This is the second part of a four-part series on issues of community in the United States. In the first part, I made the claim that America lacks social cohesion and a strong sense of community, and that this deficiency may be a major factor in cultivating extreme behavior exhibited by school shooters like Adam Lanza. In this part and the next, I will address some possible reasons behind this problem. In the fourth part, I hope to propose ideas for solutions.
There is an undeniable air of melancholy in America today. Everywhere it seems there is a growing sense that our best days are behind us, that the American Century is coming to an end, with the inevitable rise of China and a concomitant Chinese Century. There is also, of course, much in the way of punditry regarding how fast this will happen, or whether it will happen at all. My own feeling is that regardless of the details, the transition is inevitable. China, despite its non-trivial challenges and problems, is unstoppable (and if it weren’t, should it be stopped, given the likely millions who will be lifted out of poverty by its rise?), and thus regardless of whether it will happen in 2020 or 2050, many of us will live to see the day when the United States is no longer the world’s preeminent superpower.
I recently had the fortune of attending the 10th Community Assessment of protein Structure Prediction, or CASP, as it is affectionately known. CASP is a competition of sorts that happens once every two years to ascertain the progress made in computationally predicting protein structure. It is a blind experiment, where the structures to be predicted are unknown beforehand, and thus serves as a unbiased test of the predictive power of current computational methods. It is in many ways a model that the rest of computational biology ought (and is starting) to follow.