Science needs entrepreneurs-Larry Page

CIOL Bureau
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  Eric Auchard


SAN FRANCISCO: Scientists need more entrepreneurial drive and could benefit by doing more to promote solutions to big human problems, Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page told a meeting of academic researchers.

"There are lots of people who specialize in marketing, but as far as I can tell, none of them work for you," Page told researchers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science late on Friday

"Let's talk about solving some worldwide problems. Let's get people really motivated," he said.


Page, a 33-year-old billionaire who remains co-president of Mountain View, California-based Google, said he took inspiration from the history of Silicon Valley, with its frequent cycles of innovation.

As a computer science graduate student 11 years ago at Stanford University, Page said he came up the with idea of "page rank" -- weighing the relative importance of hyperlinks to improve the relevancy of Web searches -- completely randomly.

Page rank remains at the heart of the world's most popular search system.


"It is not hard to do this," Page told hundreds of scientists, meeting in San Francisco. "You need to think that business and entrepreneurship is a good thing."  

"If no one really pays attention to you, then you have a serious marketing problem," said the Internet boy wonder, who recently transformed his appearance, adopting a modish haircut and light stubble.

Page offered a variety of proposals to raise the profile of scientists in society.


Among the ideas he says deserve further attention:

-- Noting how 40,000 people die annually in U.S. auto accidents, Page proposed giving computers control over cars. While many people fear the loss of control, he said, "I am pretty sure if computers guided cars, a lot fewer people would die."

-- Build fewer roads in underdeveloped parts of Africa. Instead, he suggested ultralight planes capable of traveling at up to 90 mph (145 kph) and which would consume less gasoline than ground vehicles.


-- Solar energy installations in the Nevada desert were capable of producing 800 megawatts per square mile (2.5 square km), somewhat less than half the 2,000 megawatts of a nuclear power plant, he said. (A midsized natural gas-powered plant generates around 400 or 500 megawatts).

-- A major limitation to wind power is the need for a distribution grid to move power from regions where wind blows to where populations are centered. He said 80 percent of the electrical grid of Europe and North Africa could be served by an ambitious wind distribution grid cross-connecting the two regions. "Are we going to build that grid? I don't think so. But I think it would be a good idea."

Page said the reason many scientific undertakings did not succeed was due to a lack of human effort rather than technical hurdles.