So attending a lecture today on the Neural Mechanisms of Attentional Control prompted the following thoughts. I feel that a lot of research that goes on at this university is very immediately useful and much of the research that goes on is perhaps practically useful 10, 20, 30 years down the line. I wonder first of all what the percentage of each type of research is. Second of all, and more importantly, I wonder what division is optimal for society. I don't think it would be all one or the other. Immediate use research is obviously beneficial and perhaps 5, 10, 20 years down the line, informational only research (such as that on neural mechanisms of attentional control) probably makes it easier to breakthroughs to happen down the line. But is anyone looking at what percentage of the research that goes on should fall under each category? Is it socially optimal to have 50% of the research that goes on be for immediate purposes, 10% for 5 years down the line and 40% for 10 years down the line . . . and who's to say what is what? This would be a massive project to sort out.
How often do I have these types of thoughts that are perhaps interesting, but which I'm going to do nothing at all about?