Google's Vinton G. Cerf and USAID's Alex O. Dehgan discuss utilizing science and technology to allow leaders, diplomats, and innovators around the world to engage with one another.
SHIRLEY ANN JACKSON: Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations meeting where our topic this evening is engaging through science: a tool for U.S. foreign policy. I am Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut.
Before we begin, I have three key points to make. First, please completely turn off, not just put on vibrate, your cell phones, your BlackBerrys and all wireless devices to avoid interference with the sound system. Second, I would like to remind the members that this meeting is on the record. I am sure most of you know that. And third, I would like to welcome council members around the nation and the world who are joining us via a password-protected teleconference.
This evening we will discuss science diplomacy. For the United States, science diplomacy provides a grassroots mechanism to begin to build trust and develop relations worldwide, including those with societies with which we may have limited contact. Even in countries where the U.S. is not admired, our science and technology are appreciated and respected.
The conversations, interactions and collaborations we are able to have can be centered around shared problems and, because of the values of science, can include vigorous and respectful debate. My own experience, currently through the World Economic Forum and academic activities, and previously as chairman of both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the International Nuclear Regulators Association, that experience has provided evidence to me of the vitality of science diplomacy.
Diplomacy has obviously defense and security and economic and social impacts, and so we should think very broadly about this. And our panelists this evening will help us to do that because they have direct experience of the value of using science and technology to engage with peers in other countries.
Dr. Vinton Cerf currently serves as vice president and chief internet evangelist for Google. Previously he was vice president of technology strategy for MCI. Widely known as one of the fathers of the internet, Dr. Cerf, along with Dr. Robert Kahn, has been honored with the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the ACM Alan M. Turing Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Dr. Alex Dehgan is the science and technology adviser to the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and heads the Office of Science and Technology within the new Bureau of Policy Planning and Learning. As this S&T adviser, Dr. Dehgan serves as the key focal point for implementing the administration's vision to restore science and technology to its rightful place within USAID.
Prior to coming to USAID, he served as a senior scientist and policy adviser to the Secretary of State where he worked on science diplomacy issues with the Muslim world, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So, to begin, a question to both of you. Vint, Alex, what do we mean by science diplomacy?
VINTON G. CERF: Well, I am going to ask Alex to start, and the reason is that you sat in a context where diplomacy was the normal lingo. So what was meant in the State Department by that? I have a reaction, but I'd like to hear yours first.
ALEX O. DEHGAN: Sure. I would characterize science diplomacy as one of our tools of diplomacy. It is a way of how we actually get to our goals. It's a way to recognize that many of the problems that we face are characterized by science or can find their solutions in science. It's a way of building a framework on which our relationships between countries can stand. And I think it works best in some of our most challenging sort of relationships.
CERF: So I'm an engineer and I insist that we not leave that out, that science is very important, but applying it as engineering, taking dreams and turning them into reality.
What I find interesting about this notion of science diplomacy is that you can have an engagement about science. You can work together on science. You can share information that builds trust and it potentially is very constructive. You can also use the consequences of science or the engineering thereof to build economic relations with the parties with whom you are engaged.
I spent a lot of time in the NATO Advanced Science Institute spending money, after the Soviet Union fell, to bring the Russians onto the Internet where they weren't. And I remember having to pinch myself every now and then saying it's okay to spend money on the Russians getting them up on the net, whereas a few years before that might not have been a good thing to do.
So there are lots of aspects of what we might call science diplomacy, and it's much broader than the narrow notion of simply diplomatic relations.
DEHGAN: That's right.
JACKSON: And Alex, I know that you have a strong feeling that it's more than the traditional diplomatic relations. Do you have an example that you might want to share?
DEHGAN: I mean, I think traditional diplomacy is tied to place, and it has been tied to sovereignty and national boundaries. And if we think about the fact that by 2050 we are going to have 9 billion people on this planet, how do we actually produce 70 to 100 percent more food?
We think about the challenges that we have with climate change, and of 28,000 different sort of biological processes, 90 percent have shown consistent changes with that. What does that mean in terms of our national security? What does that mean in terms of how do we use science to build new markets? How do we actually use science to build sort of these new relationships?
And it is because you know, this basic idea that the United States isn't just bordered by Canada and Mexico, but what happens in Antananarivo increasingly influences the securities of Americans at home. And one of the things that I have been pushing for is this idea of getting rid of this sort of outdated concept of a domestic agency, because to protect American agencies we need to be thinking internationally. And we could use our scientists, the $150 billion we spend on research domestically to be able to solve these global problems that affect us at home as well as developing countries abroad.
JACKSON: Now this is always a dangerous step to take, but I'll ask it anyway so you can take the step. What do you think are the advantages and attractions of science diplomacy for other countries, including those that may not admire the U.S. so much?
CERF: My first reaction is something that you said, Alex, is that we exist in a connected world, not just network connected, but everything is connected. The atmosphere is connected. The oceans are connected. So you know that phrase, "think global, act local" is exactly right. When it comes to some of the issues that we all face, regardless of what our attitudes are from a political point of view, if we don't recognize that we are living in a connected space where everything we do affects everything everybody else is doing, or has an impact on them, these are global problems that require global solutions and that means a great deal of cooperation.
Anyone who cares about their own populations has to care about the rest of them too. So I'm actually hoping that the problems we face, which are pretty severe, will cause us to think more in the "spaceship Earth" terms than in narrow, independent and autonomous regions, because the problems we face are not characterized that way.
DEHGAN: So, if we look at many of these countries, you know, for instance, Iraq after the United States went into Iraq, 80 to 90 percent of that government were scientists, engineers and physicians. The President of Syria you know, is an ophthalmologist. In Iran, even in Ahmadinejad's cabinet it's 60 percent scientists. The chief foreign policy advisor to the supreme leader published two papers, you know, on TB in American peer-reviewed journals. The Iranians publish more papers of American scientists than any other country in the world.
So science gives you sort of a shared culture, a shared platform, a shared set of values and these values are ones that we actually cherish as Americans, values of honesty, transparency, of meritocracy, values that we want to share. So it connects people across borders and across disciplines.
CERF: The Emperor of Japan is an accomplished ichthyologist. When Bob and I also got the Japan prize and we had dinner with the emperor and the empress, the conversation was about his studies on this specific species of fish in Japan. When you think about that and the fact that -- is it the prime minister of India is an engineer? I may have gotten this mixed up with the president, but the point that you're making is actually quite stunning if we look at the statistics.
And then we ask, what do we have in our own government here? Well, we are doing better --
JACKSON: We have Alex. (Laughter)
CERF: We have some Nobel Prize winners at the secretarial level, Steven Chu, for example, but we could do better.
JACKSON: In fact, along that lineup that we could do better, you know, truth be told much of what has been done with science diplomacy is done on an ad hoc basis. You know, you can talk about your latest discovery and so on. The question is --
CERF: You want it to be a less hoc basic --
JACKSON: Yes, less hoc, exactly. And so is it possible to make it more strategic? And if so, how? How can we bring top scientists and engineers together to tackle energy security and climate change, disease, poverty, food and water scarcity, things you'd worry about, Alex, WMD proliferation? How do we make it more strategic? And where should the organization point be, or are there a thousand points of light? Let me start with you on that one, Alex, and then I'm going to come to you, Vint, because I know you have some particular perspectives.
DEHGAN: Thank you. Within diplomacy we have to recognize that our foreign service officers are ill-prepared to really take on challenges. If we are thinking about what challenges affect us in 2050 or 2030, we really have to have foreign service officers that understand the nature of climate change, that understand the impact of AIDS, that understand the impact of biodiversity conservation and what that means. When you lose species you lose pollinators. You lose, actually, the ability to grow crops. You lose the ability to actually -- you have ecological communities that fall apart, that spread disease.
Having people that understand what that means, first place is getting the personnel into place. Second is actually getting resources behind sort of cooperative science. One thing I'm really happy is USAID today just launched its first grant challenge for development with Gates, Norwegian government, Grand Challenges Canada and the World Bank to insure all women around the time of delivery have access to medical care and to find solutions that occur anywhere in the world, no matter where you are.
We had this problem in development where it was a handful of people that sort of said, Well, here is what we think the problems are and here's what we think the solutions are and we are going to have this great Stalinistic five-year plan that will lay out how things are going to work.
What we really need to do, and I think this gets to this idea of openness that you really appreciate, is look for solutions no matter where they are in the world and find ways of actually doing open innovation, open development and being able to bring all solvers and all solutions to bear on these problems.
JACKSON: So you've made three points, really. One is you have to have the more scientific expertise in government. The second is you have to have resources behind what people do. But the third is an implicit one and that is that you're implicitly saying -- and organizing point rests with a government or multinational organizations. Have I captured you appropriately?
DEHGAN: I think we need to move beyond governments, and I think what you look for are solutions that occur at multiple levels. Things like the Internet have given us this opportunity to form those connections and that's sort of recognizing that diplomacy, and maybe science diplomacy, getting back to your first point, isn't just in the realm of diplomats anymore. It is fundamentally something that we can leverage all our American assets.
One fact -- Zogby has done this series of polls on science diplomacy. And so traditionally in the Middle East people give the United States 20, 30 percent approval ratings. They give our science and technology 60, 70, 80 percent ratings. In Iran it's 90 percent, and that's not just high-energy physics, that's across the board.
JACKSON: Oh well, I'm a high-energy physicist. (Laughter.)
So Vint, he has given you your opening. How does the Internet and those enabling technologies play into this?
CERF: In a sense the Internet creates an infrastructure for communications and sharing of information and that's sort of fundamental. I mean science is about sharing of information so people can reproduce results and that's important. The scientific method says if your data doesn't match the theory you don't change the data, you change the theory. And one way to discover if your theories are right is have other people produce data to help figure that out.
So I like the idea of becoming a platform for this production and sharing and exchange of information, to say nothing of discovery.
Here we get into a very interesting observation about the commingling of information coming from a lot of different sources. Sometimes you hear about crowdsourcing, sometimes you'll hear about human genome databases where people's results are put into one place where you can query that database, say, I just found this sequence, does anybody know anything about that? And the sharing of information accelerates the rate at which we learn and understand about the world around us.
So I'm thinking, in engineering terms, well outside of the traditional diplomatic circles where you're trying to establish international standards for communications, for example.
The Internet Engineering Task Force does that for the Internet. And although it started very much rooted in the United States, very, very quickly we had people coming from all over the world who participate in that activity. It's all voluntary.
In contradistinction to the ITU, which is a treaty-based organization, the IETF doesn't even have any members. There is no notion of membership. You just show up, Woody Allen style. And if you show up and contribute and your ideas are accepted, it's a meritocracy, then you win. If nobody likes your ideas you don't. But I would love to see more and more of this kind of informal sharing of information to solve problems collectively.
JACKSON: Then if you think about openness and the Internet, you know, how much will sovereign governments allow and how do public safety and questions of national security play into this?
CERF: You will perhaps recall that during the Soviet period the Soviets were very eager not to allow anyone to have access to information, including their scientists. They didn't allow them to exchange information very readily and I remember thinking during that period that was a big mistake because the way in which you do science is to share things and accelerate the rate at which you learn from other people's experiments, results, mistakes and successes.
So, some sovereign governments take that to an extreme and they do it in part because they are trying to accomplish another objective which is to keep their populations from knowing what's going on either inside the country or even outside the country.
So the answer is some governments will still persist in trying to suppress access to information for a variety of different reasons. How successful will they be? Well, in some cases very successful, at least over short periods of time, like the Egyptian situation and the Libyan situation where the Internet gets shut down because you shut down the underlying transport. But what was the thing that Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."
The same thing is true of access to information -- I hope.
JACKSON: Well, let me ask you this, but I am going to come back to something that I think we kind of gloss over here. What is the -- where do business interests and foreign policy interests converge or diverge? And is there an economic -- or what is the economic impact if authoritarian governments try to control the Internet in their domains? But can you kind of go at it from this broader perspective?
CERF: Well, certainly from the standpoint of business, if you're in the business of producing pieces of Internet, or using it to produce a product or a service, standards become really important, first of all because interworking doesn't work without them, and second, once you have the standards it's a platform on top of which competition can happen.
So if you don't want the competition, then you do everything you can to keep the standards from happening, or you want the standards to be diverse enough that you don't have interoperability. There are non-tariff trade barriers that can be generated as a consequence of that.
So, in one small area, which is standards making, you can see governmental purposes showing up that are anything but the usual intent of standards making. It is intended to prevent people from competing, to prevent them from selling into your population by saying, "Well, we are not going to use those in your national standards, we'll use our own."
JACKSON: They become sort of a trade barrier or a de facto tariff?
CERF: It can become a deliberate trade barrier. Or if you can achieve certain kinds of standards, you might be able to use them to either interfere with or to, let's say, observe everything that's going on in your country because you have insisted on standards that allow you to do that. And you know, that's sometimes very much in conflict with I think what we would think of in the United States as an open environment.
JACKSON: Alex, do you have any thoughts about this?
DEHGAN: I think businesses will be moving towards sort of openness and open innovation, because they will need to to succeed. There is a great example of a gold mine that would traditionally keep information on their deposits proprietary, but actually put it on the web, make it available and set up a prize for people to be able to address it.
And the great thing about prizes is people spend 10 times the amount of the prize, sometimes more, to invest in it. You find people that can solve these problems that are coming from six degrees of separation from the actual field that you have. You draw a lot of attention to it, you only pay for success which is something we can't always say about development. And you have something that is really able to apply to the global set of solvers and provide new solutions.
Businesses will benefit from this and if they are not benefiting from this I think, you know, they are going to lose out. It is how you are going to be able to adapt.
JACKSON: But let's go for a minute from more wealth to less wealth, because what we have not really talked much about is the role of science and technology in development and how that is a diplomatic tool, or play, or not. And I think -- can you talk about -- and I'll start with you, Alex, are science and technology and their role in development a part of diplomacy and how do we measure success?
DEHGAN: I think that's a great question and so, fundamentally, I think actually using science and technology in development is some of the best kinds of science diplomacy that you can do, particularly when the benefits run both ways, when you're actually addressing global problems that affect all the parties. It is a way of building trust around a common set of problems. It is a way of building relationships.
And you know, our investments, as a government, as USAID, in the past when we trained people as technical specialists throughout Africa, those people became the next generation of leaders in Africa. We have to get back into that game. We have to get back into the game of using science as a robust tool that's part and parcel of what we do and there is a basic idea, right?
What we don't want to do in development is recreate the last 200 years of industrialization. We can't afford that from an environmental perspective.
We actually want to create economies from the future and those economies that are greener, you know, what is the next sort of green revolution, or blue revolution, are economies where the United States can have an advantage. And in fact, this is our advantage as a country. We are a country that does big things. We are a country that has strengths in science, technology and innovation that we really need to apply to solve these global problems.
JACKSON: Let me ask you each two questions before we open it to our members.
You know, Vint, not all scientists are born diplomats. (Laughter.) Surprise, surprise. Do they need to be? And how do we prepare them to have a larger role?
CERF: You used the term scientist and I need to translate to engineering too. I am a computer scientist by title and an evangelist too, but the thing is if you want your ideas to be adopted you have to learn how to sell those ideas. You have to learn how to get other people to want to buy into the ideas or to build things that you want to have happen.
If I look at the statistics of the Internet today, there are 2 billion people online, there are 4-1/2 billion or more who are not yet, and as the chief Internet evangelist I got like 75 percent of the world to still convert. So in order for that to happen a lot of people have to want to build more of this system.
So to your point about being able to enable countries to expand their capabilities in this online environment, actually going out there and providing them with equipment and with training and letting them build and operate as opposed to just going in and doing it for them, is the strongest way I can think of to grow a population of capable people who can become part of the environment.
JACKSON: I agree and you know I agree strongly. But science and technology for development is not just the Internet. We have disease, we have water and food scarcity, et cetera. We have lots of things.
So, Alex, let me ask you then, what are the missing pieces? What are the missing pieces vis-a-vis how science and technology play into diplomacy and what area the missing pieces in terms of policy, leadership, funding and law? Can you speak to some of that?
DEHGAN: Yeah, and I do want to just hit on sort of the last question. I think as scientists, because we are funded by taxpayer funds, we have an obligation to go out and serve this country and serve this country well and so, there is that function that we have to really help address sort of these big problems that we face.
Right now we are really lucky. We have five Nobel Prize winners. We have 30 members of the National Academies of Science in senior positions in this government. You guys saw the State of the Union speech. I mean, I think the message was clear.
We have John Holdren leading OSTP, the Office of Science Technology Policy, that is resurgent. We have Rod Shaw, the head of my agency, USAID, who is a medical doctor as well as an economist, who understands the role of science and technology to be able to help bridge the gap between the connected and the unconnected because those people who are unconnected, those are centers of poverty, of desperation that will be threats to our national security, fundamentally.
But what we do need, fundamentally, is to have support on the Hill for funding for what we're trying to do and recognize that by actually making these investments in science. We can leverage tremendous resources that are in our federal science agencies, tremendous resources that are in academia, tremendous resources that are in the private sector, but we do need to have that recognition.
I mean, when the American Heritage Foundation wants to defund AID, it makes it a little bit harder to do science diplomacy.
JACKSON: Well, I think, going back to Vint's point, the articulation of the leverage point and why one should invest in a time when so much is on the chopping block to deal with deficits, et cetera, is an important argument to be able to make well.
CERF: A statistical observation.
CERF: There are more smart people in the world that are not in the United States than there are in the United States. The statistics are the same, it's just that there are more of them than there are of us. We need to take advantage of that.
DEHGAN: I'm sorry, just very, very quickly.
One of the things is if we're designing products for the developing world --
JACKSON: Ask them.
DEHGAN: If we're designing products for the developing world, right, they have to actually be better designed because of lower rates of literacy. They have to be stronger because of harsher environmental conditions. They have to be more frugal.
So if we can produce devices that actually help, you know -- a cheaper -- (inaudible) -- machine that's portable and battery operated that works for 30 hours for $1,000 as opposed to $20,000 or $10,000, we cut our own health care costs in the United States. We solve our own problems in the United States.
JACKSON: That's true.
JACKSON: No. I am glad there is passion here. (Laughter.)
But I am sure that our members have many new ideas for us to consider. And so, at this time I would like to invite members to join our conversation with their questions, but I always have to give you instruction. Please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. And when you do, please stand and state your name and your affiliation. And unlike I do, limit yourself to one question. I tend to do three at a time.
So I think I saw this gentleman here, please.
QUESTIONER: Seth Berkeley, I run the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. And what we're trying to do, we're working in 26 different countries to try to bring science and technology to solve a global problem. And what's interesting is that it's a bidirectional issue. If you wanted to solve AIDS in the United States you want to test products, you best do that in the highest incidence places, but if you want to ultimately have those products usable, you need to have buy-in at the local level. So it's critical to work on both sides.
But I want to come back to what Alex said about the current climate. The current climate not only is fiscally conservative, but the current climate is also -- believes, for example, that U.S. health care is the best in the world, we don't have anything to learn from anywhere else and doesn't necessarily understand this importance of science, that we need the best science anywhere in the world.
So can you maybe expand a little bit on how we might get that message out there? Because obviously, today, as Vint said as well, it's about getting the best science anywhere in the world to solve these problems and it's a new mindset that somewhat of the isolationism doesn't work on.
JACKSON: Okay, Alex.
DEHGAN: I mean, I think that's exactly right. And you know, using sort of open innovation -- funding scientists in developing countries, creating true partnerships, right? Because science diplomacy works when the benefits run both ways and we just have been blind to the fact that there are solutions out there that can actually benefit us at home.
I think the number of opportunities that are out there are tremendous to be able to address these problems. And the fact is, if you think about how our policy has shifted between the two administrations, we have moved from one that was based on American exceptionalism to one that's based on partnership.
So the Cairo speech which Obama gave was actually the basis of the foreign policy of this administration. It is this idea that the challenges that we face are so global and so challenging and so complex that we must work together with other partners to be able to address them.
CERF: Could I give you an example of something?
CERF: I was stunned last week to read two papers from Inner Mongolia that talked about the folding of proteins. Now you understand that proteins are very important to the way we function, our food supply, our physiology and everything else and the way they shape is part of that whole thing. The question is, how do they fold themselves and how do they know what the right solution is?
These guys figured out that the protein chains are not going through what you would think of as every possible step to finally fold themselves into the final result; that they are passing through, kind of like tunneling goes on in a semiconductor. It's almost like there is a quantum effect going on in the folding process. Now this is like spooky action at a distance that Einstein was worried about. That was just a stunning piece of work coming out of Inner Mongolia.
The point I want to make is if we don't pay attention to what other people are doing, we won't be able to take the highest point of departure in our own science.
JACKSON: By the way, protein folding and misfolding is important in areas such as ALS, Alzheimer's, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease, so there are a lot of implications and you cannot treat misfolded protein or prion diseases with any standard medical treatments.
So understanding how and what influences the folding and misfolding is very important. And a quantum tunneling effect means a sudden change of state where you theoretically can't get from here to there. So these are important results.
Please, the gentleman here.
QUESTIONER: I am Richard Garwin, IBM Fellow Emeritus.
Dr. Jackson mentioned going beyond the government and I've been a director of the Union of Concerned Scientists for the last 11 years or so. For 20 years Elizabeth Grunland and David Wright have held a summer school in arms control and international security and I think that's been very successful. It has young scientists and engineers, preferably from other countries, who eventually become leaders just as was indicated.
So I wonder whether Dr. Dehgan has other examples in the field of development from private organizations other than government?
DEHGAN: No. I mean I think -- one of the things that's going on, on our university campuses is really exciting and it's changing the nature of development and it was such a fundamental change that I wrote a memo to my administrator that said, "I've seen the future of development, and by the way we're not in it."
And that's really important to understand that we've moved from a handful of small development agencies to many different partners, right?
I mean the CRDF Global, the Wildlife Conservation Society works in some of the toughest places in the world like Afghanistan, like Sudan. So many different actors are out there that we have to sort of take this into control.
But what I saw on these campuses was actually driven by students and not even the faculties and it was engineers, medical doctors, scientists working with entrepreneurs and with design people, with anthropologists from not just their university but also from the developing world to create new microenterprises that will sustainably sort of address these problems. Because fundamentally, what happens at the end of a development project? What happens to those -- how do you actually make these things last? How do we actually empower people through the types of cooperative science that -- (inaudible) -- does, to actually build people's ability to solve their own problems?
And I see that happening a lot in these university campuses with these new sort of social entrepreneurship companies. And I think the true meaning of social entrepreneurship is you are driving a profit and you are sort of getting at your core set of values.
But we also see some examples from Nike -- 50 percent of global foot manufacturing, a thousand factories across Asia, that goes beyond corporate social responsibility, where they are deciding to make their factories 30 percent more energy efficient and by making sure they do that across the board. They are having tremendous impacts on how people use energy in Asia.
And so, I think the private sector, particularly the university sector, there's a lot happening. And what we need to do as an agency is not inhibit the private sector, but actually support these efforts and be aware of these things.
QUESTIONER: Could I ask him a question about interagency coordination, because this is a much more complicated thing.
JACKSON: I am going to let you do it one time. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: Okay. I mean you sit in a place where lots of people have fingers in this pie. How well is the coordination of science policy or diplomacy being done?
DEHGAN: Yesterday I was actually at the NSC where we sat on the Interagency Policy Committee on Development and I thought people were very enthusiastic about how we could use our science resources to do so. But we really benefit from people like John Holdren and Tom Calille at OSTP because they've really sought on how we can leverage these different resources.
How can we use, you know, USDA's Agricultural and Research Service to increase productivity yields in agriculture while decreasing the environmental footprint around the world? Right?
JACKSON: So you really do need that scientific input and you also need a focal point within the government. I think that was what Vint was, I hope, was trying to get at.
Let me take -- I am going to oscillate. Let me take this gentleman and then I am going to take the one who was here.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Recently, I think it was in Time magazine, I saw -- my name is Matt Hooper, sorry --
JACKSON: And where are you? What's your affiliation?
QUESTIONER: Baxter Technologies. I might be a little biased.
Recently I saw a series of maps showing the number of people in the Middle East, because this was called the Facebook revolution, recently, essentially, that were on Facebook, that were on the Internet in general and that were mobile phone users. Where do you see the role of the mobile web in the developing world? This is a whole new frontier. I want to hear what you guys think specifically you could do in the next maybe 10 years or so.
CERF: There isn't any question at all that that's one of the major new frontiers in our Internet environment, is mobile access. There are 5 billion mobiles in use and about 20 percent of them have Internet capability. That percentage will go up over time without any question at all. Prices are coming down, the functionality is going up. For a lot of people the first introduction to this apparatus -- (inaudible) -- mobiles.
So between that and the growth of social networking where people's -- I don't know, their circle of acquaintances can grow in those social networking environments. People introduce other people to each other and so there is this growth of a network of knowledge and in fact some trust coming out of that. It's pretty powerful and it's international in scope. It doesn't recognize national boundaries because it shared interests as opposed to common geography that is linking those people together.
I think it's still hard to say how this is all going to unfold, but people really want to connect.
JACKSON: This gentleman here, please, in the second row.
Please stand and --
QUESTIONER: My name is Khalid Azeem (ph).
JACKSON: Affiliation, please?
QUESTIONER: With A.N. Zed Bank (ph). My question, since we're talking about a similar question topic, about the Middle East and the turmoil and the transformation in the Middle East and foreign policy and technology. Could you speak toward how those cross-currents have interplayed with each other or general comments on that topic?
JACKSON: Alex, why don't you start.
DEHGAN: It's really interesting because as we look -- we're having a discussion on Egypt right now. Right before the revolution we were about to use a substantial amount of funding to actually encourage sort of cooperative scientific activities in a profound way. And one of the things we realized is there's actually a lot of papers being written in Egypt, but they are not really tied to changes in the society, or development outcomes and entrepreneurship as a way of scaling up these things, innovation as a way of scaling up.
And so now, fundamentally we are saying do we have now a better chance in these early days of actually forming these kind of connections that will no longer depend on going through the government, that will actually allow for these (committees ?) that cut across borders, that cut across places to be able to actually allow people to connect, to be able to address fundamental problems that have affected Egypt for a long time.
I mean Egypt's got real serious problems. They have -- the Nile, the upstream Nile countries have decided to potentially abrogate the treaty on water sharing of the Nile that really benefited Sudan and Egypt. And if you look the satellite image of Egypt, it is a little, narrow band of green that is dependent on that water. So how can you actually produce better agriculture with less water that might be more saline? How do you address these problems?
You know, science and tech is one of the ways that we do it and it might be a way that you actually encourage cooperation across those boundaries with the upstream neighbors.
We brought together some countries -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and China, the Wildlife Conservation Society, with the basic idea of building a peace park. And the idea is that if you could talk about disease problems, if you could talk about protecting snow leopards, maybe you could use this as a way of actually encouraging cooperation on other things.
JACKSON: Do we understand how trust gets developed in social networks, and are we able to use them in any predictive way? Because in principle with a lot of what's happened in the Middle East, we weren't exactly predictive.
CERF: That depends a little bit on how you use the social network. I tried an experiment on Facebook. I said yes to everybody who wanted to be my friend. I ended up with so many friends that now when you try to friend me, you get a note back from Facebook saying Vint Cerf has too many friends. (Laughter.) I always thought that was kind of an insult. But the net result of that, though, is that I don't know most of those people.
If you use these systems in a way that really does reflect people that you know and trust, then that web of trust can grow.
I wanted to react a little bit to something you were saying about trying to use science as an avenue for building relationships and building cooperation.
I think one thing you need before you can get anywhere with that is some stability in the government. If you live in an unstable place it's really hard to do good science. So one of the problems that we face, if we want to do good science, one of the things we also need to do is to at least either help or think about how to achieve stability in the regions that are not stable.
DEHGAN: I -- so I'm going to -- I'm going to push back a little bit, I'm going to say this.
CERF: Great, let's fight.
DEHGAN: Yeah, no, no, absolutely. Father of the Internet versus small science advisor guy. (Laughter)
CERF: The heretic and the Pope, right? (Laughter)
DEHGAN: The -- but the basic idea is, I think science comes to bear when you're actually trying to address these problems that fundamentally get you the stability. Right?
And one example I have -- and actually, you know, we have CRDF Global here and they have been a big partner in this -- is this thing called the Iraqi Virtual Science Library, which was built, you know -- it provided -- it was an amazing thing. It provided a hundred percent of Iraqi university students and their science ministries with the access to a top-tier science library that you would have, full text, in the United States.
And when we started building it, everyone said, not going to work. They don't have Internet access, they don't have electricity, they don't have stability, they've got too much on their mind, they have no desire to use this. And we now have about 9,000 active users. If you don't use it, you're kicked off. You know, 35,000 articles downloaded a month, 1.2 million articles have been downloaded over the life of this thing. And there's a thirst there. There is a desire for people to be connected across these communities, across these boundaries. And I think this is a way that you actually build stability, that you inspire people, you give them hope and you achieve some of these goals.
JACKSON: Well, you enable common purpose to work.
Please. This gentleman on the front row, and then I'll get the two ladies back there.
QUESTIONER: Doron Weber, Sloan Foundation.
This was implicit in your question. Do you think the term "science diplomacy" -- and Alex, as you know, I'm trying to start a program, I support totally -- but the question is, can the term be counterproductive? So in Iran recently a group of scientists were thinking of getting together, but they begged it not to be called science diplomacy because it would make them suspect in terms of the government.
And then I'm going to quickly add an extra question. Any way of getting science -- scientists' attaches into the embassies? Is that realistic that we could introduce them again?
DEHGAN: Two very good questions, focus on the second.
I -- you know, I think this secretary is very committed to getting science back into the State Department. Within USAID we're actually trying to create senior science advisers in all our bureaus and our missions because development is a technical discipline.
It's been 20 years since we've had a full-time science adviser, a Bureau of Science and Technology, getting back to sort of recognizing that this is actually fundamentally important to how we recognize success and development.
The Iran example -- I mean, it's true, right? I mean, there's been some problems as -- but the Iranians are inherently suspicious of anything that we're going to do. But if you look at their national strategic plan, you look at what the reality on the ground is, they have deep interests in science. You know, they publish more papers of American scientists than anywhere else. You know, they have the -- we have the supreme leader, his foreign policy adviser running a TB hospital. It is a very powerful thing in that society.
There has been hiccups, you know, with some of our young AIDS researchers in Iran and some of their activities when they went on Voice of America to really -- you know, because there's this AIDS problem, because there's also a drug addiction problem in Iran.
But fundamentally, I think all developing countries -- and this gets back to a point that you've made, you know -- want to use science in diplomacy, you know, want to use science. They want to actually improve their populations. For Iran it's a conceit of history. You know, they want to rebuild the empire and they see science and tech as a way to do it.
So, you know, science diplomacy works best when it's depoliticized, to the extent we can keep it that way. It's not the relationship, it's a foundation on which that relationship rests.
JACKSON: Absolutely. Let me hear the young lady here on the third row.
QUESTIONER: Hi, Mandy (sp), I'm with the City University of New York and the American Museum of Natural History.
We started off talking about what is the definition of science diplomacy and I think it's kind of a moving target; we haven't come to any conclusive results tonight. And it's also a re-emerging topic, right, because it's been around before with things like CRDF and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and CERN. So is it resurging because of the issues like climate change and food disparity and things of this nature? How do we promote it to scientists so that they can leverage their research and find opportunities, where, when they're out in developing countries they might see an opportunity to do a project that could be labeled science diplomacy even if it's not?
But how do -- because as Vint was saying, part of the issue, when you do good science, how do you promote it to the public so that they can support it? So what would be some strategies for getting science diplomacy out there and getting more scientists involved and looking for opportunities to use their research when they travel?
JACKSON: So Vint, do you want to tackle that?
CERF: So I have a couple of things. At Google recently we announced a global science fair, and we've invited kids all around the world to submit their science projects through the Net. We will judge them in the middle of this year, we'll have a big event at Google's headquarters.
The idea here was to put a spotlight on science and the people who do it and to encourage young people to think in that direction. In the United States we need a lot more of that. We don't have young people celebrating the scientists and the engineers as much as they celebrate entertainers and sports figures. And somehow I think that's caused sort of a diminution in the excitement and interest in science.
We had the Sputnik event in the 1950s that galvanized an awful lot of interest in science and technology. We don't have a Sputnik event to point to right now, unless it's global warming, and that one is a little squishier because it isn't a point event. It's more something like it's going to happen, but we don't know exactly how it's going to unfold. But I think that is our Sputnik moment in this 21st century.
Getting people to be willing to go out and spend time outside the United States, or even inside, sharing their scientific knowledge and trying to build up capability elsewhere, is like a scientific Peace Corps if you like. Would be a pretty interesting proposition, in my view.
JACKSON: Young lady on the third row, on the right here -- your left.
QUESTIONER: Hi, my name's Lily Ramirez (ph). I work at Department of Homeland Security in the Science and Technology Directorate.
And I would like to get your perspective on how you would propose a change in science and technology curriculums at our universities to develop diplomatic skills in our scientists and engineers.
CERF: So, one thing would be to teach them how to do public speaking, I suspect. I mean, just, you know, be able to get your ideas out in front.
I can tell you that nothing happens of any scale unless a whole lot of people want it to happen. And the only way that happens is if a lot of people are persuaded that that's what they want to spend their time and energy on, so that would be point number one.
But you picked on the university level, and I honestly think we have to start earlier than that, in the K through 12 domain, to help people realize why it's interesting and exciting to engage in these subjects. And we don't do a very good job of that right now.
So we need to focus more spotlight on that.
JACKSON: You didn't come to ask me questions, but I'm a university president and I do think it's important to have our young people engage internationally and use their science and engineering education to work in a deliberate way on joint projects. I think it helps to develop a greater multicultural sophistication, more of a global view and an understanding that how science is done in one place is not so easy in another.
The young lady here in the first row, please.
QUESTIONER: Minky Worden from Human Rights Watch.
I'm a former public servant and I did see an astonishing lag between the public sector and the private sector, so I'd like to ask -- we have someone from the public sector and someone from the private sector. I'd like to ask what the plan is for integrating technology and science incubation -- the incubation model and innovation into government bureaucracies. And I hope the answer is that there are lots of things going on that I don't know about.
JACKSON: Okay, Alex -- (inaudible) -- for you.
DEHGAN: Yeah, it's -- so, some of the things we're rolling out, and I'll speak about USAID, something called Development Innovation Ventures, which is a VC model to take frugal innovations anywhere in the world, scale them up to where we could hit 75 million people in three stages. Grand challenges for development where we're actually focused on critical barriers on some of the biggest problems around the world, and how do we inspire the global community and put funding that allows for collaborative research to do this.
We have a partnership with NSF right now. NSF funds American scientists, we're funding developing country counterparts. We're thinking about how do we actually engage these university communities around the world. We're looking at open GIS as a -- you know, Ushahidi in terms of crisis mapping and the human resources. Thinking about how to use cell phones, getting back to that issue.
You know, the -- what I would like to see at the end of the day is people in developing countries empowered with cell phones that can evaluate USAID projects, give us an independent source of what we're trying to do. And this government has an open government sort of transparency agenda and one of the things we want to do at AID is put our data online to allow other people to evaluate how we're trying to do things and whether we're making successful interventions.
CERF: There was a rule in the Advanced Studies Institute that NATO operates that said that you couldn't get funding unless it was a joint effort with another party, typically among the NATO countries and then later with the former Soviet Union. So it could be two interesting principles. One is you've got to cooperate with somebody else in a target area, and second, the results have to be available publicly. Those kinds of things can foster an awful lot of valuable output.
JACKSON: The gentleman here in the middle and then the gentleman here, and we'll do this in three minutes.
QUESTIONER: Hi, my name's Nick Gorzkowski from Control Risks.
I guess, you know, we talk about a sort of interconnectedness and I guess two of the blocks I would see to that is the sort of increasingly commoditized information on the Internet, I guess you would say from the private sector, and then this issue of security which we touched on before, this idea of sort of a splinternet, you know, the sovereignty issue.
So, how do you see what you're talking about overcoming these barriers?
JACKSON: Before you answer, let me get the other question. Here, this gentleman who had his hand up here.
QUESTIONER: Hi, my name's Jeff Albert. I'm with the Aquaya Institute; we're a San Francisco-based nonprofit working on water and sanitation provision in developing country settings.
And I also just wanted to take -- I want to thank the panel for a great discussion, actually a well-moderated discussion. I don't think the moderator is thanked frequently enough.
But I'm really interested in the context of development. I'm interested in utility, government utility provision of water, sewer, electricity -- and I work a lot in Vietnam, and the Japanese are funding the water utility in the city of Yokohama to do human resource development and training and capacity development with the water utility of the city of Hue, and it's just this kind of sister city partnership. And it blows me away how -- what -- the benefits of that program are really obvious. And I'd love to know if USAID is funding something comparable.
JACKSON: Can you give a short answer to that, Alex?
DEHGAN: I don't know off the top of my head, but we have to actually deal -- one of the biggest problems in sort of our conflict states is dealing with 1950 grids, right? And so, one of the big problems is if you rebuild these huge grids they then become really easy targets to attack. So how can you actually use decentralized renewable energy? And think about where we move to the future, and think about how we address some of those problems. And we see the same thing in water, right?
JACKSON: So, Vint, can you give a quick answer to the other?
CERF: The national security question. So, let's see. First of all, we know that we have a vulnerable infrastructure right now, in every sense of the word -- not just the Net, but all of the other things that we rely on every day. And there are steps that can be taken and are being taken to make this a safer place to be. That's important from the business point of view and it's also important from the national security point of view that our infrastructure be more robust and resilient in the face of various kinds of attack.
It turns out that -- we still run into the problem of not necessarily having adequate reciprocal agreements with other countries in order to deal with parties that inflict harm on others across international boundaries.
So in addition to all the technological steps that we can take, we also are going to have to figure out how to create legal frameworks so that there can be mutual protection. Otherwise people will run, you know, essentially without any constraint at all, causing conflict and harm elsewhere. So there's a lot of diplomatic work that has to be informed, technologically, to make sense.
JACKSON: Science and diplomacy, the science of diplomacy and science in diplomacy. I think we've covered those. And with that, our time is up.
I want to ask you to join me in thanking the panelists.
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