Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Don’t Count on the Government for a Quicker Commute

Question: Where do you see intelligent transport systems fitting in?

Michael Schrage:  Well, they already are.  The issue about intelligent systems is almost like the question associated with governance, which is where do you want the power?  Do you want intelligent transport systems defined by centralization or decentralization?  It's like, do you want to consolidate power in Washington or do you want to distribute it out to the states, to the cities, to the individual people?  Are we going to end up with more efficient and more effective transport systems by giving people who are traveling more intelligence?  Or by giving the highway engineers or the tollbooths or the city center people more intelligence and control?  Again, that's a political question, that's not a technology question.  So I'm going to circle back to the way I began this, which is the real battle that we're going to have, the technology is incidental to the politics, to the aspiration.

Question: What role should the government have when it comes to transportation issues?

Michael Schrage:  Yes, I think the federal government should buy up, in addition to buying up the automobile companies, it should buy up the cities—no.  I am not a government person.  I'm more of a libertarian kind of guy.  I believe that the role of the federal government should be to facilitate opportunity and choice for people who wish to travel.  And the real challenge that the federal government in that kind of context has is, who do we subsidize, who do we tax?  Do we really want to penalize motorists in favor of subsidizing people who take light rail?  Or more public forms of transport?  Or can you make the roads, the cars, more environmentally effective, improve through-put, improve efficiencies, have the right kind of congestion in a manner in which you have an economic balance?  You strike a balance that the commuters are comfortable commuting and the people taking busses and trains are comfortable.

And that leaves out other variables, which is perhaps one of the roles of local government is to facilitate carpooling kind of arrangements, where we didn't have mobile devices a few years back.  What kind of self-organization can there be for the future of carpooling?  For the future of group travel?  I haven't a clue, but I'll tell you this--neither does anybody in the government.

Question: Should we copy London’s congestion pricing system? 

Michael Schrage:  I think London is an excellent example, as is Stockholm, of how not to do congestion pricing.  It is the laziest, most punitive form of taxation, regressive taxation, around.  It's operating, it's doing arthroscopic surgery with a machete instead of a laser beam.  I think the principal of congestion pricing, the principal of pricing for managing congestion, or access to space, to minimize or smooth peak times, completely logical, completely reasonable, completely rational, and consistent with the fact, you know, of my background in economics and computer science.

However, as is always the case, politics intrude and I think cities have become less interested in congestion pricing for improving the quality of life or improving the quality of traffic than as a means to raise revenue.  So I'm afraid we've come full circle back to the pathology of politics.

Question: What are some tangible examples of people working on very promising advancements?

Michael Schrage:  I'll take the path of least resistance, the easiest examples of incrementalism come right out of Moore's Law and Metcalf's Law, that is to say leveraging our enormously effective investments in digital media, virtually every car coming off the line, be it in Japan or Europe or in America, comes with a GPS system.  But you know, if you don't have a GPS in your car, you probably have one on your phone, so you can have GPS for a bike. 

I remember flying into Sydney, Australia, and there was a taxi driver, based on my interactions with him, I'd been in the country longer than he had, but he was using the GPS to navigate Sydney. He was a recent immigrant.  In theory, there is no reason for anyone to be lost.  In fact, not only is there no reason for anyone to be lost, there's no reason for anyone not to have the most efficient route to where they're going, to budget their time better and accordingly.  When you put that power of being to do route planning and time management in every single car, every single bike, every single bus, you would think that we're going to end up with not just incremental improvements and congestion, but disruptive, dramatic improvements.  People can make more intelligent decisions based on better quality of information.

But wait!  It gets better!  Once we start putting sensors on the roads and link them to the traffic lights, we can now create a different kind of an ecosystem where we can further improve efficiencies.  So these things can all build on one another.  Unfortunately, I am not clever enough to figure out what the ultimate impact is of these very complex interactions, but my bet is that that's where real innovation is going to come from.  Not just from discrete breakthroughs in technology, but from the interoperability of those breakthroughs.

Recorded on January 22, 2010

The role of the federal government should be to facilitate opportunity and choice for people who wish to travel.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

Credit: Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
Keep reading Show less

White dwarfs hold key to life in the universe, suggests study

New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
Surprising Science
  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
Keep reading Show less

"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
  • The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
  • What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
Keep reading Show less

Octopus-like creatures inhabit Jupiter’s moon, claims space scientist

A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
Surprising Science
  • A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
  • Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
  • The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Keep reading Show less

How to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone

Unless you plan to try again in 6,800 years, this week is your shot.

Image source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Comet NEOWISE will be most visible in the U.S. during the evenings from July 14-19, 2020.
  • After July 23rd, NEOWISE will be visible only through good binoculars and telescopes.
  • Look in the northwestern sky below the Big Dipper after dusk while there's a chance.

UPDATE: NASA is broadcasting a NASA Science Live episode highlighting Comet NEOWISE. NASA experts will discuss and answer public questions beginning at 3PM EST on Wednesday, July 15. Tune in via the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, Twitch, or USTREAM.

Before last evening, July 14, 2020, the easiest way to see Comet NEOWISE — the brightest comet to zoom past Earth since 1977's Comet Hale-Bopp — from the United States was to catch it about an hour before sunrise. Now, however, you can see it in the evening, where it will remain for until the 19th. This is a definite don't-miss event — NEOWISE won't be coming back our way for another 6,800 years. It's the first major comet of the millennium, and by all accounts, it's unforgettable.

NEOWISE just got back from the Sun

Comet NEOWISE is named after the NASA infrared space telescope that first spotted it on March 27th. Its official moniker is C/2020 F3. It's estimated that the icy comet is about three miles across, not counting its tail.

NEOWISE is now heading away from our Sun, having made it closet approach, 27.4 million miles, to our star on July 3. The heat from that encounter is what's given NEOWISE its tail: It caused gas and dust to be released from the icy object, creating the tail of debris that looks so magical from here.

As NEOWISE moves closer to Earth, paradoxically, it will be less and less visible. By about July 23rd, you'll need binoculars or a telescope to see it at all. All of which makes this week prime time.

An evening delight

star constellation in sky

Image source: Allexxandar/Shutterstock/Big Think

First, find an unobstructed view of the northwest sky, free of streetlights, car headlights, apartment lights, and so on. And then, according to Sky & Telescope:

"Start looking about one hour after sunset, when you'll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness."

It should be easy to spot since it's near to one of the most recognizable constellations up there, the Big Dipper. "Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to the right." Et voilà: Comet NEOWISE.

Says Sky & Telescope's Diana Hannikainen, "Look for a faint, fuzzy little 'star' with a fainter, fuzzier little tail extending upward from it."

The comet should be visible with the naked eye, though binoculars and a simple telescope may reveal more detail.

You may also be able to snap a photo of this special visitor, though you'll need the right gear to do so. A dedicated camera is more likely to capture a good shot than a telephone, but in either case, you'll need a tripod or some other means of holding the camera dead still as it takes a timed exposure of several seconds (not all phones can do this).

Quantcast