Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
Technologists Needed, Tech Priorities, And Tech Triumphs
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2008 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
A talk about priorities is usually a talk about money, so here's a baseline number. NASA's 2008 budget is $17.3 billion. This is not a trivial sum, but since the government always seems able to allocate much larger sums for pointless wars, weapons systems that don't work and/or are strategically useless, etc., I've never bought into the argument that this $17.3 billion is taking off the table money that could be used to solve pressing social problems. (In fact there's a pressing social problem that NASA is in a good position to help with, except that part got taken out of NASA's mission statement.) I prefer to think of NASA's budget as a Strategic Awesomeness Reserve. And over time I've come to the conclusion that manned space exploration is not awesome-effective.
Leonard also has been keeping up the insight and research at The Future: A Retrospective. When I saw his post about the female condom I felt a need to bring up the relevant section of Our Bodies, Ourselves so people could learn about the plethora of birth control methods we currently enjoy. A new IUD, a vaginal ring, spermicidal foams, a patch, low-dose and combination-hormone pills, the implant one-sixth the size of Norplant... and now a contraceptive pill that also stops menstruation. Let's see how many of these Future Stuff predicted!
I got into an argument last week with a sullen, America-bashing Scottish kid at SIPA. Among other things easily refuted by about five minutes of blog-reading research, he charged that Big Pharma Doesn't Make Medicines That Really Help People. Oh really? I can think of about three uncomplimentary reasons why he hasn't been keeping up with the latest in contraceptive tech.