Connecting not-so-random dots

The nuclear reactors crisis in Japan has shoved that entire industry into the sort of spotlight they assuredly hoped to forever avoid.  As countries around the globe now dutifully reexamine their plans for nuclear energy, much discussion and debate is ensuing about how best to supply energy to our voraciously electric and gas-charged societies.  An article by Thomas Homer-Dixon, published in today’s Globe and Mail, made me think of a couple of things.  Well, it actually made me think of lots of large and small things but for the subject of this blog post it made me think of the author, the institution where he works, and the community in which it is situated.

Homer-Dixon has a long and storied history as one of Canada’s more eloquent big thinkers. His writings never fail to educate the interested and to challenge conventional ideas.  They force a stretching of the mind, pushing the reader, or radio listener, to consider in detail something about which perhaps he or she had never, prior to that moment, even given a single thought. Today’s article presents an idea of tapping into the earth’s core for thermal energy to generate steam with which we could power turbines.  I suppose for some people the idea is not brand-new.  I also suppose that I might possibly have heard or read of the idea before. Perhaps it is due to the nuclear crisis of today or perhaps it is due to Thomas Homer-Dixon having written about it but the idea has a certain shine for me and will almost certainly be written now to my brain’s hard-drive. Call me simple but urgency and eloquence can trigger a permanent memory.

As Mr. Homer-Dixon’s biography states, he holds the Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) in Waterloo, Ontario. Waterloo is where Research in Motion (RIM) is headquartered and where a burgeoning cluster of high-tech firms are thriving.  The cluster is likely benefiting from the proximity of BSIA and of that other arguably more famous institution, The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.  The latter is also the home-away-from-home for Stephen Hawking, the one person who, regardless of who else was in it, would most certainly be the “smartest guy in the room”.

I don’t have data or irrefutable evidence that proves clusters of like-minded firms do better than firms that stand alone.  But we’re reading, hearing, and seeing bright ideas from folks in Waterloo, advanced ideas that are complicated but helpful, sometimes obvious and sometimes revolutionary.  These people presumably lunch together on occasion.  Maybe that’s what gets things started.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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