Pioneers of the Future and Prisoners of the Past

Pioneers of the Future and Prisoners of the Past

Human Events
March 6, 2013
Newt Gingrich

The greatest difference in our generation may not be between liberals and conservatives, but between the pioneers of the future and prisoners of the past.

Let me explain.

Across America and around the world there are countless pioneers inventing the future. Many of their developments will change our lives.

The development of 3D printing is revolutionary. The impact of regenerative medicine will be extraordinary. The potential of drones and robots is close to science fiction. The entrepreneurs moving into space travel will reignite the excitement of the endless frontier of space. The Google driver-less car could change everything about insurance, trauma centers, etc. And the Kahn Academy and other massively open online courses could profoundly transform learning for all ages.

As California Lieutenant Governor (and former Mayor of San Francisco) Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, describes in his extraordinary new book, Citizenville, the developments in the use of the Internet for citizen solutions are transforming our approach to self-government and to problem solving (except in Washington and some large state capitals).

My friend Terry Balderson scans the Internet every morning and sends me 80 to 100 interesting stories. The contrast between the excitement of pioneering outside Washington and the banalities inside Washington is striking.

The mindless and even petty qualities of Washington politics and the news coverage of it are a remarkable feature of our times.

The Fiscal Cliff, the sequester, Bob Woodward’s hurt feelings, the Obama Administration’s falsehoods about lay-offs, the lack of interesting congressional hearings, the endless efforts at “bipartisan compromise” (especially in the Senate where it seems a cottage industry) — all these things have a mindless, automatic repeat quality to them.

The best way to understand our era is to contrast the pioneers of the future with the prisoners of the past.

When this thought hit me, I Googled the term and found Deepak Chopra had commented in 2011, “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”

In some ways this insight resembles President Lincoln’s admonition in his December 1862 message to Congress on the State of the Union:

“The question recurs, ‘Can we do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

President Lincoln is the only president to hold a patent on an invention. He had been an attorney for railroads when they were among the highest technology and engineering institutions of his time. He had a deep personal interest in technological innovation (and during the Civil War visited with many inventors of new weapons and technology).

He was prepared to “think anew and act anew.” What a contrast with the current mood of Washington which is mired in the past, in ideological deadlock, and in pettiness.

I am going to dedicate a lot of my upcoming newsletters to the pioneers of the future and the great opportunities they are creating.

We are also going to create at GingrichProductions.com/pioneers a place where you can share with us the breakthrough ideas you run across or the new ideas you may be personally pioneering.

At Newt University we will be interviewing a number of these pioneers online so everyone can access them and learn from them.

With your help I hope we can get Congressional committees to devote at least a third of their time to exploring the pioneers of the future.

Consider just a few of the revolutionary developments that need thorough exploration:

  • 3D printing may revolutionize logistics and save an amazing amount of money in the Defense Department. It may also revolutionize our capacity to go into space by allowing manufacturing on asteroids and the Moon with minimum weight requirements. 3D printing may also return manufacturing to the United States by eliminating the advantages of low cost mass produced production runs. This short video from PBS is a good overview of the technology.
  • The impact of regenerative medicine will be extraordinary. We are on the edge of being able to take your cells and grow the organs you need (and with 3D printing, using live cells to actually print out organs). Kidney dialysis may be replaced with new kidneys. Current disabilities may shrink dramatically so we can grow capabilities.
  • Brain research will produce even greater savings in lives, quality of life, and cost. Brain research will affect autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and mental health. No single area will do more to improve the quality of life and reduce the cost of government than brain research.
  • The potential of drones and robots is close to science fiction. Drones carrying freight may lower dramatically the cost of shipping. Drones over dangerous neighborhoods may increase public safety. Next generation drones may replace the entire F-35 project (today the most expensive acquisition program in the Defense Department).
  • The new generation of entrepreneurs moving into space travel will reignite the excitement of the endless frontier of space. Already there are tourist runs to the space station and plans for suborbital space flights. Billionaires have jumped into the space race and may make a bigger contribution to manned space than NASA in the next decade.
  • The Google driver-less car could change everything about insurance, trauma centers, drunk drivers and elderly citizens or visually impaired citizens retaining mobility. The driver-less car will represent trillions of dollars in savings when it is perfected sometime in this decade.
  • Finally, the Kahn Academy and the massively open online course system could profoundly transform learning for all ages. We are on the edge of an era of decentralized online learning combined with mentors and apprenticeships which will transform virtually everything we currently assume about education. The improvements in outcomes and the decline in costs will be breathtaking.

Everything I just outlined in these 7 paragraphs is real and occurring around us right now.

The prisoners of the past who dominate Washington continue to focus on and fight about the trivia of the past and the dead ends of the present.

With your help I believe we can refocus the system on the opportunities of the future — and of the present, if we are willing to embrace them.

As President Lincoln said: “As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Now we have to follow his advice.

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