrinate our students, kinds, and family members, and thus the potential to indoctrinate them faster. If these tools are not used in the incorrect way, they will end up pushing a political agenda, and causing problems for our nation.When these tools are integrated into social networks, which I also have my doubts about, that is to say I am unconvinced they are a net positive for our society, then we could have social engineering and peer pressure used to indoctrinate our children using these tools. Thus they can be used by either side to force their political agenda, while disguising themselves as wonderful teaching technologies. I suppose other future technologies such as holographic simulation will be used to tell of historical events, where the children can see and visualize what happened, such as George Washington crossing the Delaware, and they will feel as if they had been there.Holographic Simulation Training Strategies a Gargantuan Time and Efficiency SaverYes, there will be more comprehension using holographic teaching technologies and it will be easier for the human memory of these children to uptake these facts of history, but not if we rewrite the history, and display it other than its reality. After all, they history we learn is usually one version of what happened, and we don’t know for sure because none of us were there if it happened over 100 years ago. Nevertheless the kids will feel as if they were there, therefore they are more apt to believe whatever is displayed. This becomes a tremendous challenge, and it’s far too easy for one side or the other to push their political agendas.Still, I am for holographic simulation training, I do believe these strategies will take us further faster into the future, and increase the speed of learning, meaning our children can learn more in a shorter amount of time with better comprehension. That’s a good thing, but not if it’s misused. Humans have always misused the tools they’ve made, and it is human nature to blame, but let’s not be so na├»ve that educational technologies will not be used for the same.Rogue regimes and dictators have used indoctrination and so have major religions in the teaching of children. And like I said, when you add in a little bit of peer pressure onto the flock, classroom, troop of soldiers, or population, it’s amazing the damage you can do, if you aren’t an ethical leader, or you don’t have the best intentions of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of a positive life experience in mind.Another challenge in school is as we teach these children and have the technology to monitor their progress along the way, we are also going to use data mining to find the bad apples in advance of their disdain for authority, or for finding anomalies, such as those who are most suited towards the indoctrination, those children who have bought the program hook, line, and sinker that can now be groomed for future leadership. That too is a problem. Further, all of this big data, and collection of information of everything that everyone does is going to have challenges in the future.Not long ago, I was discussing all this with an acquaintance, and we noted that each of us has at times view things on the Internet that we didn’t agree with. My acquaintance had bought a Koran because he believed he should know what he was talking about when it came to Middle Eastern policy. Who could deny that? Myself, I am an aviation buff, and during the Nazi regime they had some of the best aviation technologies and rocketry of the time, they were far advanced, in fact if they Germany still existed today stuck back in that time period, they’d still be one with today’s technology.But if my friend has libertarian viewpoints and has read the Koran will he become a false positive on some government watch list? Just because I like reviewing the aircraft designs of past periods, does that make me a neo-Nazi sympathizer? It shouldn’t, but that’s the fear we face with too many false positive data triggering events from artificial intelligent algorithms that are quite there yet.Will we be doing the same thing to our students using educational technologies? After all, curiosity is a good sign of high intelligence, higher learning, and of the creative genius. Something we need in our population to progress as a nation as we move forward with such technologies. Perhaps we could liken this to librarians who are asked to spy on citizens. It just doesn’t seem proper in a nation which prides itself on freedom and liberty.Just Because You like Something I “Like” Doesn’t Mean I like YouJust because you “plus” something, or “like” something online, doesn’t mean you actually like it or enjoy it, you might despise it, but you find it interesting, want to bookmark it, and you’d like other people to know what you’ve discovered, perhaps they might be equally as disgusted. Speaking of which, you may occasionally like one of the topics I’m talking about, and you may even “like” or “plus” an article or two, but that doesn’t mean you’d like all that I have to say, or that I like you for that matter.Also, I’d like to point out that if our children use these educational technologies, along with their social networks, that doesn’t mean they won’t change their views in the future as they learn more information. Who knows, our society may change one day and value things that today we think are atrocious, or things today we find atrocious as being valuable. Nevertheless their record will remain forever, for their entire lives. That’s a long time, and the United States has certainly changed in the last eighty years, and we need to be careful with this. Our children are not terrorists, and they shouldn’t be part of some giant experiment to help target individual children in their childhood as being problematic in the future.That doesn’t mean we don’t need to use technology to help us catch real terrorists, it’s just that we need to be very careful the criteria we use, the algorithms we write, and the formidable challenge of weeding out false positives rather than just placing people on watch lists for no reason. Just because something smells fishy, doesn’t mean that individual is a shark out to hurt society. Speaking of the sense of smell, and the future of technology of scent, I’d like to bring up another point;Using AI Technology Plus Canine Smell for Added Synergy In Catching Illicit ShipmentsUniversity Researchers, Tech Companies, and DARPA have made incredible progress with electronic sniffing devices since Saddam had threatened to use WMD chemical weapons on US forces, and since 911 and afterwards with the anthrax scares. Still, today we use dogs to sniff out drugs more often than not because they are quite evolved to do that. Perhaps, this might be an interesting paper to read:”Urban Search and Rescue with Canine Augmentation Technology,” by Alexander Ferworn, Alireza Sadeghian, Kevin Barnum, Hossein Rahnama, Huy Pham, Carl Erickson, Devin Ostrom, Lucia Dell’AgneseThe abstract attached to that paper stated;”The agility, sense of smell, hearing and speed of dogs is put to good use by dedicated canine teams involved in Search and Rescue operations. In comparison to dogs, humans hear less, cannot effectively follow a scent and actually slow the dog down when involved in area searches. To mitigate this problem the Network-Centric Applied Research Team has been working with the Police to augment SAR dogs with supporting technologies to extend the dog’s potential area of operation.”We do know that humans working with computers and technology tools tend to do better than computers with technology working alone, or humans working without tools. By supplementing the canines with better tools, we can catch more of the drugs, arms, and evil doers coming into our nation over our borders, through our ports, at our airports or by rail or underground tunnel.Maybe, we ought to employ the technologies we have and use them to complement each other and then use them all together with mankind’s best friend. Does this mean we can 100% protect the American People? Unfortunately not, but it is a solid line of defense, the rest we must do with hyper vigilance and a strong presence of first responders. Who might those first responders be? Yes, let’s talk about that shall we?Should Motorcycle Cops Get Special Forces Training – Yes, and Let Me ExplainThere was an interesting set of articles in our local paper, The Desert Sun (Palm Desert CA), and perhaps you’ve seen similar articles in your own city where motorcycle cops are getting advanced first responder training. Now then, as a former street bike motorcycle racer, I can tell you that a motorcycle in heavy traffic definitely has the best chance of being first to any call, perhaps by as much as 2-3 minutes depending on the location and hour of the day, for instance during rush hour traffic.Okay so, now you have a motorcycle cop there first, perhaps it was a mass-shooting, perhaps it is even still going on, and you have one police officer on scene who has to engage the criminals, terrorists, or a shooter on his own until back-up arrives, again as much as 2-3 minutes. What if there are multiple shooters?This is why they will need advanced tactical training, as they may or may not have the advantage of surprise on their side and they need to protect further deaths and take out the bad guy(s). That requires fast thinking, pre-planning, and knowledge to stay alive on an uneven playing field where the bad guys might have them out gunned, which is happening more and more due to automatic weapons in the hands of criminals and drug gangs, and far too many citizens unarmed as a percentage of the population to defend themselves you see?Interestingly enough, as I am speaking, today in fact there was a horrible shooting in a very nice suburbn area of Milwaukee, Bloomfield WI, where a suspect went into a Day Spa and gunned down three people in cold blood. What if a traffic cop on a motorcycle gets a call from dispatch like that? He rides up and is immediately in a gun-fight? See that point? Now then, remember some of the other shootings, those at schools, workplaces, movie theaters, and government buildings, well, same issues and same challenges. It hardly matters if it is armed bank robbers, gang violence, or a lone-wolf home-grown terrorist.Now then, the point of all this conversation is quite simple. First, we must not do anything which undermines freedom and liberty, nor should we indoctrinate our citizens to believe that freedom is something it isn’t, or something they cannot attain. It is fine to get everyone on the same page as religion has in the past to help organize society and civilization, but it is not okay to indoctrinate and box- in the minds of our population. We keep stating that we hope to have more entrepreneurship and innovation in the future, but we can’t possibly do that if we indoctrinate our minds into a way of non-thinking.Okay so, does this mean that more liberty and freedom will open our society up to potential attack from terrorists, criminals, or foreign proxy attack under a false flag? Yes, whenever you have absolute freedom, you risk at least some security. That is why we must use our assets wisely, and not blow money on things that do not work. If we want more efficiency out of our security assets then we must leverage the technology, use it for training, and use technology to our advantage, not to our disadvantage.Well, that’s it for me talking; now it’s time for you to call in with your suggestions, solutions, and brilliant ideas. If you are viewing this radio transcript online as an Internet article, then please leave your comments below. Now then the rules for commentary are quite simple; you don’t have to agree with me, nor do you have to disagree with me. All you need to do is bring your mind with you when you make a comment and wish to debate one of the subtopics, or have an interesting intellectual idea for our dialogue about our progress forward. Please consider all this and think on it, the phone lines are now open;”Caller eight, you are on the air, what’s on your mind today?”

Leaping Into the 6th Technology Revolution

We’re at risk of missing out on some of the most profound opportunities offered by the technology revolution that has just begun.Yet many are oblivious to the signs and are in danger of watching this become a period of noisy turmoil rather than the full-blown insurrection needed to launch us into a green economy. What we require is not a new spinning wheel, but fabrics woven with nanofibers that generate solar power. To make that happen, we need a radically reformulated way of understanding markets, technology, financing, and the role of government in accelerating change. But will we understand the opportunities before they disappear?Seeing the Sixth Revolution for What It IsWe are seven years into the beginning of what analysts at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research call the Sixth Revolution. A table by Carlotta Perez, which was presented during a recent BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research luncheon hosted by Robert Preston and Steven Milunovich, outlines the revolutions that are unexpected in their own time that lead to the one in which we find ourselves.1771: Mechanization and improved water wheels
1829: Development of steam for industry and railways
1875: Cheap steel, availability of electricity, and the use of city gas
1908: Inexpensive oil, mass-produced internal combustion engine vehicles, and universal electricity
1971: Expansion of information and tele-communications
2003: Cleantech and biotechThe Vantage of HindsightLooking back at 1971, we know that Intel’s introduction of the microprocessor marked the beginning of a new era. But in that year, this meant little to people watching Mary Tyler Moore and The Partridge Family, or listening to Tony Orlando & Dawn and Janis Joplin. People would remember humanity’s first steps on the Moon, opening relations between US and China, perhaps the successful completion of the Human Genome Project to 99.99% accuracy, and possibly the birth of Prometea, the first horse cloned by Italian scientists.
According to Ben Weinberg, Partner, Element Partners, “Every day, we see American companies with promising technologies that are unable to deploy their products because of a lack of debt financing. By filling this gap, the government will ignite the mass deployment of innovative technologies, allowing technologies ranging from industrial waste heat to pole-mounted solar PV to prove their economics and gain credibility in the debt markets.”
Flying beneath our collective radar was the first floppy disk drive by IBM, the world’s first e-mail sent by Ray Tomlinson, the launch of the first laser printer by Xerox PARC and the Cream Soda Computer by Bill Fernandez and Steve Wozniak (who would found the Apple Computer company with Steve Jobs a few years later).Times have not changed that much. It’s 2011 and many of us face a similar disconnect with the events occurring around us. We are at the equivalent of 1986, a year on the cusp of the personal computer and the Internet fundamentally changing our world. 1986 was also the year that marked the beginning of a major financial shift into new markets. Venture Capital (VC) experienced its most substantial finance-raising season, with approximately $750 million, and the NASDAQ was established to help create a market for these companies.Leading this charge was Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Beyers (KPCB), a firm that turned technical expertise into possibly the most successful IT venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. The IT model looked for a percentage of big successes to offset losses: an investment like the $8 million in Cerent, which was sold to Cisco Systems for $6.9 billion, could make up for a lot of great ideas that didn’t quite make it.Changing Financial ModelsBut the VC model that worked so well for information and telecommunications doesn’t work in the new revolution. Not only is the financing scale of the cleantech revolution orders of magnitude larger than the last, this early in the game even analysts are struggling to see the future.Steven Milunovich, who hosted the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research lunch, remarked that each revolution has an innovation phase which may last for as long as 25 years, followed by an implementation phase of another 25. Most money is made in the first 20 years, so real players want to get in early. But the question is: Get in where, for how much and with whom?There is still market scepticism and uncertainty about the staying power of the clean energy revolution. Milunovich estimates that many institutional investors don’t believe in global warming, and adopt a “wait and see” attitude complicated by government impasse on energy security legislation. For those who are looking at these markets, their motivation ranges from concerns about oil scarcity, supremacy in the “new Sputnik” race, the shoring up of homeland security and – for some – a concern about the effects of climate change. Many look askance at those who see that we are in the midst of a fundamental change in how we produce and use energy. Milunovich, for all these reasons, is “cautious in the short term, bullish on the long.”The Valley of DeathEvery new technology brings with it needs for new financing. In the sixth revolution, with budget needs 10 times those of IT, the challenge is moving from idea to prototype to commercialization. The Valley of Death, as a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance whitepaper, Crossing the Valley of Death pointed out, is the gap between technology creation and commercial maturity.But some investors and policy makers continue to hope that private capital will fuel this gap, much as it did the last. They express concern over the debt from government programs like the stimulus funds (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) which have invested millions in new technologies in the clean energy sector, as well as helping states with rebuilding infrastructure and other projects. They question why the traditional financing models, which made the United States the world leader in information technology and telecommunications, can’t be made to work today, if the Government would just get out of the way.But analysts from many sides of financing believe that government support, of some kind, is essential to move projects forward, because cleantech and biotech projects require a much larger input of capital in order to get to commercialization. This gap not only affects commercialization, but is also affecting investments in new technologies, because financial interests are concerned that their investment might not see fruition – get to commercial scale.How new technologies are radically different from the computer revolution.Infrastructure complexityThis revolution is highly dependent on an existing – but aging – energy infrastructure. Almost 40 years after the start of the telecommunications revolution, we are still struggling with a communications infrastructure that is fragmented, redundant, and inefficient. Integrating new sources of energy, and making better use of what we have, is an even more complex – and more vital – task.According to “Crossing the Valley of Death,” the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Whitepaper,
“The events of the past few years confirm that it is only with the public sector’s help that the Commercialization Valley of Death can be addressed, both in the short and the long term. Only public institutions have ‘public benefits’ obligations and the associated mandated risk-tolerance for such classes of investments, along with the capital available to make a difference at scale. Project financiers have shown they are willing to pick up the ball and finance the third, 23rd, and 300th project that uses that new technology. It is the initial technology risk that credit committees and investment managers will not tolerate.”
Everything runs on fuel and energy, from our homes to our cars to our industries, schools, and hospitals. Most of us have experienced the disconnect we feel when caught in a blackout: “The air-conditioner won’t work so I guess I’ll turn on a fan,” only to realize we can’t do either. Because energy is so vital to every aspect of our economy, federal, state and local entities regulate almost every aspect of how energy is developed, deployed, and monetized. Wind farm developers face a patchwork quilt of municipal, county, state and federal regulations in getting projects to scale.Incentives from government sources, as well as utilities, pose both an opportunity and a threat: the market rises and falls in direct proportion to funding and incentives. Navigating these challenges takes time and legal expertise: neither of which are in abundant supply to entrepreneurs.Development costsThough microchips are creating ever-smaller electronics, cleantech components – such as wind turbines and photovoltaics – are huge. They can’t be developed in a garage, like Hewlett and Packard’s first oscilloscope. A new generation of biofuels that utilizes nanotechnology isn’t likely to take place out of a dorm room, as did Michael Dell’s initial business selling customized computers. What this means for sixth revolution projects is that they have much larger funding needs, at much earlier stages.Stepping up and supporting innovation, universities – and increasingly corporations – are partnering with early stage entrepreneurs. They are providing technology resources, such as laboratories and technical support, as well as management expertise in marketing, product development, government processes, and financing. Universities get funds from technology transfer arrangements, while corporations invest in a new technologies, expanding their product base, opening new businesses, or providing cost-benefit and risk-analysis of various approaches.But even with such help, venture capital and other private investors are needed to augment costs that cannot be born alone. These investors look to some assurance that projects will produce revenue in order to return the original investment. So concerns over the Valley of Death affects even early stage funding.Time line to completionSo many of us balk at two year contracts for our cell phones that there is talk of making such requirements illegal. But energy projects, by their size and complexity, look out over years, if not decades. Commercial and industrial customers look to spread their costs over ten to twenty years, and contracts cover contingencies like future business failure, the sale of properties, or the prospect of renovations that may affect the long term viability of the original project.Kevin Walsh, managing director and head of Power and Renewable Energy at GE Energy Financial Services states, “GE Energy Financial Services supports the creation of CEDA or a similar institution because it would expand the availability of low-cost capital to the projects and companies in which we invest, and it would help expand the market for technology supplied by other GE businesses.”Michael Holman, analyst for Lux Research, noted that a $25 million investment in Google morphed into $1.7 billion 5 years later. In contrast, a leading energy storage company started with a $300 million investment, and 9 years later valuation remains uncertain. These are the kinds of barriers that can stall the drive we need for 21st century technologies.Looking to help bridge the gap in new cleantech and biotech projects, is a proposed government-based solution called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA). There is a house and senate version, as well as a house Green Bank bill to provide gap financing. Recently, over 42 companies, representing many industries and organizations, signed a letter to President Obama, supporting the Senate version, the “21st Century Energy Technology Deployment Act.”Both the house and senate bills propose to create, as an office within the US Department of Energy (DOE), an administration which would be tasked with lending to risky cleantech projects for the purpose of bringing new technologies to market. CEDA would be the bridge needed to ensure the successful establishment of the green economy, by partnering with private investment to bring the funding needed to get these technologies to scale. Both versions capitalize the agency with $10 Billion (Senate) and $7.5 Billion (House), with an expected 10% loss reserve long term.By helping a new technology move more effectively through the pipeline from idea to deployment, CEDA can substantially increase private sector investment in energy technology development and deployment. It can create a more successful US clean energy industry, with all the attendant economic and job creation benefits.Who Benefits?CEDA funding could be seen as beneficial for even the most unlikely corporations. Ted Horan is the Marketing and Business Development Manager for Hycrete, a company that sells a waterproof concrete. Hardly a company that springs to mind when we think about clean technologies, he recently commented on why Hycrete CEO, Richard Guinn, is a signatory on the letter to Obama:
“The allocation of funding for emerging clean energy technologies through CEDA is an important step in solving our energy and climate challenges. Companies on the cusp of large-scale commercial deployment will benefit greatly and help accelerate the adoption of clean energy practices throughout our economy.”
In his opinion, the manufacturing and construction that is needed to push us out of a stagnating economy will be supported by innovation coming from the cleantech and biotech sectors.Google’s Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, has been a supporter from the inception of CEDA. He has testified before both houses of Congress, and was a signatory on the letter to President Obama. Google’s interest in clean and renewable energies dates back several years. The company is actively involved in projects to cut costs of solar thermal and expand the use of plug-in vehicles, and has developed the Power Meter, a product which brings home energy management to anyone’s desktop-for free.Financial support includes corporations like GE Energy Financial Services, Silicon Valley Venture Capital such as Kleiner, Perkins Caulfiled and Byers, and Mohr Davidow Ventures, and Energy Capital including Hudson Clean Energy and Element Partners.Can something like the senate version of CEDA leap the Valley of Death?As Will Coleman from Mohr Davidow Ventures, said, “The Devil’s in the details.” The Senate version has two significant changes from previous proposals: an emphasis on breakthrough as opposed to conventional technologies, and political independence.Neil Auerbach, Managing Partner, Hudson Clean EnergyThe clean energy sector can be a dynamic growth engine for the US economy, but not without thoughtful government support for private capital formation. **[Government policy] promises to serve as a valuable bridging tool to accelerate private capital formation around companies facing the challenge, and can help ensure that the US remains at the forefront of the race for dominance in new energy technologies.Breakthrough TechnologiesColeman said that “breakthrough” includes the first or second deployment of a new approach, not just the game changing science-fiction solution that finally brings us limitless energy at no cost. The Bloomberg New Energy white paper uses the term “First of Class.” Bringing solar efficiency up from 10% to 20%, or bringing manufacturing costs down by 50%, would be a breakthrough that would help us begin to compete with threats from China and India. Conventional technologies, those that are competing with existing commercialized projects, would get less emphasis.Political IndependencePolitical independence is top of mind for many who spoke or provided an analysis of the bill. Michael Holman, analyst at Lux Research, expressed the strongest concerns that CEDA doesn’t focus enough on incentives to bring together innovative start-ups with larger established firms.
“The government itself taking on the responsibility of deciding what technologies to back isn’t likely to work-it’s an approach with a dreadful track record. That said, it is important for the federal government to lead – the current financing model for bringing new energy technologies to market is broken, and new approaches are badly needed.”
For many, the senate bill has many advantages over the house bill, in providing for a decision making process that includes technologists and private sector experts.
“I think both sides [of the aisle] understand this is an important program, and must enable the government to be flexible and employ a number of different approaches. The Senate version empowers CEDA to take a portfolio approach and manage risk over time, which I think is good. In the House bill, CEDA has to undergo the annual appropriation process, which runs the risk of politicizing every investment decision in isolation and before we have a chance to see the portfolio mature.” – Will Coleman, Mohr Davidow.
Michael DeRosa, Managing Director of Element Partners added,
“The framework must ensure the selection of practical technologies, optimization of risk/return for taxpayer dollars, and appropriate oversight for project selection and spending. **Above all, these policies must be designed with free markets principles in mind and not be subject to political process.”
If history is any indication, rarely are those in the middle of game-changing events aware of their role in what will one day be well-known for their sweeping influence. But what we can see clearly now is the gap between idea and commercial maturity. CEDA certainly offers some hope that we may yet see the cleantech age grow up into adulthood. But will we act quickly enough before all of the momentum and hard work that has brought us this far falls flat as other countries take leadership roles, leaving us in the dust?