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Friday, October 7, 2011

David Brooks, "Where Are the Jobs?": Look and You Will Find Them

David Brooks, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Where Are the Jobs?" (, would have us know that there has been significant innovation in information technology of the kind created by Steve Jobs, but this pace of innovation has not been matched in other sectors. Brooks writes:

"Let’s imagine that someone from the year 1970 miraculously traveled forward in time to today. You could show her one of the iPhones that Steve Jobs helped create, and she’d be thunderstruck. People back then imagined wireless communication (Dick Tracy, Star Trek), but they never imagined you could funnel an entire world’s worth of information through a pocket-sized device.

The time traveler would be vibrating with excitement. She’d want to know what other technological marvels had been invented in the past 41 years. She’d ask about space colonies on Mars, flying cars, superfast nuclear-powered airplanes, artificial organs. She’d want to know how doctors ended up curing cancer and senility.

You’d have to bring her down gently. We don’t have any of those things. Airplanes are pretty much the same now as they were then; so are cars, energy sources, appliances, houses and neighborhoods."

I have just returned from a lightning trip to New York and Toronto on behalf of a client, and in the course of my travels, there was indeed evidence of the stagnation referred to by Brooks. I flew in on a Boeing 747, an aircraft first flown commercially in 1970. Even more frustrating was my journey on the Long Island Railroad, which I have been riding since I was a boy, and which, to the best of my recollection, has changed little over the past 50 years.

However, my journey also served to illustrate why I don't agree with David. I had come to these cities to demonstrate the progress being made by a tiny Israeli company, Nano Retina (, which is creating a miniaturized artificial retinal device, which after a 30-minute minimally invasive procedure is expected to restore vision to many persons suffering from advanced macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa. The leading ophthalmologists with whom we met, gazed at the chip with admiration, given that human clinical trials are already being planned for the first generation device, intended to immediately provide functional vision, in 2013.

Brooks goes on to say:

"The Green Revolution improved grain yields by 126 percent from 1950 to 1980, but yields have risen only by 47 percent in the decades since."

I would suggest that David examine the progress being made by Evogene (, which is using computational genomics technologies to attain plant trait improvement to address growing demands for food, feed and fuel.

Brooks adds:

"The big pharmaceutical companies have very few blockbuster drugs in the pipeline. They are slashing their research departments."

On the other hand, Compugen (, whose discovery efforts consist of in silico (by computer) hypothesis-driven drug product candidate prediction and selection, has a constantly growing list of promising drug candidates in their pipeline.

Brooks concludes:

"If you want to be the next Steve Jobs and end the innovation stagnation, maybe you should start in hip-hop."

Sorry, David, but as best I know, none of the visionaries and scientists at Nano Retina, Evogene or Compugen had their beginnings in hip-hop. Rather, the disruptive technologies that they are developing are being born from genius, discipline and perspiration.

[As noted in prior blog entries, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. This blog entry has not been authorized or approved by Compugen.

I am a part-time external consultant to Nano Retina.

I am an Evogene shareholder, and this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Evogene shares. This blog entry has not been authorized or approved by Evogene.

The opinions expressed herein are mine and are based on publicly available information.

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