Fareed Zakaria had a segment with some predictions and thoughts for 2017 on his show GPS this week. Tyson was on the panel and started his response with a point about investment in basic science, but what I found really resonated was this response to a follow-up question from Zakaria:
[W]hat happens is — if you go big and audacious, you can attract the best people because you’re challenging them to the limits of their intellectual abilities, which people like to have happen.
So, for example, if we went to Mars and we announced that, what do you need? You need, like, the best engineers of all stripes. You need biologists, if you’re looking for life. You need chemists if you want to till the soil. And there will be patents; there will be innovations; there will be discoveries all along the way.
In Mars, you might want to extract the water from — submerged in the soil. There won’t be much, but someone who wants to do that might invent some device that you bring back to Earth and extract water from the deserts of Sahara. But if you told that person, “I need you to get the water out of Sahara,” that might not excite them as much as doing that on Mars.
So if you want to — from my experience and my read of the history of innovation, if you want to turn — if you want to transform a sleepy country into an innovation nation, the large projects tend to galvanize everybody’s energy and everybody’s capacity to think about the future.