If I ruled the world: Lisa Randall

Lisa Randall in Prospect Magazine:

ScreenHunter_1696 Feb. 18 15.52In the solar system, I would hold off colonising Mars. Not because I’m afraid of Martians protesting, but because it would be a good idea to address our problems on Earth first. Besides, Mars doesn’t seem very pleasant. I’m guessing that in the near future our resources can be more sensibly deployed on Earth.

I’m all for continued space exploration—just with a more realistic view of what’s achievable, which is actually pretty remarkable. I would also encourage a renewed ethic of responsibility that would apply to individuals, businesses and politics, in which everyone, including companies, would pay for rubbish disposal and any residual damage, such as environmental or economic crises that result from their actions. My economic team would be charged with devising growth measures that factor in such externalities.

We would also see a lot more scientists, or at least smart people (defined below) in positions of power. Angela Merkel, who studied physical chemistry, has done a pretty good job, despite her current trouble. I do see room for a more rational approach to governance. Clearly these examples show that science training alone is not enough. Scientists don’t know everything, and technologists don’t either. But there is something to be said for knowing what it means to address a problem, or even how to define it. And to know how to recognise the potential limitations of any proposed solution. Most big problems aren’t solved overnight, and scientists know that all too well. The breakthroughs that have changed our lives often derive from these slow-cooked, then flame-broiled discoveries.

More here.