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Tech Crunch: “What’s Better: Saving the World or Building Another Facebook app?”

Vivek Wadhwa just published an interesting article in TechCrunch discussing what our scientists and engineers could be focusing on. I highly recommend others to read it as well…I hope it will be inspiring to students at our colleges/universities who have the passion to change the world.

In a couple of hours I will be speaking to a large group of Chinese & Chinese-Americans who have gathered to celebrate the Chinese New Year (Happy year of the Tiger!), and my message will be: Think BIG. Life is too short to nibble at the edges of innovation. There are billions of people in this world who would not only benefit from our innovations, but would also be willing to pay a decent price to improve their lives.

There is a way. In 2008, Charles Vest, the president of the National Academy of Engineering brought together a group of prominent deans of engineering schools from around the country to create a list of Grand Challenges that can be solved by engineers, in our lifetime. These were in several broad realms of human concern — sustainability, health, vulnerability, and joy of living. Dr. Vest believed that “the world’s cadre of engineers will seek ways to put knowledge into practice to meet these grand challenges. Applying the rules of reason, the findings of science, the aesthetics of art, and the spark of creative imagination, engineers will continue the tradition of forging a better future”.

Here is the list of the 14 Grand Challenges the deans created:

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

via What’s Better: Saving the World or Building Another Facebook app?.