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VP Remarks - American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science

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Ever since our nation's founding, our boundless search for new frontiers -- our ceaseless quest for knowledge and discovery - has defined the American experience. Today, more than at any time in our history, the strength of our economy, the health of our families, and the quality of our lives depend on the advances that each of you will make. As our research into science and information technology goes, so will go our jobs, our incomes, and the prosperity of our nation. Put simply, the success and health of our families in the next century will depend upon the decisions -- and the investments -- we make today.

That's why President Clinton and I have so aggressively pushed for new and targeted investments in research and information technology. Six years ago, we took office with a fundamental belief: that government must support fundamental investments in science and technology - even when we don't know precisely where those investments will lead.

Last year, we launched the 21st Century Research Fund -- including the largest investment in civilian research and development in American history.  I am here today to reaffirm our commitment to research and discovery and to announce some of the next steps we are taking to lead America into the 21st Century.

We meet at a time today when the scope of our discovery is matched only by the speed of our discovery -- a time when the entire store of human knowledge doubles every five years. Three years ago, when we last met in Baltimore, the President of MIT -- Chuck Vest -- had just presented his annual report as a series of questions. Rather than asking what we did know about science, he asked what we didn't know. In that same spirit, I challenged all of you to push new frontiers and help us better understand the things we didn't know.  We've come a long way together in the past three years.

For instance, we know a lot more today about how the universe works.  Just last year --thanks to the groundbreaking work being done at Sidings Springs Observatories and Lawrence Berkeley Labs -- we learned that there isn't enough matter in the universe to slow the pace of its expansion -- and that, in fact, the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

We also know a lot more about which aspects of our climate are predictable. Thanks to your work, we can observe in real time the tropical upper Pacific Ocean ~ and last year, it allowed us to predict the onset of El Nino and the Southern Oscillation several months in advance
We're learning a lot more about how we can use our information infrastructure to promote learning among children. When we took office, there were fewer than 100 Internet sites. Today, there are more than 100 million users. By the year 2000, there will be 320 million. I am proud to say that thanks to our work together over the past few years, we will soon celebrate the day when every library and every classroom in America is connected to the Internet.

Of all these discoveries, there is no question we know a lot more than we did three years ago about how cells work and how cells die. Chemists are now discovering self-replicating molecules that give us insights into the precursors to RNA and DNA. And the Human Genome project is just a few years away from unlocking the blueprint of human life. Some of this work has already led to new treatments that are promising to halt the development of Parkinson's disease and slow the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. Today, the first medicines to prevent prostate cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer are actually being tested.

Imagine waking up in a world where not a single child has ever heard the word "chemotherapy."  Imagine how it would feel to visit the Smithsonian and see a radiation machine next to an iron lung -- rusting away like a relic from the past. This project could make that day possible.  Work on the Human Genome even holds out the promise that one day we may actually see the development of techniques that allow us to block the growth of blood vessels in tumors, grow new blood vessels in the heart, and even reset the genetic coding that causes cells to age.

We are making progress on every front. At the National Science Foundation, genetic engineering of cold tolerance in plants is helping us produce crops that can survive cold snaps. Research on nanomaterials is leading to better electronic and optical devices for information technology.

The more our science connects to our jobs, the more we all connect to each other. Perhaps the greatest discovery of all this research is that we can no longer separate basic from applied science. We can no longer separate biological research from information technology. The disciplines are connected in ways they have never been before.

These historic innovations also have something else in common: they have all been made possible by federal investments in research and technology. Over the past 30 years, federal investments in research have helped split the atom, splice the gene, put men on the moon, invent the microchip, the laser, and the Internet ~ and have created millions of jobs.

The question today is: are we going to build on this progress -- are we going to continue to explore every corner of our world and universe -- and also take care to balance our newest discoveries with our oldest values? President Clinton and I answer a resounding: YES!  Today, I want to suggest a new compact between our scientific community and our government ~ one that is based on rigorous support for fundamental science, and also a shared responsibility to shape our breakthroughs into a powerful force for progress.
 Let me suggest three ways we can harness science and technology to achieve our highest purposes.

First, we must do more to use science and technology to sustain our prosperity, create jobs, and grow the economy for the 21st Century.

Our economy has never been more driven by science and technology than it is today. Over the past three years, information technology alone has accounted for more than one-third of America's economic growth. More than 7.4 million Americans work in IT today -- and those jobs pay, on average, sixty percent higher than the average job. It's not just good for our economy -- it's good for our families.

No wonder Alan Greenspan said this week that rapid technological change is one of the forces producing what he called  "America's sparkling economic performances.”

It's also an example of public-private partnership at its finest. We make the long-term investments that most companies can't afford to make -- but then they invest in those ideas and find ways to use them to help our families. For example, several years ago I called for the creation of a new Global Information Infrastructure -- a network of networks that will connect every remote village and community to the World Wide Web by the year 2008. More than $600 billion of private capital has now been invested worldwide, and we are on our way. We are also working to connect more than 100 of our top universities to the Next Generation Internet --which is 1,000 times faster than today's Internet. These investments hold enormous promise for raising standards of living, and spawning whole new industries.

We need to do more to keep this progress and prosperity going. So today, I am pleased to make two brand new announcements that will help us grow our economy even more.

First, as part of the balanced budget we are submitting to Congress next month, I am proud to announce that we are proposing an additional $366 million in cutting-edge, job creating information technology research for the 21st Century. This initiative -- which we call "IT Squared" -- represents an unprecedented 28 percent increase in information technology research, and will support both long-term IT research as well as research into advanced applications.

The science that this research could make possible is awesome to contemplate --computers that can speak and understand human language; intelligent agents that can search the Intemet on our behalf; and high-speed wireless networks that bring telemedicine to our most remote communities. By the year 2004, we even expect to have a new supercomputer that makes more than 100 trillion calculations per second -- whose advanced simulations will allow us to test nuclear simulations and even predict tornadoes.
While the possibilities in science are awesome, the possibilities for our jobs, our families, and our economy are even more awesome.  Our investments 30 years ago helped create the 7.4 million jobs we see in IT today -- this initiative will help us sustain that prosperity, and holds out the promise of creating millions of new jobs for generations to come. These are not low-paying jobs -- these are the kinds of jobs that let you raise a family, educate your kids, buy a home, buy a car, take a nice vacation -- and retire in dignity with good health care. That is what this new initiative could mean for America.

To help make that day a reality, we are also taking new steps to stimulate private investment. Today, I am also proud to announce that we will propose an extension of America's $2.4 billion Research and Experimentation Tax Credit. This R&E tax credit means more high- wage jobs for our families, and continued American economic leadership well into the 21st Century.

Second, we must make sure that we not only generate the fruits of discovery, but also share them. That means working to ensure that more of our people have access to technology. and also that we provide the best education in the world.

Knowledge, information, and high skills are becoming increasingly central to both our economy and our society. Most of you are familiar with Moore's Law, which explains that we are now doubling our computing power every 18 months, while the cost of computing power drops by almost 25 percent a year. I'm sure the same could be said of the pace of biomedical research, and countless other disciplines.

The consequences are clear in every industry. To take one example, a Ford Taurus now has more computing power than the Apollo 11 that took us to the moon. At the same time, car manufacturers have trimmed about 1,000 pounds from the weight of an average care by using lighter materials, smarter engineering, and more efficient engines.

Throughout our economy, skills, intelligence, and creativity are replacing mass and money -- which is why, in the past 50 years, the value of our economy has tripled, while the physical weight of our economy as a whole has barely increased at all. Yet, at a time when 60 percent of the new jobs being created require advanced skills, only 15 percent of our people have those skills.

Together, we must renew education -- and we must make the investments that enable people to keep learning for a lifetime -- from pre-school to college to job training and re-training. There is no better investment we can make -- and we need your support and leadership to keep this a national priority.

Third and finally, we must do more to make sure our newest technology advances our oldest and most cherished values.
In a recent issue of Time Magazine, Dr. James Watson argued that the biological revolution today is much like the atomic revolution of the 1940's.  Just as physics was heralded for making the atom relevant to society, it was also feared for the weapons those same atoms made possible. Watson argues that we are seeing the same double-edged sword today -- at the same time the genetic revolution is unlocking the secrets of human life, it is also opening a potential Pandora's box of designer babies, cultural engineering, and cloning.

We cannot let our newest discoveries serve as the newest excuse to unleash the vulnerability to discrimination that has plagued us throughout human history -- on basis of race and ethnicity, religion and gender, and now, genetic predisposition to disease. Then as now, we just take steps to make sure that our discoveries do not outpace our understanding of the economic, social, and legal implications of the Information Revolution.

I have been personally involved in this issue for some time. Nearly 20 years ago, when l was a member of Congress, I drafted and introduced legislation to create a Bioethics commission. It didn't pass, but when President Clinton and I were elected in 1992, we pulled rank -- and one of our first acts was to create a Bioethics Advisory Commission, to study the moral implications of technology. I am proud to announce today that as part of our new “IT Squared” initiative, we are proposing to invest more than $10 million to begin finding answers to some of these difficult questions. In the whirlwind of the big-revolution, we must hold tight to our oldest values.

Taken together, if we work to continue our long-term research, ensure that everyone is given the tools to participate, and work to make sure it advances our oldest values -- I believe we will make real the promise of the work you do -- to learn more about our world, and to use that knowledge as a force for enduring good.

Throughout this millennium, the story of human achievement has been a story of wonder, a story of discovery, a story of imagination, but also of a story of courage to try new things, to believe in what we can't see, and to boldly follow wherever the road may take us. Today, that road of discovery is a highway of light and speed that connects the largest city to the smallest village across the globe. In a world once limited by borders and geography, the only limits we face today are the borders of our imagination.

As we move into a new a new century and a new millennium, let us take that same sense of wonder, that same sense of discovery, and that same sense of courage to make real the values that centuries of human experience have aspired to create - to end suffering, to eradicate disease, to promote freedom, to educate our children, and to lift our families and our nations up. We don't have a moment to waste. Because our children and our world are waiting. Thank you.

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VP Remarks - American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science