Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
POTOMAC INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES CONFERENCE
OUT OF THE BOX AND INTO THE FUTURE
June 26, 2000
I am pleased and proud to be here. Pleased with the
opportunity to talk about the National Science Foundation
and your goal to anticipate the future of warfare.
Proud to have the honor to introduce Senator Joe Lieberman.
I heard someone say recently that an optimist thinks
that this is the best possible world and a pessimist
fears that this is true.
At a conference that brings together warfighters and
scientists to think about the future, we must be both
optimists and pessimists. Optimists about the growing
power of peace that has closed the 20th century and
raised the curtain on the new century. Pessimists
to envision and plan for worst case scenarios in a
rapidly changing world.
The optimist in us can celebrate the benevolence and
dignity of the human spirit. The pessimist in us knows
that the world must anticipate uncharitable individuals
and malevolent causes. Our task is to enhance the
former and prevent the spread of the latter.
In this world of such powerful contradiction, science
and technology are transforming forces for both the
benevolent and the malevolent.
In a White Paper recently circulated by the Association
of American Universities, national security prospects
were characterized in the following way, (quote) "Since
the end of the Cold War, the world has become a more
uncertain place. ... The old challenge of monitoring
a bear in the woods has been replaced by a task more
akin to keeping track of a swarm of bees." (end quote)
The future suggests even greater complexity and uncertainty.
It is the potential for predicting and preventing malevolence
that concerns this gathering.
Einstein's wisdom can help us here. He offered two
simple dicta. The first, "Imagination is more important
than knowledge." The second, "The only real valuable
thing is intuition."
This is the wisdom that characterizes "out of the box"
thinking. And this, in essence, is the mission of
the National Science Foundation.
Our business and responsibility are vision, foresight,
imagination and intuition. We carry out the mission
by investing in people and ideas that take us beyond
what we know and understand to what feels improbable
but has a strong intuitive pull. Our record on that
account is very good. NSF-supported researchers have
collected 100 Nobel prizes over the years.
Because science and technology are transforming forces,
it will be the emerging fields that will change the
balance of capability in both civilian and defense
applications for the far future. NSF has a central
role in the Administration initiative for nanotechnology,
the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules.
Advances in nanoscale science and engineering will
likely revolutionize the 21st century in the same
way that the transistor and the Internet led us into
a knowledge economy.
A nanometer, one billionth of a meter, will allow us
to custom-construct materials, machines, and systems
using particles less than half the size of a DNA molecule
as the building blocks. This means that we are now
at the point of connecting machines to individual
On the nano horizon, this could lead to molecular computers
that can store the contents of the Library of Congress
in a device the size of a sugar cube. We can anticipate
new materials from nanoscience that will as strong
as steel but ten times lighter. The confluence of
nanotechnology and biology could catapult modern medicine
into a new era. What the participants of this conference
must be prepared to anticipate is whether nano capability
could do the same for terrorism.
The future portends many currently undefined connections
and applications for nano structures. Nanotechnology
has the potential to transform in the same way that
information technologies have done. Fifteen years
ago, few envisioned that IT would have been integrated
into every business and commercial entity and have
infiltrated every facet of our lives. IT has also
brought the potential of cyber- terrorism.
In advanced computing, NSF is investing in new terascale
computing systems for use by academic researchers.
This will take us three orders of magnitude beyond
present general-purpose capabilities. In the past,
our system architectures could handle hundreds of
processors. Now we are working with systems of 10,
000 processors. In a very short time, we'll be connecting
millions of systems and billions of 'information appliances'
to the Internet.
Although terascale computing is envisioned for academe,
we should know better. In the same way that once supercomputers
were the exclusive province of the Department of Defense
-- but not for long -- the terascale machines will
not remain only in the domain of the universities.
Industry processes will be impacted robustly.
The lesson here is not just one of history but one
of imagining and intuition. Many of us who grew up
on science fiction have seen most of it become reality.
But the imagining on a "far out" scale was critical
to that eventual reality.
If we ask what distinguishes Nobelists from other very,
very smart people, we must surely include "an unshackled
imagination," an ability not just to envision beyond
the box, but rather a disbelief that there is a box.
Such people are rare. When they choose art as a career
-- in painting, writing, or dance -- they transform
our way of seeing, hearing, and moving. When they
choose science or engineering as a career, they transform
When they choose leadership as their calling, they
can remake a society for good or evil. In our lifetimes
we have seen both. So as we contemplate the kind of
scientific leap forward that may change the balance
of our preparedness, we should not forget the role
of the social sciences - human behavior - cognition.
In scenario building, the armaments and equipment are
important, but you, as experts, know that the strategy
is critical. You can fight wars without being at war
as we found out for the forty years of the Cold War.
You can keep institutions, nations, and even alliances
on the defensive with limited resources and an irrational
strategy. In the long run, we live in a social universe,
where we humans of good or malicious intent determine
the course of events.
What we especially need are leaders in every field
who have imagination and intuition about our future.
We are most fortunate in that respect to have Joe
Lieberman in the Senate.
Since his election in 1988, Joe Lieberman has been
receiving accolades from his colleagues in the Senate,
the National news media, and the public policy community.
More importantly, his constituents feel that way -
returning him to the Senate with the biggest landslide
ever in a Connecticut Senatorial race.
We know him as both an effective and imaginative leader,
the author of several books on subjects as wide-ranging
as politics, nuclear proliferation, and child support
in America, and since 1995, as Chairman of the Democratic
As your speaker today, he brings an expert's knowledge
of defense and foreign affairs. As well, he brings
an astute understanding of the role of science and
technology in achieving both our economic and national
In May of this year he led a bipartisan coalition of
12 Senators advocating action on the Congressional
commitment to double the civilian R&D budget over
the next decade.
I can think of no better speaker and mentor for the
issues before this conference. Please welcome, Senator