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Is $100 Million Per Year Too Little For The Brain Map Initiative?

samzenpus posted 1 year,11 days | from the bigger-allowance dept.

Government 190

waderoush writes "At a time of sequesters and shrinking R&D spending, critics are attacking President Obama's proposed Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, which would have a $100 million budget starting in 2014. But in fact, the project 'runs the risk of becoming a casualty of small-bore thinking in science business, and politics,' argues Xconomy national life sciences editor Luke Timmerman. The goal of the BRAIN initiative is to develop technologies for exploring the trillions of synapses between neurons in the human brain. If the $3 billion Human Genome Project and its even more productive sequel, the $300-million-per-year Advanced Sequencing Technologies program, are any guide, the initiative could lead to huge advances in our understanding of Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and consciousness itself. Only government can afford to think this big, argues Timmerman. 'Even though $100 million a year is small change by federal government standards,' Timmerman writes, 'it is enough to create a small market that gives for-profit companies assurance that if they build such tools, someone will buy them. We ought to be talking about how we can free up more money to achieve our neuroscience goals faster, rather than talking about whether we can afford this puny appropriation at all.'"

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190 comments

More ways to sped (1, Insightful)

putzin (99318) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393461)

While I'm all for government research. We need to spend less, not more. BRAIN sounds great, but so does a hundred other potential research projects that aren't even up for funding.

Re:More ways to sped (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393493)

There are many potential projects, so we should spend LESS?

Re:More ways to sped (3, Insightful)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394493)

Yes, sometimes more, sometimes less, that's how prioritization works.

Although learning more about how the brain works is a worthy goal, it is not necessarily the *most* worthy goal, and it may actually be better to have the government spend less on it (so more can be spent on other things).

If we solved all the other problems in the world except demystifying the brain (even if it wasn't that important), then we should absolutely spend all our research money on that. This is an example of having less potential projects causing the best option to be to spend more on brain research.

Re:More ways to sped (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394015)

While I'm all for the use of "clever" acronyms, calling it Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies does not result in BRAIN, it results in BTRAIN.
Get that Booty Train a-rollin, yo!

Re:More ways to sped (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394283)

The government should be a major source of funding for research, the government doesn't have to worry about being profitable in any given quarter, so long as the research leads to prosperity that's all well and good.

As the AC asked, the solution to many potential projects is less funding? In what way does that make any sense at all?

What's more you wouldn't be typing that without US government money for things like the internet and laptops would probably not exist either as battery research was primarily driven by space exploration related needs.

When all is said and done this sort of "thinking" is what's threatening the US, get the government out of it and hope your cause is sufficiently sexy to attract philanthropists.

Re:More ways to sped (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394655)

The government should be a major source of funding for research, the government doesn't have to worry about being profitable in any given quarter, so long as the research leads to prosperity that's all well and good.

And if we spend $100 to get $1 of prosperity, it's Other People's Money, and we'll just ignore all the waste and fraud!

Re:More ways to sped (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394565)

I'm all for spending less but we should actually debate what we need to spend more or less on. When the debate on anything boils down to two sides arguing spend more or spend less we have already lost. Try asking how much we should spend on any given thing and why. I don't benefit from Social Security or Medicare. Nor do I think I benefit proportionally for paying taxes to support half the world's military spending. At least as far as debt goes, money is all made up anyway (even when it was based on gold) and doesn't change the actual resources or manpower that we have. So either this research is worth the investment or it's not. Regardless of our debt.

It's too much (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393487)

If there were a demand for such a thing, the free market would have demanded its creation already.

This is just another rathole down which to pour more borrowed/printed money that our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will never be able to pay back.

Re:It's too much (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393539)

I assume the Human Genome Project was a waste too? And nearly all space travel?

Re:It's too much (2)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394293)

I know you're a troll, but on the chance that people are thinking the same thing.

Private funding tends to be pretty short sighted. If there isn't an immediately obvious application for it, and a way of making a buck on it, chances are it won't be done. Government money doesn't mean that you can research things of no significance, it just means that you don't have to be able to turn it profitable by itself. And a ton of research out there is useless by itself, but when combined with other studies and research projects makes for some very useful things.

Re:It's too much (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394411)

Government money doesn't mean that you can research things of no significance...

Shrimp treadmill. http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/federalbudgetprocess/a/How-Much-Shrimp-Treadmill-Study-Cost-Taxpayers.htm [about.com]

Re:It's too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394715)

Yeah, but that shrimp treadmill story is bullshit. The treadmill portion cost all of about $1000 and was a minor portion of the work. The full project was what cost 500k and the research was centered on the effects disease has on respiration. Shrimp are simple and easy to study, the reasearch was directly focused on marine life, with the likelihood of giving direction for future studies on the effects of infection on people. But yeah, total waste...

You sound like Sarah Palin railing on the stupidity of using research dollars on fruit flies.

Re:It's too much (1)

DoctorBonzo (2646833) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394463)

Unfortunately, government funded research also is short sighted, but sometimes not as short as that which is commercially funded.

Note that it usually has to be sold to Congress (the actual funders) as having some societal good - witness the brain project being touted as maybe leading to cures for Alzheimers.

Basic research (that is with no obvious commercial potential) usually follows free market principles - there's no market for it so it has to be done for free.

I don't see this changing anytime soon, and maybe it shouldn't...

Faster than expected! (1)

Empiric (675968) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393499)

... more money to achieve our neuroscience goals faster

Apparently they've already achieved augmenting the mind to psychic powers, because there's no other way he knows what my (as, yes, a member of the set of "our") neuroscience goals are.

Since, however, I am not a consulting neuroscientist nor a corporation poised to monetize discoveries in this field, my goals, at least in the "money" terms, probably vary.

Re:Faster than expected! (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394321)

What are you on about?

The focus of this research is on the technology necessary to map and study the brain. So, it accelerates pretty much any brain related research. So, as long as you plan not to get dementia or alzheimers you may well be right, but there's a ton of research left to be done on all sorts of things that's held up by the limited technology for studying brains of living subjects.

Re:Faster than expected! (0)

Empiric (675968) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394481)

Or, to put it another way, there's a ton of research left to be done for which the entire medical industry has looked at the tangibility of the definition of the objective, and the likelihood of its pursuit being useful, and (with their own money on the line), all passed.

Ignore the Critics, Research is Necessary (5, Insightful)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393501)

Research like this is needed, and could yield benefits in medicine, business, and simply human curiosity about our nature. We *could* just cut programs until we stagnate, or we could invest in science and try to grow. I vote for the latter.

Re:Ignore the Critics, Research is Necessary (3, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393779)

The big question isn't so much whether brain research is good and needed (I think it is), but whether handing out wads of cash to private profiteers is actually the most effective way to do research. There are plenty of highly qualified, smart, and innovative academic researchers who would be glad to get grants without tacking on a fat profit bonus for investors. Private business is great at self-promotion and sucking up cash from public coffers into private pockets, but it's doubtful whether those massive added inefficiencies are balanced by equal or greater gains in quality of results over publicly-funded non-profit research.

Re:Ignore the Critics, Research is Necessary (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393897)

Jealous?

Re:Ignore the Critics, Research is Necessary (2)

femtobyte (710429) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393943)

Nope. Jealous would mean that I wished academic researchers would be paid millions and millions, and be able to rule over all the peons below. That's not the outcome I want. I just don't think multimillionaire profiteers should be granted such societal power, either, especially when they're only doing a less efficient job of what academic researchers do with far lower wasted margins.

Re:Ignore the Critics, Research is Necessary (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393803)

It could go either way. Investment in fundamental research is a great idea for government, one that has returned some of the best dividends over time.

On the other hand, you can't just throw money at anyone who talks pretty about brains. That opens the door for scammers and frauds to come in and steal a lot of money.

The guys in the article don't really seem to have a clear plan, they just want investments in things like nano-diamonds. Also their idea is to take the money away from cancer research, which is weird. I'd like to see ideas that are at least a little more concrete than that before supporting a billion dollar commitment on the topic.

Re:Ignore the Critics, Research is Necessary (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394043)

Research is good no doubt. The problem is, as always, that there are limited resources, and sometimes using those resources responsibly means saying "no" to an expenditure that you may really really want to make.

For instance (to use an extreme example), if we were talking "Zimbabwe", and you were to say "they should definately invest in space research", I might respond that, while true, their limited resources should be spent on their many more pressing issues.

We're not Zimbabwe, but we do need to watch how much we spend, and we already spend huge amounts on medical research. It would be inaccurate to make a dichotomy between "providing more funding for BRAIN" and "doing no research like this".

Re:Ignore the Critics, Research is Necessary (1)

jd (1658) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394099)

Agreed on all points, though I'd have to agree with femtobyte as well that profiteers make horrible scientists. $100 million is peanuts, as the original article notes, but that is only a bad thing if it operates in complete isolation. If it cooperates with the Connectome Project and other neurological studies, this study could be quite useful. But that is only true if the division of labour is correct. You cannot break a scientific project into N sub-projects at random, even $100 million ones. If everyone got together and discussed who is best placed to do which part, the results could be extremely valuable.

Even more so, when you consider that a 13T MRI scanner capable of handling humans should be online just about now. Since that has already been built, the cost of building it is effectively zero. The resolution achievable from such a scanner, however, should be nothing short of spectacular.

Can you even begin to imagine the advances achievable from a consortium of Connectome researchers, high-end (9.3T and 13T) MRI labs, and this new foundation?

Ok, now you've imagined it, stop. We're talking politicians, scientists under publish-or-perish rules, get-rich-quick corporations and corrupt "advocacy". There's no possible way any of those involved will be capable of doing what they should do.

Excuse me... (1)

3seas (184403) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393521)

Where does government get its funding from? And who is it that has a serious budgeting problem?

Re:Excuse me... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394421)

The government gets its funding through raising taxes, loans, and by creating new money. Taxes are very low right now, yield on T-bills so low that a 10-year note effectively has a negative yield, and the cost of creating new money is ridiculously low with inflation pushing hard against the lower bound. Combing all of that plus our enormous and long running unemployment and the USA has a very serious budgeting problem: we're not spending anywhere near enough.

It's a scam. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393523)

There is already a TON of brain research being funded. This is repackaging existing research as something new. $100 million is nothing compared to the amount already being spent.

Far enough along to throw money at it? (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393527)

Throwing money at a problem only works if you known roughly what you want to do. The Manhattan Project had a well defined goal - 1) separate uranium isotopes or make plutonium, and 2) figure out some way to assemble them fast enough to get a fast chain reaction. They knew up front roughly what was needed. The Apollo program was a step up from the previous rocket programs, but it wasn't the first big rocket.

On the other hand, throwing money at controlled fusion has not been very successful. We don't know how to make that work. Throwing money at artificial intelligence didn't accomplish much until recent years. Interestingly, mobile robotics is now far enough along that throwing money at it works. NASA blew about $80 million on the Flight Telerobotic Servicer in the 1980s and got zip. DARPA has spent over $100 million with Boston Dynamics on BigDog, LS3, PETMAN, and ATLAS, and they're getting results.

The trouble with the BRAIN program is that they're talking about developing bigger computers to emulate a brain, but don't really know what problem they have to solve. This could turn into another supercomputer boondoggle. The comment I've made previously (once to Rod Brooks) about emulating a human brain is that you should try to emulate a mouse brain (1/1000th the mass) first. All the mammal brains have roughly the same architecture. Until you can emulate a mouse brain, you're not ready to try for a human brain. Brooks replied that "he didn't want to go down in history as the person who created the world's best robot mouse." So he tried Cog, which was an embarrassing flop, and hasn't been heard of much since.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (1, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393615)

Oh we know what we want to do. More basic research.

This, OTOH is just a typical presidential PR stunt [npr.org]. A 'dream team' approach. Well, that doesn't even work so well in sports and science isn't a basketball game.

It's just a way to 1) make noise 2) make some more noise and 3) toss some money to some politically connected friends.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394063)

It's just a way to 1) make noise 2) make some more noise and 3) toss some money to some politically connected friends.
Nothing to see here, move along.

Sounds like the IRAQ war Bush friends got us into. Unfortunately, it took us over 10 years to "move along"...

Personally, I'd rather spend *only* 100 million on brain research.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (2)

the gnat (153162) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394149)

toss some money to some politically connected friends

Which friends would those be? People like George Church are not exactly politically connected, not in any way that matters. If a politician wants to hand out spoils to guarantee future party loyalty, giving money a relatively tiny clique of academic scientists is one of the least effective methods I can imagine.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (5, Interesting)

Synerg1y (2169962) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393653)

the initiative could lead to huge advances in our understanding of Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and consciousness itself

The goal is right in the summary, you wouldn't even have to RTFA...

Ever meet anybody with the former 2 conditions? $2/year an American is less than I'm about to go spend on lunch, saying its not worth it implies a general misunderstanding of the scope of the US economy and a disregard for fellow human beings suffering from these conditions.

I also feel I've met way too many people with the third condition, some of it is pretty atrocious.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (2)

Graydyn Young (2835695) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394073)

I personally suffer from human consciousness, and I'll tell ya, it ain't easy. For most sufferers, fits of consciousness often last 16 hours or more and cause serious feelings of confusion and frustration. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I don't even know the nature of my own being. There are several disease modifying medications available to sufferers of consciousness, but they are highly restricted and come with a whole host of side effects.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394077)

the initiative could lead to huge advances in our understanding of Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and consciousness itself

Ever meet anybody with the former 2 conditions?

Even more useful, spend that money simply studying the last item (consciousness) on members of the House and Senate. I'm sure we'd find *something* - eventually...

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (2)

oldhack (1037484) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394277)

The goals you quoted might as well read "the good stuff". If you can't even propose what you specifically want to try, you can spend your own god damn money.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394527)

We're on a topic where understanding the why leads to the how though. Understanding the how has proven impossible up to this point.

I think a lot of the responses here are the government's fault though for botching an infinite number of these studies where nothing actually got studied and the money was just recycled among a few staff until it was gone. But, still I think it's a worthy goal, and I support it, though I'd just like to see more checks and balances.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394543)

Well, I for one hope you or your parents get Alzheimer's and suffer a slow, horrible decline. Then if at the end you are even capable of remembering your past attitude or comprehending regret, you can wish you had understood the reason individuals can't just "spend their own god damn money" trying to solve the big scientific and healthcare issues. Honestly, there's a pretty solid chance you are only alive (or even ever existed) today because others were a hell of a lot less selfish than you.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394637)

There are countless conditions that cause human suffering. To decide to fund one group or another necessarily means that funding can not be used to help a different group. Saying that people who don;t support this don't care about suffering is retarded. It is *as* retarded as saying you don't care about suffering because you'd don't want to spend those $2/year on a campaign to stop "texting while driving" which also saves lives.

You might say ok fine, lets spend $4/year then. The problem is that you could easily come up with 50000 things that we could spend money on, and now our entire GDP is spent on government research.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394711)

the initiative could lead to huge advances in our understanding of Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and consciousness itself

That's not a goal. That's the kind of thing to tell venture capitalists when you want them to give you money. A goal sounds more like this, "We're going to use radiographic injection to observe the brain and collect data." It's a plan that's reachable and achievable.

Remember, AI funding already got cut once (AI winter) because of making ridiculous overpromises.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (1)

Alomex (148003) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393677)

he comment I've made previously (once to Rod Brooks) about emulating a human brain is that you should try to emulate a mouse brain (1/1000th the mass) first.

To me this is the hallmark of an over-hyped project. Setting overly ambitious goals that are not achievable even in the medium term but designed to attract media attention.

The MIT media lab was a classical example of this, with press release after press release promising some life changing research or product (OLPC anyone?) well before the problem and solution space were well understood.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393833)

On the other hand, throwing money at controlled fusion has not been very successful. We don't know how to make that work.

We know what we need to do [slashdot.org], the path forward is fairly clear. We haven't exactly been throwing money at it [imgur.com], that's the problem.

Other than that, I agree with your post.

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393855)

"On the other hand, throwing money at controlled fusion has not been very successful"

We have never "thrown money at controlled fusion"
See..
http://i.imgur.com/sjH5r.jpg

Re:Far enough along to throw money at it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394103)

The trouble with the BRAIN program is that they're talking about developing bigger computers to emulate a brain, but don't really know what problem they have to solve. This could turn into another supercomputer boondoggle. The comment I've made previously (once to Rod Brooks) about emulating a human brain is that you should try to emulate a mouse brain (1/1000th the mass) first. All the mammal brains have roughly the same architecture. Until you can emulate a mouse brain, you're not ready to try for a human brain. Brooks replied that "he didn't want to go down in history as the person who created the world's best robot mouse." So he tried Cog, which was an embarrassing flop, and hasn't been heard of much since.

You misunderstand what the BRAIN program is doing. The money isn't to simulate a/the brain. It's develop new technologies for recording from vast numbers of neurons at the same time.

Stop spending money we don't have (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393531)

While this is a noble project it still should be noted that we can't afford it. $100 million may not be much in the grand scheme of things but as a tax payer I'm outraged that once again we're spending money we don't have. Let's fix the budget, get spending under control and develop a surplus before we embark on any more spending.

Re:Stop spending money we don't have (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393777)

Funding wouldn't be a problem if the rich were made to pay their fair share. But, we allow them to hide their money in tax-free offshore accounts and skip out on paying what they owe. It should come as no surprise that we're broke when the people who own 80% of the wealth don't have to pay in.

This is why we need a wealth tax instead of an income tax.

Re:Stop spending money we don't have (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394681)

Except that wealthy people don;t have any wealth. They are just lucky that trusts in the cayment islands buy them nice dinners and their companies give them nice cars to drive and fancy places to live. They don't own any wealth. They just get to consume it.

This is why we shouldn't have an income tax *or* a wealth tax. We should have a consumption tax. Wealthy people can use loopholes to claim they have no wealth and have no income. What they will be less able to do is to consume less wealth. Afterall what is the point of being rich if you can't enjoy it.

Re:Stop spending money we don't have (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394155)

Of course, spending a relatively small amount to study the causes of diseases that end up costing a LOT more in medical expenses makes more sense, unless you subscribe to the penny-wise, pound-foolish school of thinking - which it sound like you do - along with all the others screaming about "spending money we don't have" - usually on the poor, sick, disabled and/or elderly - you know, those 47% er's Romney mentioned to all those rich people (with great health insurance - if they even *need* insurance).

You want to bring the budget more inline? Start by eliminating most tax deductions and loopholes for individual and corporations, have people - namely rich people - pay taxes at their apportioned tax bracket, remove the salary cap for Medicare withholding, eliminate other corporate and farm welfare programs.

Re:Stop spending money we don't have (2)

Dahamma (304068) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394413)

That's insanely short sighted. The real answer is we can't afford NOT to do it.

Dementia treatment and long term care currently costs a combined $200B (yes two hundred BILLION) dollars a year in the US, and is going to rise DRASTICALLY in coming years with the aging baby boomers. That's literally more than spent on cancer or heart disease. Finding the root cause and an effective treatment for Alzheimer's alone could possibly be the single biggest healthcare accomplishment of the 21st century.

Main Expenses (3, Insightful)

schneidafunk (795759) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393533)

I think a better question would be to ask how the money is going to be spent, and the main expenses of the project, before saying x amount of money is too much or too little.

Value of American currency has declined. (0, Offtopic)

concealment (2447304) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393549)

$100m is the new $20m. While this fact is virtually never reported, American currency has lost a huge amount of its actual spending value since 2007. A lot of this is hidden behind the lower quality, quantity or degree of innovation behind products; they're cheaper to make and so can be sold for the same price, which is worth less than it was.

When Americans wake up to how much they've lost, despite the numbers not changing all that much, they will surely write a lot of strongly-worded text messages to their representatives.

Re:Value of American currency has declined. (0)

Synerg1y (2169962) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393701)

How aboutzor you put your tin foil hat back on... or provide source. I also don't think you understand how innovation works either, moving on.

Hint: In capitalism it typically has nothing to do with making a product more efficient, that's usually a by-product of something else.

Re:Value of American currency has declined. (0)

GigsVT (208848) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393851)

SGS inflation, calculated using the methodology they used to calculate inflation up until 1990 when they started fudging the numbers in a serious way, has been hovering around 5-6% per year, this is double or triple what the "official" numbers are saying.

The quality of our goods have been dropping as well, in large part due to Wal-Mart and their low quality products (often even the same brands, with a special crappy version made only for wal-mart). The inflation numbers do not account for the loss of product quality.

So real inflation, product quality included, has probably been more around 8-9% a year. So it's not unreasonable to say that our money has lost a great deal of value in recent years. The rate of inflation has been accelerating as well, with many graphs of product price showing a clear "hockey stick" formation.

The Keynesian and Bernankian ideal of forcing the destruction of savings has caused a flight to hard assets. This, coupled with the massive 1+ trillion dollar money creation event used to bail out investors holding worthless real estate investments... high inflation is inevitable.

Re:Value of American currency has declined. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393955)

You're full of shit.

Re:Value of American currency has declined. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394053)

Go ahead and look at your spending on groceries.

Re:Value of American currency has declined. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394699)

"Go ahead and look at your spending on groceries."

I just did. In 2006 I was unemployed for six months following grad school so I kept track of every cent I spent and I still have those records. I'm currently going through another period of long term unemployment (STEM shortage my ass) and likewise keeping track of every cent I spend. My diet then and now are very similar, as are my grocery bills. Inflation is near zero and has been for quite some time.

Re:Value of American currency has declined. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394183)

Inflation since 2007 has not been 5x. From 2007 to 2012 inflation has been ~10%. Hell, you know what? Let's make inflation per-year even larger, say it's 5% per year. Even then, inflation from 2007 to 2012 would be 27%-28% - again, certainly not 5x. If it was 5x, the average per-year inflation figure would be ~38%, which is ridiculous and untrue.

(Used 2012 as the ending year since 2013 figures are (obviously) unavailable)

Re:Value of American currency has declined. (1)

rwa2 (4391) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394695)

Americans didn't really lose squat. The bankers multiply money, and had inflated their value from a somewhat sustainable 15x multiplier to somewhere in the 30x range, thanks to the real estate bubble loans and other insurance gimmicks. Then that scheme fell flat, and they lost half their value on paper, bringing down the accounts of investors foolish enough to invest in those "safe" things. But that value never really existed anyway.

The only real crime was giving them real money to prop up their facade. It'll be interesting to see how long we can keep this up.

More spending.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393561)

'Even though $100 million a year is small change by federal government standards,'

That much should not be considered a small chunk of change. If a government has gotten so wasteful that an it-is-small-change-compared-to-other-programs argument becomes a valid excuse to fund a $100 million/year project, government spending spending needs to be reevaluated. Yes, sometimes spending money on research is a good thing... hell, I have epilepsy, so I am one of the people that could benefit from this project. But I think there are more important things we need to spending money on.

Re:More spending.... (1)

Dorianny (1847922) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393765)

I agree! For a 100mil we could get 2/3 of a F22. Think about it for a minute, in 10 years we could add another 6 to the 187 we already have.

Re:More spending.... (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394083)

So, "we're already spending money hand-over fist in a bad way, whats another few hundred million between friends"?

THATS the way to solve budgeting issues!

Re:More spending.... (1)

Zak3056 (69287) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394429)

I agree! For a 100mil we could get 2/3 of a F22. Think about it for a minute, in 10 years we could add another 6 to the 187 we already have.

Or we could, you know, borrow $100,000,000 less every year. I know that's outside the box thinking and all, but where the hell has this dichotomy come from where, when we have a spending problem, we always hear, "Well, it's better than spending $VALUE on $INITIATIVE?" Military and social spending BOTH have to come down, and revenue (somehow) has to come UP if we're to get out of the mess we're in. I'm all for basic research (as someone else up thread noted, nothing in history has paid dividends like it) but the barrel has a bottom, we have a crisis of unprecedented historical proportions, and no one in government seems to give a fuck about fixing it.

Re:More spending.... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393811)

'Even though $100 million a year is small change by federal government standards,'

That much should not be considered a small chunk of change.

Question: "How does a country build a debt of $16 trillion . . . ?"

Answer: "One $100 million at a time . . ."

Maybe the US should adopt the European model? When one of the southern countries gets in debt over their heads . . . they just get Germany to pay for it.

He with the deapest pockets wins... (3, Interesting)

DizTorDed (164355) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393603)

"Only government can afford to think this big, argues Timmerman" Then let the government get a job that will earn $120,700,000/yr so they can have $100,000,000 after taxes to spend on such a project.

Re:He with the deapest pockets wins... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393889)

Unless they get a discount, they would need to earn over 166 million to have 100 million after taxes.

Re:He with the deapest pockets wins... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394741)

Closer to $104,000,000 - they'll use a shell corporation in an offshore tax haven, and sub out the work to non-US workers at half the going rate.

a joke? (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393619)

The world is a four hundred year carnival; the wheel of technology. 1820-1900, the dark ages and water plumbing, people kill each other for a can of beans and blanket in deserted urban slums or remote urban wildernesses while the supermanagers use them for ridiculous animalsex entertainment rituals. 1900-2020, wars and politics and the development of digital technology. 2020-2120, internet exploration into the neural synapses of sex, wearing them all out. 2120-2180, the unveiling and revelation of all of the needle and thread surgical technology of the sphinx, eunuchs, abominations, seven layers of human algae salad in denial (from the Nile), culminating in the final revelation that green eggs and ham has been a million dollars since the beginning, dog fellatio and ingestion of dog feces. 2180-2220, "WAH WAH WAH! I had to do it and now I want to see somebody else do it!", push-button performance review popularity contest, chicken glove carrot on a stick, everybody wears a backpack and signs into various kingdoms of push-button tallying and scheduled updates, medical dental prosthetic (an offer you can't refuse, conscientious objectors) is part of the package. Butcher chop finale pushes the remainder onto space ship furnaces (fired up to hell) trying to escape or through screening lines for limited space in hidden cellars. Two generations in the cellars and the lemmings are stupid as dirt and the carnval reopens with a subsegment of the population, using their secret wire communications technologies, as the supermanagers.

The global neural net has been in place in the sphinx since long before that stupid lawn troll was put out in front of the pyramid.

More information @ http://mapfortu.wikidot.com/ [wikidot.com]

Dynamically Interactive System (1)

infinitelink (963279) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393645)

Some years ago I remember reading reports from the research projects which seek to create scanning and interpretation tools which those who are paralyzed, seemingly catatonic (or "vegetables"), and others with severe restrictions in mobility and ability to communicate, can use to communicate with the outside world by manipulating existing computer interfaces and tools. This kind of work was growing magnitudinally and then one day (in any given project) they hit a wall while those used to test the work (who are happy to gain the ability to engage the outside world) mysteriously begin to make the tool do things it is not programmed to do. Apparently, without realizing it they start exploiting bugs to trick the algorithms in use to perform new behaviors, and this means that the researchers attempting to learn more and implement new functions and features have no way of discovering many of the yet-unknowns necessary, which is really bad because the users can't do anything imaginable with bugs, and neither does every user discover the same exploits.

There is no reason to suspect that a project attempting to map a dynamic system as complicated as this will not also hit some seemingly insurmountable walls, as the brain itself perhaps begin exploiting whatever tools are used to probe it: it's an interactive system, after all, which means we need something more like a meta-analysis probe to observe the system in play, rather than ways to interact with it directly. At least, that is, if we're seeking to understand rather than just manipulate it, but even then it manipulates back...We should get more specifics about what projects, exactly, are to be funded; how closely allied they are to this politician and his other cronies vs. how eminent and meritorious they are, and how they intend to deal with problems like the aforementioned, before doling out anything to them.

More money != more results (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393711)

In a project, the curve of efficiency divided by money drops off after relatively low budgets. So as long as there are not investments necessary to get to some kind of economies of scale, there is a low likelyhood that more money would have much of an impact.

I am all for this effort, but sometimes there is no way around time.

So what do you do when ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393723)

So what do you do when it says "LEAVE ME ALONE!".

Or "I think, therefore I am".

Or "I want my freedom."

EU is doing it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393739)

The European Union is already funding research in this area, with about 1.19 billion euros. Details at http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/.

Re:EU is doing it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393793)

Talk about brain drain ;-)

$100 million dollars in stolen money. (-1, Troll)

GigsVT (208848) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393741)

If some investment scam artist stole $100 million dollars, at gunpoint, to blow on highly speculative investments, we'd throw him in jail.

If we are going to use the violent force of government to forcibly take money from people, it better be well justified, not some highly speculative endeavor.

Re:$100 million dollars in stolen money. (1)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394271)

Please, cut the hyperbolic bullshit or go live on an island in the Pacific. The government is not keeping you here.

Re:$100 million dollars in stolen money. (1)

the gnat (153162) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394349)

Took the words right out of my mouth... but I'll add "and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out". American citzens who whine about the government taking taxes "by force" need to think about what life is like in Cuba or North Korea where the citizens aren't even allowed to leave the country.

Re:$100 million dollars in stolen money. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394361)

Oh, okay. So let's not do any government-funded basic research- it's all heavily speculative anyway. NASA was embarrassingly speculative, why did we do that? Forget about the Human Genome Project.

The government does these projects to absorb the up-front risk that no private enterprise is willing to absorb itself. On government-sized scales, the risk is basically non-existent. If this is not good justification for performing fundamental research, I do not know what sort of organization would be well-justified in performing it.

A drop in the bucket for bankers (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394707)

The geniuses on Wall Street managed to make off with about 80,000x that much five years ago. I'm not seeing most of the banking boards of directors in jail. Every single day they siphon off millions of dollars through HFT and "innovative" financial products at the general public investor's expense.

I suggest you go hunt down bankers if you want some vigilante justice for wasted money.

Not that I endorse this research. It's nice, but as another poster pointed out the EU is already funding somewhat similar research at an order of magnitude larger scale. There are lots of things we (the government) really don't to be spending money on. Thing is, when some of that money ends up in your pocket - or your back yard - it all seems okay. A few years ago I watched a VERY conservative community rail against all the public welfare money, but cheer the USDA grant of $35,000 they took to help put a new roof on their community center, and the $10,000 USDA grant to build a computer lab in the same center. A waste of taxpayer dollars, imho, but in one corner of my mind I thought - well, at least a portion of my money is coming back into my backyard.

Liberal brains ok, conservative not so much... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393805)

Due to the relatively low complexity, $100 million is enough map the simplistic, knee-jerk liberal brains. It is not nearly enough for the complex reasoning skills of the conservative or libertarian freedom-loving brain.

Re:Liberal brains ok, conservative not so much... (0)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394115)

These kind of comments are worthless when liberals make them, what makes them any better when a conservative does?

Mods, please bury this crap.

Way too little. (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393827)

The US defense budget is 700,000 million. If we reduced the defense budget by .1% (iow, by a factor of .001), we could get another 700 million for this project. If you're concerned about the national security consequences, don't be. We could reduce the defense budget by 50% and still outspend China by more than 2:1.

Re:Way too little. (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393865)

Yeah, and the only reason we outspend China 2:1 on defense is because we do all of their R&D for them.

Re:Way too little. (1)

msauve (701917) | 1 year,11 days | (#43393893)

"The US defense budget is 700,000 million. If we reduced the defense budget by .1% (iow, by a factor of .001), we could get another 700 million for this project."

Or, we could simply reduce the deficit by that amount, instead of continuing to spend money we don't have.

Re:Way too little. (2)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394035)

Or, we could simply reduce the deficit by that amount, instead of continuing to spend money we don't have.

Yes, because we all saw how well austerity worked in Greece, Ireland, Cypress, etc. Everywhere austerity has been tried it's failed. You have to spend your way out of recessions. If money isn't moving on its own, we have to force it to move. Austerity simply doesn't work [washingtonpost.com].

Re:Way too little. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394221)

Spending our way out of the recession didn't work well either unless you were one of the ones who were bailed out by government funding. You're a friggin shill for big government and crony capitalism.

Re:Way too little. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394325)

Your examples are all countries which do not control their currency. They all use the Euro. The problems they are having are exactly the problems that were predicted when they joined the euro. Their problems have nothing to do with austerity, rather their problems are because their monetary policy is controlled by someone outside of those countries (this does not mean that they wouldn't have problems if they still controlled their monetary policy, just that the lesson you are learning is not the correct one).
I will repeat, there were quite a few people who predicted the exact problems that Greece, Ireland and Cypress are having before the Euro was created.

Re:Way too little. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43394733)

The problem with Greece and those other shit holes is that the Euro is worth too much.
Those countries don't produce shit, and they're stuck with a currency with a high value.
So they run out of money.

Re:Way too little. (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394127)

Ok. Then reduce the defense budget first, because thats how responsible budgeting works: you start by reducing expenditure, and THEN you talk about using that money elsewhere.

Re:Way too little. (1)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394171)

I'd love to, but the fiscal conservatives won't let us.

Re:Way too little. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394337)

How do you know, the federal government has never actually talked about reducing spending. The closest they have ever come was to talk about reducing how fast they increased spending.

Re:Way too little. (2)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394491)

How do you know, the federal government has never actually talked about reducing spending.

That's exactly how I know. It's not like you haven't had your chance on many different occasions since Reagan.

Re:Way too little. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394643)

Good grief every time somebody tries to start reigning in government spending, people start talking about "draconian cuts" even though the people are only talking about slowing down the increase in spending. What do you think would happen to a politician that talked about actually cutting spending?
When people start screaming about "spending cuts", have you made any effort to point out that those "cuts" are merely reductions in the increase in spending? Or do you just complain that no one follows through on promises to cut spending? Considering the fact that you think the problems in Europe that were caused by monetary policy are the result of austerity, I'm going to guess that you were one of those screaming about the "spending cuts".

Re:Way too little. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394727)

We could reduce the defense budget by 50% and still outspend China by more than 2:1.

And how many soldiers would be in that army? If you can't answer that question, you haven't thought it through very well.

Private vs. Gov't (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393907)

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genome_Project#Public_versus_private_approaches Craig Venter's private company was able to do similar work on the Human Genome Project, in a shorter amount of time, and for roughly 1/10 the cost of Francis Collins' gov't project.

I'm not sure the government is the most efficient benefactor of scientific exploration.

Re:Private vs. Gov't (1)

Hartree (191324) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394105)

Yes, Celera was able to do more with less. But that was due to the technology advancing during the 8 years the public project had already been running. Venter was able to use the experience gained from that time.

Also, Venter was using a shotgun approach that hadn't been fully vetted at the time on genomes that large. It turned out it worked well, but for this first time, you still needed the public project data to check it.

This is much like when Eckert and Mauchly were building the Eniac. Partway thru building it, they had learned enough that they would have done it differently. But, you have to get started somewhere and start building to learn. For the genome project, the public project was that start.

This is a little like criticizing someone in the 1920s for using a Model T rather than a modern hybrid like a Prius. The one was part of the development that led to the modern method.

Re:Private vs. Gov't (1)

the gnat (153162) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394243)

But that was due to the technology advancing during the 8 years the public project had already been running. Venter was able to use the experience gained from that time.

Yes, and as you hinted at, the technology required for Venter's approach didn't even exist when the HGP started. Among other things, they'd have required a couple orders of magnitude more computer hardware to do the genome assembly.

A fair assessment of the HGP is that it was slow to adapt, and stuck to the older, tested methods several years longer than it should have. However, once Celera actually got running, the public genome centers changed relatively quickly and adopted a more efficient industrial approach. Within a couple of years their sequencing capacity increased massively, and basically eliminated the gap with Celera.

Re:Private vs. Gov't (2)

the gnat (153162) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394297)

Craig Venter's private company was able to do similar work on the Human Genome Project, in a shorter amount of time, and for roughly 1/10 the cost of Francis Collins' gov't project.

In addition to the fact that Venter was able to take advantage of nearly a decade of technology development, you're leaving out a few important details:

1) Celera was able to use the HGP results, but not vice-versa. Which was convenient, since the HGP's more laborious process could cover parts of the genome that weren't well-suited for the shotgun assembly method.

2) The total cost of the HGP covered much more than simply sequencing the human genome - there were many preliminary and side projects covered as well, none of which Celera pursued.

3) The availability of a public, license-free genome meant that it could be used as a reference for future studies without restriction. This eliminates the need to perform de-novo assembly with each individual genome from the same species, which drastically reduces the cost and time required for further sequencing. Without this, the huge advances in comparative genomics and personal genomics over the past decade would have been hideously expensive, because they'd all have needed to pay Celera for a license (and not been able to publish their results).

Or.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,11 days | (#43393971)

Is it $100 million too much?...

Careful (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394065)

It wouldn't surprise me if the areas they will emphasize for study are mind reading, pain infliction (combined with shock supression), memory insertion, and remote control just for the hell of it.

Keep in mind this admin is perfectly comfortable with droning, Gitmo, permanent war...

no, megaprojects this nebulous do not work. (1)

markhahn (122033) | 1 year,11 days | (#43394389)

Manhattan or Apollo projects were successful primarily because they had such a clear focus.

Sequencing the human genome was just a way to push development of techniques: we didn't learn that much from the primary product. especially since it's become clear that expression is far more interesting/relevant than just a straight read of sequences. and even that is arguably incomplete without better proteomics.

neuroscience is not at any clearly defined threshold where we can see what's needed to get to a state of much higher understanding. throwing money at the problem will just exercise our inability to pick winners. (and if there's anything fundamental we know about funding, it's that we, especially governments, simply cannot pick winners. this is why broad funding of basic science is essential: we can't know which directions will pay off.)

sometimes, such big-spending programs are just trying to stretch the normal timeline of a technology. is it actually important to spend $1e8 in order to bring about some technical advance by a year? maybe it's 5 years, maybe it's 6 months. in neuroscience, no one even talks about the unknown unknowns, let alone the known unknowns ;)

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