George Osborne, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, spoke at the Royal Society today about the importance of science.
At one point in his speech he gave an example of the UK’s competitive advantage in scientific research: “We have a particular opportunity in energy efficient computing. IT is an increasingly heavy user of energy – the typical visit to Facebook uses as much energy as boiling a kettle. Energy-use is driven by the number of calculations, so smart algorithms which get to a result with less effort need less energy.”
This statement fascinates me.
Firstly, it makes us aware that using social media has an environmental price tag associated with it, which will only increase given the rapid expansion of this type of electronic communication.
As I type these words I am contributing to carbon emissions.
Secondly, it offers an immediate solution to the highlighted problem. All we need to save the environment is make smarter mathematical algorithms (true Al Gore rhythms?).
Of course this isn’t easy.
We need smarter people to make smarter algorithms, until that is they can improve themselves, which is already starting to happen.
To get smarter people we need to educate them even better and identify earlier the ones who have a particular talent in this area.
To educate them better and identify more of them we need the right teachers and support staff who are suitably qualified for the job.
To ensure we have enough good teachers and support staff we need to poach talent from the pool of smart young people who may go on to make the smarter algorithms.
So we need a strategic decision-making mechanism of some kind.
At the same time there must be some freedom of individual choice. A rigid and inflexible national system cannot respond to changing circumstances, as for example in the former communist bloc (even in China things are finally shifting at the very top).
This is all another reason to justify the localised strategic education partnerships that my business behr outcomes has been advocating for a while now.
I’m still looking for the ideal algorithm to make it all work ….