Third Panel Discussion Questions and Answers
ROBERT WHITE Questions
Esther, what do you think about the dangers and benefits of encryption technology? What are the ways in which telecommunications in Russia as it develops might be encrypted? What would be the implications of that for national security?
ESTHER DYSON Answers
This is a very important issue, and I do not know the answer. It is something we need to think about. With my Electronic Frontier Foundation hat on, I think it is very important for citizens to have the right to private communications as part of free speech and privacy. With my experience in Russia, I am also very conscious of the dangers of all the things that governments try to prevent, including everything from drug dealing and terrorism to various kinds of criminal activity. I see encryption technology as a defensive weapon. If the government can watch everything that goes on and the government is good, that is a very good situation. If the government can watch everything that goes on and the government is bad, that is a very bad situation. So you end up in this kind of neutral position.
Fundamentally, I feel encryption is more powerful as a weapon of the weak against the strong than as a weapon of the strong against the weak. It provides privacy and safety to individuals more than it provides the same to large, powerful organizations. Large, powerful organizations have other strengths, but encryption fundamentally is something the small can use to defend themselves.
I am still not sure what that comes down to in terms of policy. I do know that there is very powerful encryption technology all over the world already. Not having the ability to break it is a problem for governments. It is also a problem for the Mafia and for various powers of evil. I think having strong encryption is going to be very important to encourage the free flow of commerce. People are not going to start doing business and they are not going to start doing all these other things we want them to do that are fundamentally positive, if they do not have privacy, confidentiality, and security over the network.
I am not sure how we resolve this contradiction, but they are great contradictions. It is a big issue, and it is worth thinking a lot about in the drafting committee.
ROBERT WHITE Questions
Good point. Let me address the next question to Bill White. The question goes something like this: Will renewables and conservation satisfy all the world's energy needs for the next 50 years? If not, what other technical options should be made available, and what are respective roles of business, universities, and national laboratories in providing these energy options?
WILLIAM H. WHITE Answers
The answer to the first question is no, but I think that we probably are going to underestimate the role that they will consistently play. I think they will play a very a major role. I think the principle bottleneck I see is transportation technology. I believe that we will see some transformation over the long run of electrical power generation. Certainly there is a worldwide boom in utilizing natural gas, which has less harmful environmental characteristics.
I do not have a good crystal ball on nuclear energy, but I will say that we as a country do not seem to have been able to come close to a solution on nuclear waste. So long as that is not accomplished, it will be a big impediment. My crystal ball is not very good on fusion. The problem, though, is the automobile and what we do about that. I think it is certainly possible for us to have automobiles that are fired by alternative fuels or that consume half as much oil as the automobiles today. That would have a tremendous impact on worldwide energy consumption.
As far as what roles the government laboratories and the private sector play, I think these are technologies with governmental, nongovernmental, nonprofit, for-profit, and private-sector implications. All of these types of institutions tend to systematically invest too little in this particular issue when you consider the stakes.
ROBERT WHITE Question
For Bill White: In the morning session the suggestion was made that the Department of Energy laboratories should expand in new economic and environmental directions. The Galvin Report gave quite a different recommendation. What position is DOE taking on this issue?
WILLIAM WHITE Answer
The Galvin Committee said that the DOE laboratories as a whole should be focused on three principal missions: National security, energy, and the environment. We think they are on target on that.
There are some very good questions regarding the human genome project in the various laboratories and debates on where the margins are and how you build on the competency. There are suggestions in both the Galvin Commission Report and in reports by distinguished review panels in prior Administrations that the Defense laboratories not lose a national security or defense nuclear focus, in order to preserve their competence in that area. That makes a lot of sense.
However, we, as well as professionals in the field and laboratory observers, believe that there is a question regarding how you best utilize those competencies for the benefit of the taxpayers as a whole. We want to keep the competence, but because of the cessation of nuclear production, we have excess capacity. We need to build on the competencies of the laboratories as is done in the advanced computing field. There we do a fair amount of work with NOAA and identify very specifically what the competencies are, and then determine what the real market is for those competencies in the scientific community. Not that we would be trying to create a mission for a competency that does not exist, but where there is excess capacity in an important competence which is necessary to support national security, then we would not be doing our job if we allowed that competence to be underutilized.
ROBERT WHITE Questions
Given the tough budgetary climate and major energy needs, what is the rationale for DOE pursuing topics such as the genome project? Energy research and development is a small percentage of the DOE budget and is in the process of being cut further. Is there any support for increasing this investment for such a critical need?
WILLIAM WHITE Answers
The human genome project and our creation of nuclear isotopes are examples of research that is undertaken within the Department of Energy laboratories that you would not immediately think of as being within the domain of the Department of Energy. As a matter of public policy, what we ought to be asking ourselves: Is this science that should be pursued? Is the market going to underinvest in this type of science? Is it good basic science and of the type that we all support? What scientists are capable of doing this? Who should the source of funding be?
Where good, basic types of science are studied within our laboratories, they are often funded by other agencies. I would welcome any volunteers to offer to fund us if there are some things within the Department of Energy that might not fit within its mission but do serve the public interest and should be done by the scientific community, and most competently by laboratories within our jurisdiction.
Concerning energy research and development, there are going to be hard times ahead. The thing that we all have to be most apprehensive about is that we not discourage an ideological approach to what is often called "applied science," that is the substance of a lot of the energy research that we are talking about here.
We are trying to move closer to the model which has succeeded in other countries, such as Japan, where there is better integration of basic science, manufacturing, design, and marketing capabilities. The role of the federal government should principally be in the basic science part of that. What we are trying to do is better integrate with the private sector so that the public can see some of the benefits that are generated from basic scientific research. That is not to say we should adulterate basic scientific research. We are trying to better integrate basic science into the industrial base of this country and other nations so we can get the benefits of that science out more quickly. That comes under ideological attack.
ROBERT WHITE Question
In telecommunications in Russia there are so many players and programs, how can we promote cooperation, coordination, and collaboration?
ESTHER DYSON Answer
One response to that is having many players is good because it creates a vigorous, open, competitive market. What has actually happened in Russia is quite interesting. For starters, the government itself has become privatized in many ways. In a lot of places it is difficult to figure out what is the Mafia and what is the government, or are they really the same thing?
In the telecommunication business there were a bunch of different networks and different players: For example, the Moscow City Telephone Company, the Moscow Regional Telephone System, the Saint Petersburg Telephone System, the Telex Network, the KGB Network, and the Oil and Gas Network. Now they are all separate units competing with each other, and many of them have found Western partners. Each jurisdiction is trying to grab everything that it has under it and avoid the grasp of whatever stands over it, so you have a very vigorous and competitive market. I would not say it is exactly open, but it is actually pretty exciting. Fundamentally, we want the competition.
There is a lot of investment going on, although there are a lot of associated problems. People are nervous about investing in Russia for a lot of reasons. There are certainly problems there. More American business practices would help. But do not be scared to go in. There are a lot of potential users there who, if they used such a network, would become profitable and would be able to pay for it. I see it as a huge opportunity.
ROBERT WHITE Questions
Are you optimistic about the "joint implementation" of climate change options? Do you think that the cooperative efforts between the United States public and private sectors and developing countries can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Should the United States and other industrialized countries get greenhouse gas credits for their contributions?
WILLIAM WHITE Answers
I am optimistic. I think that joint implementation in the concept has a bright future and will result in a significant reduction. How quickly and how much is something that we all have to root for, but it is something that we have got to watch for. Obviously, we have several very large, growing Asian economies, like China. What China, India, and the former Soviet Union do will determine to a large extent the impact of the energy sector on global warming.
D. JAMES BAKER Answers
Joint implementation is critical, and it is the only way that we can address the problems. We are now engaged in discussions in the first conference of the parties in Berlin. One of theimportant parts of this discussion is a better understanding of how the whole climate system works, because the more we know about how the system works, the better we can make our decisions about exactly how we have to mitigate the greenhouse gases. We are only partially there.
We put together a Global Change Research program in the late 1980s to tell us exactly how the system works. We learned a lot, but we still do not know enough to be able to say with sufficient accuracy what will happen as you add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. So it is absolutely critical that we get this scientific base as well as continue our negotiations with other countries on greenhouse gas reductions.
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