Friday, October 07, 2005

Waterloo Region - Roots of Greatness

If you had an extra $150 million kicking around, what would you do? Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion, looked towards the future and the health of the community in which he lives. He donated $100 million to found the Perimeter Institute and another $50 million to drive development of the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing. In the Kitchener-Waterloo Record’s Technology Spotlight 2005, yesterday’s lead article for the supplement highlighted the way Lararidis’s donation is helping make Waterloo Region one of the world’s foremost leaders and centres for science and technology.

Today, my extended family and I had a e-group discussion about the best place to live in the world. We talked about polls (Vancouver won that round), crime (the region of Waterloo has one of the lowest murder rates in Canada), scenic beauty, etc. Nobody, by the way, talked about Bavarian Festivals (aka Oktoberfest) as a criterion for community greatness. Some even spoke about the virtual inevitability of great cities having extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

But as I read the Technology Spotlight and thought of what makes my part of the world such a great place to live, it occurred to me that we need to give more credit to science and technology as factors in determining greatness. How, for instance, do you rate a donation of $150 million of a wealthy benefactor like Lararidis to the future of science and technology in his community? How do you weigh the value of a festival like EinsteinFest? I’m not sure, but I’m becoming convinced that the benefits are truly substantial.

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