RE: Miller's The Mating Mind

From: Reason (
Date: Sun Sep 29 2002 - 16:00:47 MDT


> The potential donors are interesting; the potential capitalists
> are not, due to their mundane methods of calculating ROI. Their
> idea of high-tech stuff is sl<4. In a way the donors are
> investors in a higher category, seeming offbeat to the squares who can't
> dance to new school beats, seeming overly speculative to those
> who can't see what's on the horizon.

> doesn't see how a whole dish (complex organization around a
> top-down, rational principle) approach is necessary, i.e.- an a la carte
> (altering strictly local properties, goals tacked on as almost an
> afterthought) approach won't work.

This is a very naive view of the way in which new technology is built and
funded. In the real world, new technology is funded by a process of small
incremental steps; you have to show that you can do something meaningful
with $100,000, then $500,000, then a few million, etc.

ROI calculations are not mundane. They are an essential calibration and
feedback mechanism for people wanting to invest in development that is going
to work. If you can't produce something meaningful or see how you can
produce something meaningful with $100,000, then you are unlikely to have
the skills to be able to produce something meaningful with 100 or 1000 times
that much money.

Quite aside from raw capitalism, this is also how government research
funding works.

I would go further and assert that any "technology" or "field of study" that
can't produce meaningful results (be they studies, offshoots, useful
information, minor products, small incremental gains or whatnot) at lower
funding levels isn't actually a feasible, real, useful technology or field
of study.


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