Dean Kamen on Design Responsibility

Every once in a while we get a glimpse of how amazing people view the world in such a way that we can’t help but see the world with new eyes ourselves…

“There is a disproportionate capability among people on this planet to solve problems. We certainly can’t expect most of the people who don’t have the resources to be the ones who supply the solutions. That makes you a very small minority. I heard different definitions of “minority,” but educated people who understand the laws of nature, the rules of engineering, or the laws of man and economics and finance and politics and democracy are an incredibly small minority on this planet, and they have a huge advantage in the leverage and the control they have over the world’s physical and political environment. You don’t have to be an historian to know most of the time that leverage is used to help the rich get richer. You are able to think about how your education is going to enrich you.

You also ought to remember that if you are going to solve all problems that we’re facing in this world, it’s unlikely that the people and ideas that got us to where we are, are either the people or ideas that are going to get us to a different place. It’s going to require new people with new ideas [applause]. And that would be you.”

Every once in a while we get a glimpse of how amazing people view the world in such a way that we can’t help but see the world with new eyes ourselves…

“There is a disproportionate capability among people on this planet to solve problems. We certainly can’t expect most of the people who don’t have the resources to be the ones who supply the solutions. That makes you a very small minority. I heard different definitions of “minority,” but educated people who understand the laws of nature, the rules of engineering, or the laws of man and economics and finance and politics and democracy are an incredibly small minority on this planet, and they have a huge advantage in the leverage and the control they have over the world’s physical and political environment. You don’t have to be an historian to know most of the time that leverage is used to help the rich get richer. You are able to think about how your education is going to enrich you.

You also ought to remember that if you are going to solve all problems that we’re facing in this world, it’s unlikely that the people and ideas that got us to where we are, are either the people or ideas that are going to get us to a different place. It’s going to require new people with new ideas [applause]. And that would be you.”

“We’re moving from a world of stuff, from the idea that there’s a finite amount of gold out there, a finite amount of almost anything out there. Throughout all of history, people fought over stuff: land, fuel, stuff. But in your generation, the most value that will be created isn’t stuff anymore. It really is ideas. The Internet is an abstraction, and the value of Google exceeds the value of all the car makers. In a world that’s about ideas, it’s not a zero-sum game. You don’t have to win by someone else losing, where you have the gold or oil or water, and somebody else doesn’t.

In a world of ideas, you all create and share those ideas and everybody has more ideas in the end, whether it’s a cure for cancer, or a way to make water drinkable, or a way to make energy that’s non-polluting. And whether you like it or not, you are moving for the first time into a world where ideas matter more than all the stuff there is. But those ideas have to come from educated people and they have to be used as a tool and not as a weapon. That’s the biggest change that’s happening.”

From his 2007 commencement speech at Bates College.

Published: July 13th, 2007

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