Not bad for a bunch of collectivists…

If you know me, you’ve probably already heard me talk about this, because it’s something I happened to be in the vicinity of that I’m pretty star struck by.  I’m sharing it again.

David Koch wrote a WSJ editorial not long ago, saying something about how “the collectivists do not have good answers,” and also things about freedom and his commitment to it.  Here’s a nice takedown, if you’re interested.

It’s a long running argument in the US about the meaning of the word “freedom,” which is important because it’s supposed to be our thing.  Rather than get into that, which other people have already done a great job of, can I just tell you a story about what we collectivists have come up with?

When I started the University of Rochester’s excellent Postbac-Premed program, I needed a student job to make ends meet. After a flurry of conversation about various great opportunities, I settled on editing video interviews with prominent chemists (is that an oxymoron?) for Rich Eisenberg, then Editor in Chief of Inorganic Chemistry.

It’s quite something to work with someone of Rich’s stature on conversations at this level while going through General and Organic Chemistry.  I felt like someone had handed me A Tale of Two Cities while I was just learning the alphabet.  They are fascinating conversations I’d highly recommend geeking out on.  Even if you don’t entirely follow the chemistry, they’re a helicopter view of decades of incredible work, and it’s worth appreciating how much these folks have done for us.  Here, check out Tom Meyer– he’s a man after my own heart, with ideas worth hearing about how to improve the environment for scientific advancement in the US.

So the whole experience was eye-opening.  What I didn’t know was what Rich had been working on around the corner in his lab while we were meeting about the interviews:

A source of clean hydrogen energy that you can set up with Nickel and Vitamin C (that’s Ascorbic Acid), both cheap and readily available, is… well, you heard Rich.  And this is Department of Energy funded work, so it’s something we can all be proud of doing together.

In my admittedly amateurish opinion, I thought Rich and the rest of the team had a shot at the Nobel Prize for this one. Of course, there’s some home team spirit involved in that idea, on top of a barely-formed ability to even evaluate the field.  And it seems it’s important to figure out a substitute for the Vitamin C…

But now I’m just being a fanboy.

The point is- and I’m gonna resist the temptation to make this post even longer than you want it to be by providing specifics ad nauseum that are fascinating to me, but maybe you’re not like that- the point is that high level scientific problem solving benefits us all enormously, and is most effectively supported with a lot of collectivism and open-source ethics.

The more we allow that activity to be captured by competitive, proprietary silos, the more we exponentially rob ourselves of opportunities to be effective.  Here’s to open-source everything and team problem solving.  I believe it’s the only way to come up with “answers” of the size we need.

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