By Eric Auchard
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 be 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
"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
Page offered a variety of proposals to raise the profile of scientists
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
-- 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.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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