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Harvard’s ‘wise men’ tell Silicon Valley: Our country is losing its competitiveness | VentureBeat


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The U.S. has many things going for it, like a tolerance for risk and a culture that views failure as experimentation, rather than a crime, Sahlman said. Shantanu Sinha (pictured above, far right), the president and chief operating officer of nonprofit education firm Khan Academy, said he was optimistic about the ability to use technology (such as videos hosted on the Internet) to provide free education to everyone and to disrupt the traditional educational environment. The academy has more than 6 million visitors a month from every country in the world.

“We want everybody to have access to the same educational materials,” he said.

Mary Meeker, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, said, “The U.S. government has only made money for five of the last 45 years. If this were a company, would you invest in it?” She added that 60 percent of the budget goes toward entitlement programs. She is excited though, that 30 percent of U.S. households have an e-book reader or a tablet.

“I believe the day is darkest before the dawn,” she said. “With the rising availability of those devices, people can learn whatever they want wherever they want.”

Kevin Sharer, the former CEO of Amgen, said he believes the U.S. is still the leader in biotechnology, with more than 90 percent of the world’s biotech industry market share. He believes that the regulation of the industry is reasonable for the most part. But he worries that the huge deficits and unfunded liabilities in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will siphon off resources that the biotech industry and other industries need to continue to be competitive.

Sahlman said healthcare is 17.6 percent of the economy. We spend $8,000 per person on healthcare, $4,000 more than many other developed countries, and we don’t have outcomes that are better than other countries.

“We’re going the wrong way,” Sharer said. “If we sustain the Medicare system as is, it’s going to eat us.” Meeker concurred, saying, “Yikes. It’s going to eat us.”

We're an unhealthy lot! Why?

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