I checked my RSS feeds today and saw two interesting items, spot on in terms of our class discussion. First up, an important technological breakthrough in medicine? Here’s Walter Russell Mead:
The medical world may be on the verge of a major breakthrough on par with the discovery of penicillin. As profiled in this NYT piece, a number of Silicon Valley companies and entrepreneurs are looking to lower the price of genome sequencing to the point that it will be within reach of the average consumer (below $1,000)—a development which could lead to the biggest revolution in drugs and medical treatments in years.
On par with penicillin? That’s a lot of value.
Now for something completely different, Derek Lowe suggests that maybe, just maybe, we don’t need more scientists after all. Hmm. I’m not sure I agree with that whole bit. Nonetheless, it’s thought provoking.
As a bonus, he cites a fantastically titled piece by Virginia Postrel, “How Art History Majors Power the U.S. Economy.” Postrel seems to agree with his point:
The argument that public policy should herd students into [Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics] is as wrong-headed as the notion that industrial policy should drive investment into manufacturing or “green” industries. It’s just the old technocratic central planning impulse in a new guise. It misses the complexity and diversity of occupations in a modern economy, forgets the dispersed knowledge of aptitudes, preferences and job requirements that makes labor markets work, and ignores the profound uncertainty about what skills will be valuable not just next year but decades in the future.
If you are interested in the average salaries and unemployment rates for different college major choices, Postrel cites this report out of Georgetown University that has some very illuminating figures.