Even when our trust is strongly placed in them, reason and education cannot prove to be powerful enough for anything, unless in addition we train ourselves to form our soul through experience for the way that we would like to put it; if we don’t, when the time comes, it will inevitably be hampered.
Michel de Montaigne
Last week was a bad week for democracy and for freedom around the world – but hopefully a wake-up call for all of us. the Schmidt AI report highlighted a huge danger in how quickly we could fall behind China in AI, across the board, and – especially from my perspective – in infrastructure. The National People’s Congress of China – no way to water it down – has set goals and a confident plan to become the leading economy at all levels and in the world, with an average growth of 6% through the end of decade (US growth is barely 1/3 of that, and we don’t set targets anyway). To cap off the week, Freedom House released its annual report showing an increasing speed of the fifteen-year decline of democracy around the world – “The regime’s malevolent influence in China, the world’s most populous dictatorship, has been particularly deep in 2020. “This is not a good set of facts.
What does AI have to do with infrastructure and investments? All. By focusing on the digitization and electrification of infrastructure, we can drive an industrial renaissance, energizing a sustained period of productivity growth and opportunity creation. The best way to start is to trigger a mini AI moonshot on infrastructure by unlocking the investment potential of the sector: addressing regulation (speed, transparency), so that large projects can be approved quickly; identify best practices, so that the death valley of construction risk is minimized or erased; and highlight priority brownfield projects – digitize and electrify the $ 33 trillion in invested assets (the interstate highway network, our transportation network, our ports and waterways) – so that we can finally put our industrial commons in a position to be globally competitive.
From infrastructure to neural structure. In my book, Vision – Our strategic roadmap for the future, I highlight this shift from physical infrastructure – roads, bridges, power plants as the foundation of our productivity – to something we might call a “neural structure,” in which 5G, AI, and machine learning create end-to-end logistics, from coast to coast. network – brains enabling a new era of economic productivity. This is where our attention, our dollars and our innovation need to go.
This injection of intelligence into everything from roads to transmission networks, in which these networks become the brains of the economy, also means – of course – that New investment in infrastructure is no longer an accompanying investment, but a first-rate strategic priority.
This in turn means that the way we think about this investment must go beyond how we have thought about it in the past. This has happened in most industries before, of course – we don’t even think about all the intelligence behind banking or mainstream advertising. Now, that change is happening in the physical world – it’s going to happen quickly, and it will easily be the biggest economic change in 120 years.
One of the quickest bang for our buck is investing in a new logistics system. It is a global market of $ 12 trillion – and a size of $ 2 trillion in the United States. By electrifying and digitizing our highways, we enable distributed and advanced local manufacturing – the industrial equivalent of the farm to fork. We’re also creating an industrial logic that has deep environmental meaning, bringing manufacturing (and well-paying jobs) home rather than shuttling goods across the Pacific. Panasonic’s March 8 purchase of software logistics company Blue Yonder on March 8 gives you a taste of how quickly the industry will tap into this potential – provided we move quickly on good infrastructure investments. It can’t continue to take 9.5 years to approve a new smart highway – how can we do things with 2030 like outside of the envelope?
Here are three priorities that can focus this effort:
Priority 1 – Focus on strategic projects / Mini Moonshots. Above all, we have to move – waiting for an infrastructure bill of $ 3-4 trillion, based on tax increases, is peanuts for a great country. A series of mini moonshots, focused on strategic breakthroughs, will build our trust, build trust between the public and private sectors and build real capacity. Here are three candidates: Arizona’s Technology Highway, uniting Reno and Las Vegas – and the Port of Oakland and the Port of LA / Long Beach; the Great Basin Logistics Project, creating an integrated rail, highway and airport corridor around greater Chicago; and the Autonomy Institute’s plan to create 5G-enabled autonomous trucking lanes along the 50,000 miles of the US interstate highway system. Think what that would do for people’s investment plans – and for our country’s confidence!
Priority 2 – Free up investment. At present, it is difficult to allocate pension funds or other private investments to priority projects because no one knows a) how long the approval process will take, b) if it will be interrupted. capriciously, and c) whether someone will throw a key in the process even after it happens. You cannot overestimate the deterrent effect that the easily manipulated pre-digital approval process has on investors. At the same time, we have a powerful public / private opportunity: privately, our $ 32 trillion in pension fund assets (which are expected to exceed $ 55 trillion in ten years) can quickly be tapped into. a strong pipeline of key projects; Publicly, we have enormous resources available to support these investments, including from the Ministry of Commerce (a revitalized Economic Development Administration); the Department of Transportation (TIFIA and the Build America Bureau); and the Ministry of Energy (in particular the loan guarantee program).
Priority 3 – Use muscle memory. One great strength is that the United States has weathered turbulence and uncertainty in the past – our national identity is defined by these successes. We know that we are good at it and that we need to build a vision for the future based on these successes: launching a new economy in 1900, navigating the transition to cars and airplanes; rebuilding an economy in the 1930s, recovering from an economic collapse to win a war; and do something extraordinary in the 1960s, erasing economic uncertainty by galvanizing an entire nation’s pride around the Apollo lunar mission.
A pivotal moment in history. It is a pivotal moment in history, and one that – with the right vision, bringing us all together – can take us to the Promised Land. It sounds a lot like what 1901 must have felt (that’s easy to say, of course, since no one in the world knows what it was): a time of great promise, of tremendous upheaval, of tremendous optimism. I am optimistic but worried …
Two things must happen if we are to mobilize our country to effectively create America’s next great economy. First, we must recognize that New infrastructure is a key issue, and creating a predictable pipeline of projects so that investment – especially in pension funds – can be made efficiently and at the lowest possible cost. Getting it right is clearly a national security priority as well – no one has ever built a secure economy on a weak economy.
Second, we live in a Madison Republic, and with technocratic leadership driving industrial strategy and direction, we need active and engaged congressional participation, and that will involve the return of the credits – there is nothing wrong with that is the way democracy actually works.
AI, 5G, machine learning, autonomy, blockchain, edge computing, this is getting interesting – infrastructure is now a major issue, welcome to the Big Leagues!