The Conference – Guest Speaker: Venkatesh Narayanamurti

Monday, January 16, 2012

This morning’s keynote speaker is Vennkatesh Narayanamurti (who told us we could refer to him as “Venky”), the Benjamin Pierce Professor of Technology and Public Policy, a Professor of Physics as well as the Director of Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at the Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School.

Presenting today on “Technology and Society,” as a part of our lecture series for this year’s conference which focuses on Technology and Social Justice, Professor Venky made a 40 minute presentation on issues he found really key as well as answered questions from our HCAP staff and delegates.

Drawing upon the social media used in the Arab Spring, the nuclear energy problem from Fukushima, the Durban Conference on climate change, his own experiences with technology (going from 4 hour calls to India when he first came to the States to “lightening speed” Skype and phone calls today), and fun current innovation like IBM’s Watson and Apple’s SIRI, Professor Venky demonstrated to us what the progress in technology has occurred and what the future holds for us, as students and innovators. Some key places he found very important for the next couple decades was 1) energy & sustainability, 2) global health & infectious diseases, 3) poverty and hunger (food security), and 4) economic and social development and prosperity.

Here are some soundbites from his presentation:

“As our world grows and technology improves, it is incredibly key to become a global citizen. We have a global responsibility towards the future.”

“It is our values, not the technology that makes for good or evil” – (can’t find exact quote, but roughly…) Hilary Clinton on Internet Freedom at GWU

“Technology alone is not enough,” said Mr Jobs at the end of his speech introducing the iPad 2, in March 2011. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.”

“Engineers must understand how things work and how the world works and social scientists must not only understand how the world works, but also how the things work.” – Professor Venky

“Creativity becomes invention, which becomes innovation. Innovation is the nirvana that we all seek – for our idea to have a global, social impact.” – Professor Venky

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war.” September 12, 1962 - John F. Kennedy

Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, championed the creation of the National Academy of Sciences, refusing to accept that mere survival was the nation’s primary goal. He said we must add “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery and production of new and useful things.” He went on to found the land grant college system and began the work on the transcontinental railroad.

“What can students do in this day and age? You must have fire in your belly. You must be exposed to many things and find what turns you on. You’re curious. Do something hard. Climb another mountain. Explore explore explore.”

“Technology and values are interactive- some values impact the growth of technology and some technology can influence our value systems.”

“We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

The Conference – Prom

A fun time was had by all at HCAP Prom! Like a true American prom, the delegates arrived all dressed to the nines. The Mumbai delegation looked especially fine in their beautiful traditional Sari. The SOCH penthouse was decorated with streamers, glitter, and snowflakes, going along with the “Winter Wonderland” theme. It took a while to mobilize people into the dance area, but after many pictures, especially the traditional prom poses with dates, people slowly made their way into the room with the DJ to get the party started and get down on the dance floor. The DJ was a hit. The Turkish delegation, especially Cansu, loved the repertoire full of Lady Gaga. The party lasted for several hours, with people dancing, eating cake and pizza, forming new friendships and romances!, and everyone having a crazy time all around. Many pictures to prove it. I think prom was a memorable, magical night, and we are pretty sure all the delegates agree. I hope no one had too difficult of a morning after the enjoyable night…

Special thanks to Rosemary Hines.

The Conference – The Skywalk

The skywalk event was quite spectacular. I myself had never been to the skywalk up on the top of the Prudential Center before, but it was really beautiful being able to see so much of Boston at once. We arrived there at the very perfect time of day. The sun was just beginning to set, casting an orange glow onto the skyscrapers surrounding us. After the sun dipped under the horizon, a weaker reddish glow still remained. As the twilight grew into actual night, the light of the Boston came on, and the view took on a more modern character. Overall the event was very relaxed. It was a great time to just talk to someone you haven’t had a chance to talk to before. Many new friends were made and even more pictures taken.

Though the group was split up on our way to the Prudential Center, with half the delegates getting off at Copley to transfer to the Prudential T stop and the other half taking it all the way to Hynes Convention Center, there was a great sense of solidarity on the top of that building tonight.

-Special thanks to Richard Huang for the reporting

The Conference – Iron Chef

Delicious foooooood! I’m still waiting on pictures from Dubai’s salad and recipes of all the food to come in.

Angela Primbas ’12 said she was very glad she wasn’t a judge because she couldn’t stand deciding between each of the different meals.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong





The Conference – Snowball Fight in the Quad

Whew!!! So this is what a blizzard feels like.

The guys from Hong Kong had never seen snow before. Now we are up to our shoulders in it.

Cliff Notes from the fight:
Bo pushed Derrick into the snow and a free-for-all ensued. I think we all agree that she won the fight. Nevertheless, we shall await Derrick’s icy revenge. As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold (and we’re about to start Iron Chef, no less).

Bo, having called a truce, thinks she is safe. We shall see.

I’m soaked, enough said.

The Conference – Dinner Monday

The HCAP delegates enjoyed a scrumptious dinner of Oggi Pizza in Tiknor Lounge Monday night. Topics of conversation ranged from the high grease content in American food to the ever-present anticipatory question, “what exactly is golf?” The delegates discussed the day’s speakers, and had nothing but compliments for Nancy Turnbull’s address this afternoon, and are looking forward to the rest of the conference events.

The Conference – Sick Around the World

Sunday Night we screened the PBS documentary, Sick Around the World, featuring Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid. It was an enlightening presentation of the failures of the U.S. Health Care System and the solutions offered by five other capitalist democracies: the United Kingdom, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, and Switzerland.

The quality of the health care systems (in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality rate), the amount of coverage, the types of coverage (basic, integrative, alternative, etc.), efficiency of delivery (wait times, access), were compared along with the cost of health care in these countries. It was suggested that the United States could certainly learn a lesson, or two, from these universal coverage systems. A review of the health care systems presented can be found here. And for those who’d like a second look at the film. The film’s critical analysis of these health systems was certainly was a good way to kick off a week of discussion on the changing landscape of global healthcare systems, and where we should be headed in the future!

Author T.R. Reid