With regards to the way people frame fusion, I think there are some fascinating pop psych issues to be explored. It appears that the public isn’t much interested in fusion. They have fusion fatigue, they find it non-credible, they are simply bored.
Meanwhile fusion policy makers are on the look out for something that will deliver a reactor ASAP – so they do some sort of “due diligence” – which in VC speak means eliminating ideas that seem less promising. Government thus acts like a VC and not so much like an incubator of multiple promising ideas.
This isn’t the best thing for fusion – since it’s possible the best ideas are yet to come from out of some box somewhere (like the DPF box). But these guys are looking for a way to promise results.
Everyone’s trying to look good, to look like they know. The scientists themselves are defensive or humble. Beaten, in a way. Aside from the big guys who are good at getting money, and assert their story (to the chagrin of the other fusion guys – but don’t quote me) the rest don’t feel they can assert their case. After all, they need a lot more investigation before they can say this will work. They are in that catch-22 of needing the money to know if the money spent is worthwhile.
BUT…looking at it another way, there are some simple psychological issues here that someone like Oprah could put into context and help transform the fusion research quagmire.
OK, it’s a long shot, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
What’s really going on with this “results” and performance oriented fusion dance? And this sense of an adversarial relationship in all the dealings of fusion (fusion on fusion scientist violence, fusion scientist on public violence, on policy maker violence…)
I wonder if the general public and also policy makers perhaps feel alienated from fusion. It’s too “complex” – advanced science, and so they can’t evaluate what scientists say. So they feel a bit sensitive about that. What they CAN talk about is results. And this gives them a sense of power. Those scientists, geniuses though they are – can’t do it! Ah, the humanity. The priesthood is wearing no clothes. Don’t we all feel clever now.
But perhaps it’s not this petty ego thing where people seek to level the playing field. Maybe they just don’t sense they have a role. They can’t do anything, so it’s not up to them. They have to wait for the priesthood to figure things out. It’s not their place to say anything. Unfortunately, this leaves the scientists isolated and feeling unsupported and unappreciated.
For their part, the scientists are under powerful performance pressure and feel adversarial towards the general public. isn’t sure how to enlist their support. And scientists already suffer from the anxiety of working for a long time without validation as we see in the Taleb article. At the same time, they’re proud, making them more defensive.
And then all of this means they don’t want scrutiny ’til they have results, so they get less transparent and more furtive – and this makes the credibility issue worse.
I Sent the following to Oprah show via online form – and I’m sure it will fall on deaf ears (how irrelevant) – but with persistence, we may get through. Persistence, and perhaps some visuals – those posters mentioned in other posts. And perhaps I need to reframe this email and send it again. Suggestions?
And finally, if you know anyone connected with the show, that’s a better way of getting in. I’m sure millions of people use that online form. A personal connection is worth much more. Here’s my first pitch to Oprah:
Would you like to be a force for the advancement of fusion energy? Fusion faces huge technical barriers. More importantly, it faces social and psychological barriers.
A frank national conversation hosted by you would go a long way toward shedding light on these barriers, and lead to a more constructive, creative, collaborative climate for fusion exploration.
Of all the energy sources in the world, nuclear fusion holds the greatest long term promise. Solving fusion would put an end to energy and environmental problems. It is also an awesome technological filter. Figuring out fusion will make us truly cosmic – bringing the stars down to earth.
The promise is great, but fusion is difficult. Decades passed, expectations were frustrated, fraudulent debacles occurred. Fusion is seen as “oversold,” a joke (always 20 years away). The fusion community is humbled. Most funding goes to a few conservatively selected approaches while many diverse, potentially faster routes to fusion are not adequately explored.
Some psychological issues are: expectation management, delayed gratification, and for the scientists, social validation. N. Taleb says of scientists:
“They need a capacity for continuously adjourned gratification to survive a steady diet of peer cruelty without becoming demoralized….Believe me, it is tough to deal with the social consequences of the appearance of continuous failure. We are social animals; hell is other people. – http://tinyurl.com/299jvww”
I’m the director of the Focus Fusion Society. We want to see people get involved in unlocking the secrets of fusion and supporting scientists in the trenches. We want to foster a pro-fusion culture.
Fusion needs your help to reframe the quest, to celebrate the journey, to make fusion energy happen. Fusion is a big problem, and you have a key role to play in bringing us closer to the solution.
I hope you consider this topic. Thank you!
To get across the gap with Oprah you would need to do a lot of explaining:
1)Why is energy so important (eliminating poverty etc)
2)Why is fusion the best energy (cheap)
3)Not all atoms (radiation) are dangerous
Those points need to be pushed across to the general population and then they might be accepted by elites.
Still if you want to go after rich and powerful I would suggest to use “law of large numbers” to your advantage.
Basically to go after every powerful and rich person with a reasonable effort and maybe someone will get interested.
I am not sure how to define “Reasonable effort”, but I think this can be developed using incremental development model (from software design)
As you probably don’t have enough resources then this effort should be crowd-sourced.
I probably cant be involved ATM – working day/night/and weekends catching up with a deadline.
Even 30 seconds on Oprah can make a world of positive difference. From what I’ve read of the free publicity dance, we need to approach this from the angle of asking ourselves “Oprah and her producer(s) want?” The obvious answer is ratings, and boils down to helping people improve their lives.
Hope for a better future may qualify, and we have several angles on this. This opens the door to being invited back many times and establishing FFS in the public’s mind as the “go to folks for fusion energy information”.
Elsewhere, someone made a reference to Oprah’s “pseudo-science bias“.
I think the appeal here is to the cosmic. This is cosmic energy – energy of the stars, getting in touch with the rest of the universe. There’s a role here for someone not strictly scientific to yet be supportive. The emphasis is on the social and emotional elements of pursuing fusion, not so much on science. Although not devoid of it.