Innovating with elephants

Energy, innovation and elephants:
[Via Andrew Hargadon]

There’s nothing like money to bring out the dogma in people, and there’s nothing, if not money, in the $150B energy innovation plan of the Obama administration.

The ensuing dogma surfaces around how to best spend that money. On the one side are those arguing that we need to invest in deploying existing technologies (the latest in solar, wind, and energy efficiency)—on the other side are those arguing such federal investments in existing technologies would starve the basic research activities that will bring us the truly breakthrough technologies we need. Nowhere is this debate more starkly represented than in the (barely) civil dialog between Joe Romm and the Breakthrough Institute. Andy Revkin, of the NYT and his blog, Dot Earth, describes this debate:


A really nice discussion of two important viewpoints. And the metaphor of the blind men and the elephant is one of my favorites.

Because collaboration can help us gain a truer understanding of the world than a single view. If the blind men talked with each other, then they could actually describe an elephant. Just as more open discussion could provide a better understanding of where to put the money.

But respect for other views is a requirement for this to work. If the blind men went around saying all the other views were full of crap, then no real understanding could occur. Same with these sorts of discussions.

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