Transformational Technologies Cuppa GAO: Coffee with Our Experts (Facebook Live Chat)

hello and welcome to cup of Gao coffee with our experts this is your coffee break with our experts where we take time to answer your questions on Gao related topics and today we're talking about tomorrow well transformational technologies at least those innovations that have the ability or a poised to potentially change aspects of everyday life and if you're like me and when the first time I heard transformational technologies I didn't know exactly what it was but don't worry I'm here with John Neumann he's a director at Gao and deals with Science and Technology issues and John you recently had a report that dealt with transformational technology yes yeah we did we looked at a couple different technologies of this report the transformational technology essentially are technologies that have potential to you know the new technologies that potential specifically enhance existing technologies or create completely new areas of technology and so in this report we looked at two areas quantum computing and synthetic biology is essentially case studies of different types of transformational technologies and one of the focuses of the report was quantum computing could you talk a little bit about what that is and why it's important sure yes a quantum computing is a completely different approach to computing where essentially we're relying on the behavior of atoms or molecules to manipulate data the potential there is to be able to perform much more complex compute computational problems as well as to compute it faster speeds than current computing allowance and another topic was synthetic biology what is that what can we expect from this right so so that's a combination of biology and engineering to essentially manipulate life forms and so for example gene editing where you can edit genetic material to either add or take away certain physical traits and these are things that I assume will have application in the near future for us yes so synthetic biology there are applications already being used right now for example in genetically engineered crops and synthetic producing synthetic biofuels for energy purposes and there's a real potential to have advances in medical breakthroughs be able to detect and even eliminate certain diseases through synthetic biology now these aren't the only transformational technologies that Gao has done work on could you talk a little bit about some of the topics Gao has explored or reported on recently sure so under the direction of our chief scientist we will do a technology assessment every year so looking at emerging technology areas and recently we've looked at artificial intelligence and some of the implications of that technology we've looked at the Internet of Things the Kinect increased connectivity of devices to the Internet as well as as other areas like 3d printing so as we talk about these transformational technologies we would ask that if you have any questions feel free to send them to us in the comment section we'll get to them as we see them John as we talk about these transformational technologies I imagine the interest isn't just in the sort of advances we can see in the future but also where America stands in the global environment are we leaders in these fields this so the US has been a world leader in research and development in these technology areas for decades there's a lot of research going on both at the federal level federal agencies universities and companies and so we do have a entrepreneurial culture where innovations is important but however there are experts that believe that if we don't change some things to be more competitive that we may lose our edge to other countries that are making huge investments in certain research areas like China for example and when you say we may lose our edge are we looking at economic concerns or we're looking at national security concerns all of the above yeah so there's certainly economic implications each of these emerging technologies have the potential to really grow our economy add new millions of jobs but also there are national security considerations for example if someone else gets the head of us in quantum computing they could have the lead in cyber security and encryption which would make it difficult for us to keep up John we have our first question and it's taking us back to the topic of synthetic biology it's from Oni vas and they ask how mounting that right they ask what disease is almost likely to get addressed with synthetic biology do we have a feeling for that so we didn't cover that in a report we looked at what federal agencies are doing in terms of research we know that the agencies like the human Health and Human Services Agency NIH others you know are doing research to to look at that and where we can apply it and some of this is still you know in development and but there's definitely the potential to detect certain genetic diseases that maybe could potentially would be eliminated but there are definitely ethical concerns about adjusting human life forms and so that's something that will have to have to be addressed before those can be put into place and looking at the federal government's involvement in this what is being done to support these potential game changers yeah so as as we mention in our report there are a range of agencies for example in synthetic biology we identified ten agencies that are conducting research and synthetic biology and sometimes the the research is for just furthering scientific knowledge and other times it's for a specific purpose or mission for the agency for example the Defense Department wants to know how to protect against certain pathogens that might be developed within synthetic synthetic biology and so having that research ongoing to help them stay ahead of any new challenges that could come new threats that could come from from things developed with specific synthetic biology so once again thanks for joining us we're having a cup of Gao with John Newman a director here who deals with science and technology issues and we're talking about transformational technologies and we're taking your questions John as a frame of reference could you talk about some examples of transformational technologies that we may be familiar with that has to have come out recently well I think for example you know the biofuels you know synthetic biofuels for energy purposes are already in use genetically modified crops is already something that's being dumb aesthetic biology on the quantum computing side that's still maybe a decade or more away from having you know real applications the research is ongoing there's definitely some promise there but it'll take some time before we can figure out how to stabilize that technology and apply it to and use it in ways that's faster than existing computer technology looking at quantum computing could you talk a little bit about what sort of federal agencies are involved and what that involvement entails all right so there's an airport we identified six different agencies that are involved in quantum computing computing research like Department of Defense Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation among others and they each have different purposes for doing the research the Defense Department for example is again looking to stay ahead militarily how to maintain that military edge amongst potential adversaries whereas the National Science Foundation on the other hand is really just looking to further the scientific knowledge and to identify those areas where there could be potential value to the public and the economy has there ever been any talk about bringing these different federal agencies under one umbrella under under an overarching organization so the the u.s. research system is very decentralized and and has been so since World War two and we didn't have any concerns with that but we did look at the interagency working groups in this report to see how our agencies coordinating with each other to ensure that we're learning from each other as we're doing research in this the common areas and then we believe that there with leading practices for collaboration that the interagency coordination could be improved for example by better defining outcomes and working towards a common purpose and so that's something we recommended in our report is there any concern from the federal government that it may look like they're in the they're in the game of picking winners and losers as they go about these endeavors yeah you sometimes hear that but you know most of this research is in early stages and so if the federal government's not funding and it's not likely that a company is going to go out and and fund something unless it has a proven product or service it can get out of that so the federal government does a lot of research or supports research at the universities and even at – to further the knowledge and then it's up to companies decide you know where is the potential value that they can get out of that technology so there are definitely programs in place to help do that for example technology transfer programs and agencies but that's an area that are the experts we add and if we talk to in this report had concerns about that there may be a gap between the early stage research and the commercial product and that that's something that the US needs to think about and address if we want to remain competitive and were there specific recommendations from Gao on how to address that gap so rather than recommendations what we did is we pull together an expert panel of about 20 experts from quantum computing synthetic biology and other broader research areas and we got them together for a two-day discussion with the help of the National Academies of science and from that we identified some key considerations for Congress to think about as we talk about how to remain competitive in these transformational research areas okay if you're just joining us this is cup of Geo coffee with our experts and we're talking about transformational technology those those innovations that are poised to change aspects of our daily life we've talked about quantum computing we talked about synthetic biology John what can we expect from g/l Gao in the future when it comes to looking at science and technology issues so we're doing a range of science and technology related audits so we look at the evaluation of programs and policies federal government has in science programs for example we're in the course of looking at the advanced manufacturing Institute's these are institutes that were set up to help advance manufacturing ensure that we in the US are able to maintain our competitive edge in in in that area and increase that because we have competition from other countries and so that's an example of an area that we'll be reporting on and then you know we have planned work looking at other emerging technology areas for example blockchain is an area that it's a great interest and will under the direction that the chief scientists will likely do some work to evaluate that technology and where it stands and the implications of that blockchain you know that's cryptocurrency essentially that has the potential to really change the way we do financial transactions you've mentioned how our standing is related to other countries and the importance of really getting this right to maintain where we are are we looking at the efforts that other countries are taking in these research areas well you know sometimes that that does come up in some of our work and in for example in the advanced manufacturing work we are looking at other models of collaboration including Germany has a model for collaborating public/private partnerships and research areas so we look at lessons learned from that but also in the US there's lots of examples of public-private partnerships that have been excessive Airi successful SEMATECH is a good example where it was an industry-led but government-sponsored effort to you know kind of coordinate on on electronic circuitry and other things necessary for the economy quantum computing seems to be a popular topic in this chat we've got a question from Louie who wants to know what specific effects could our society see from advancements in quantum computing so I mean a lot of that is still to be determined and and while we talk to the agencies and experts about this research area we didn't really probe on all the potential applications we want to get a better understanding of what research is ongoing who's funding it and what are the gaps if any in some of the things we need to do to make sure we're stay at the top of this research area but there's definitely wide-ranging applications and I think I mentioned earlier cybersecurity you know it could improve cybersecurity encryption and anywhere where you need any field where you need computer simulation complex computer simulation and so that's where it could have all sorts of applications and you had mentioned how important it is for us to get this right I mean the first the first person or the first nation to really figure quantum computing out they're gonna have quite an edge one thing potentially yeah I mean especially if they can stay ahead of us in the encryption then they will have the edge on cyber security there's another question from Sarah this is more roll she's asking how will these new technologies impact her daily life could you give some examples of some things that you know put on your fortune-teller yeah I mean coming down the pike so in synthetic biology I think is the one that you know it stands out to me as having a real impact I mean be able to eliminate certain diseases genetic diseases I mean talk about you know life-changing life-saving and so I think that's where you have a lot of tension but there's other transformational research areas that you know have the potential to change and our artificial intelligence again machine learning we're increasingly seeing more and more no computers assisting daily life and that's got a lot of benefits but there's some risks and challenges there is that you're watching cup of gee al coffee with our experts where we take time to answer your questions on geo topics and with me is John Newman a director at Gao deals with science and technology issues John can you talk a little bit about your work at Gao what are some of the things you encounter sure so in kind of leading a cross-cutting you look at Science and Technology programs we have three basic areas of work that we focus on is just kind of oversight and management of research and development programs making sure that the money is being spent efficiently and effectively and so that's something we look at we also look at management and protection of intellectual property that includes things like the Patent Office ability to issue quality patents that won't be that will stand up in court essentially and then we also look at just the ways that the federal government supports innovation as I mentioned you know things like these public-private partnerships to advance certain technology areas and make sure that the US economy is taking full advantage of these technology areas coming back to where we started the report that was just released last week could could you give a little background on that again for people who have just joined the the transformational research and quantum computing and synthetic biology sure so so in this report what we set out to do is look at you know some selected areas of transformational research those that have the potential to really transform you know it's a certain technology and have impact the broad ranging impact and we selected quantum computing and synthetic biology is to emerging areas of technology that were useful to look at and to get a better understanding of how do the federal agencies support this type of research what other research is going on in the private sector and non-federal entities and how well is that research coordinated and then lastly to look at you know what types of considerations do we need to think about to ensure that the u.s. remains competitive in these emerging areas and why did why did you pick quantum computing and synthetic biology well so there's certain characteristics that experts identify we spoke to a wide range of experts we have our own internal experts too here in Gao I mentioned our chief scientists earlier and so we consulting with with internal experts and then external experts we identified quantum and synthetic biology is two emerging areas that we hadn't looked at before and we're of interest to to a large group of people and were there recommendations that came out from the report yes so in this report we identified that you know the agencies are coordinating the sharing some knowledge they're getting together in these working groups led by various agencies but we thought that they could do a better job of implementing some of the leading practices that Gao is identified on the interagency collaboration for example identifying and working towards common outcomes so that's something that we recommended that the chairs of those working groups implement and then we can be sure that the research is being leveraged and they're working towards a common purpose so these are issues that don't just pertain then to quantum computing right so while the recommendations were specific to these two areas because that's what we focused on I think the lessons learned apply to to all areas where you have inter interdisciplinary research going on both in the public and private sector and can we expect I've asked this question before but I think it's important for people who've just joined can we expect a focus a new focus a different focus from Gao on science technology is there is there going to be more effort on this well we certainly are talking with Congress you know regularly to find out what their needs are as you know Gao it gets much of its requests for audits and reports from Congress the form of request letters or mandates in law and so we're ready communicating with different committees to find out what areas in the science technology field it would be of interest and use to them in their policymaking so where the you know fact-based nonpartisan you know folks that can provide that information in to Congress and then they can use that to make policy decisions as well as the agencies can also make changes improvements to their programs we've got another question and that is what caused Gao to study or look into these topics I think we just went over that but in general um how does that process work right so in this case we had a request from from a committee the House Science Committee and they were very interested in learning how does the federal government support transformational research so it was a pretty broad question to ask so we kind of translated that to something that was a little more manageable and came up with you know an approach that allowed us to incorporate expert views both internal and external experts we're not scientists and the audit side but we have scientists here on staff and then also just looking from a policy and program evaluation standpoint how are these agencies doing what are the practices they need to be implementing to ensure that they're successful in what they're trying to achieve this is kuppa GAO coffee with our experts and we're talking about transformational technology John I think we're gonna start wrapping this up so please ask your questions why are they important what's the federal government interest in these things well I think that the potential for you know these types of innovative technologies have the potential to create millions of jobs and trillions of dollars to our GDP and they have you know could provide real improvements to our lives and so I'm gonna think about technologies like GPS or the Internet those were started with federal research funding and of course companies had to develop that into something that's useful for the public but over time that has become ubiquitous I mean I use GPS every morning trying to get to work on time right and talking about GPS that was developed you know with support or through the Department of Defense so there were national security concerns with it are there heavy national security concerns with things like synthetic biology or quantum computing right so you know if they're there are national security concerns up up to that agency to kind of protect that information but I think with a lot of this research that the general principles that we're learning can be applied to multiple disciplines so that information is shared you know outside of that domain but yeah as we need to design specific applications those might be the national security protected we do have another question that's from tend and they ask what agencies are most heavily involved in quantum computing and synthetic biology research okay yeah so for quantum computing we've focused on six agencies had some major efforts going on in quantum computing and ten agencies that were involved in synthetic biology for the quantum computing area you know Defense Department Department of Energy NASA the National Science Foundation amongst others were involved in a significant amount of research there on the synthetic biology you know the range of agencies really expanded to include other agencies like EPA and USDA and so there's a whole range of agencies and there might be other agencies that are doing small things in this area as well that we didn't capture but we were focused on kind of the major players in the federal research and then we've got another question John and that is what federal entity created GPS I've pointed it out not to put you on the spot yeah I will have to look at the report but I believe it was a Navy DOD technology that was to help guide them in out in the open sea okay well John is there anything you'd like to add before we we wrap up here well just that I think some of the experts that we've brought together you know like said we've brought together a cross-section of experts and they identified some really important considerations for Congress and the federal government to consider as we think about these transformational research areas and one of the things that they mentioned was this having a strategic approach that's really important but another thing that I thought was also very valuable too mentioned his workforce and we don't necessarily have people trained for the workforce we're gonna need for tomorrow and so we're always talking about preserving jobs in the u.s. well that's really important so you know the experts identify that as an area that we need to focus on that you know industry and universities need to work together to make sure people are trained for the jobs of tomorrow so I think that's another area I think it's really important to highlight from that report sounds great well thank you very much John thank you Matt and thanks for watching this episode of cup of GA o coffee with our experts if you're interested in finding more about Gao products please go to and if you're interested in finding out more about John's report you can search on for Gao – one eight six five six that's the report number and and you can find out more and if you have questions that we didn't get to if you have questions if you're watching this after we posted it after we've been live please send those questions to ask us at Gao gov that's a SKU ass at Gao gov and thank you very much

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