Skip To Content Skip To Left Navigation
NSF Logo Search GraphicGuide To Programs GraphicImage Library GraphicSite Map GraphicHelp GraphicPrivacy Policy Graphic
OLPA Header Graphic

Dr. Bordogna's Remarks


Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
Welcome Remarks
NEXT Workshop
Arlington, VA

February 21, 2001

Let me start with one short story that combines levity and learning.

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He lowers his altitude, spots a woman down below, and asks, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised to return this balloon to its owner, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below says: "You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 350 feet above mean sea level and 30 feet above this field. You are between 40 and 42 degrees north latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees west latitude."

"You must be an engineer," says the balloonist.

"I am," replies the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," says the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost."

The woman below says, "You must be a manager."

"I am," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," says the engineer, "you don't know where you are, or where you are going. You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault."

The story has many interpretations and I can tell you from being both an engineer and a manager, they are all right and all wrong.

No matter what your perspective, I'm sure we can all agree that this is truly an amazing time in our nation's history. Much of that promise is directly related to what we're here to discuss today.

The very concept of crafting devices at the nano-scale has captured our society's imagination. We're going to a scale three orders of magnitude smaller than anything ever before fashioned by human hands. This will give us probes, sensors, structures, robots - all on the same scale as human cells.

We're taking similar leaps forward in computing power - leap-frogging several orders of magnitude into the terascale - enabling us to manage information that comes by the trillion.

We've got teraflop processors connected by terabit networks all linked to terabyte storage devices - and all are solidly grounded on terra firma.

With this capability comes responsibility - and that's where you come in.

Let me close by giving you a few thoughts on our overall vision for infrastructure here at NSF.

There is a very important "discussion-debate" occurring within NSF at the moment that is clearly related to this issue of an information system.

-- What is the future of infrastructure, and in particular of information infrastructure?

We know first that there are different kinds of infrastructure. Facilities and equipment, and the like make up physical infrastructures.

There are human infrastructures. In our S&T system, the scientists, engineers, teachers, mentors and technicians comprise this most critical infrastructure. The newest infrastructure territory is cyber infrastructure and it is fast becoming an overarching and imprinting influence on the conduct of everything from science and engineering to songwriting and shopping.

We know from past experience that infrastructure can either expand or inhibit our potential. An infrastructure system can provide potential in one era, but drag us into obsolescence in another era. So, in a sense, infrastructures can be thought of as "perishable."

Our railroad infrastructure was the nation's primary transportation network in one era and even became a critical element in the outcome of the Civil War. But over time, the national highway system and then the air transport system eclipsed much of the railroad's work. Today we see overwhelming pressure in our air system as changing needs overtake the ability of the infrastructure to respond.

Now that the S&T information system has evolved through the Internet and high-speed networks, we need to think about and plan a future cyber infrastructure that is oriented to 21st century S&T needs and goals.

We should think in terms of an infrastructure that can be envisioned from whole cloth, designed for some specific long-term goals, and remain flexible to the unpredictable. It would be an infrastructure of anticipation. This will require thinking beyond the here and now, an infrastructure for the far-future.

I hope that you will all keep those thoughts in mind as you leave here today.



National Science Foundation
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: 703-292-8070
FIRS: 800-877-8339 | TDD: 703-292-5090

NSF Logo Graphic