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UC Berkeley Dean says watch the three Es

In the 19th Century, you might have studied three Rs, but Richard Newton, dean of the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, says that the three Es are the ones to watch in the 21st Century.

They are energy, epidemics and education.

If we figure out the first one, avoid the second, and get as much of the third as possible we should be OK. Synthetic biology, in which microrganisms churn out methane or medicines, could become key fields in controlling epidemics and solving the energy crisis.

Newton, speaking at an all-day symposium on campus designed to highlight work going on in the university's labs, sketched out his vision for how corporate-university-government relations will work in the future. Basically, since private corporations have mostly given up on hard research, universities will become scientific demilitarization zones of sort for private enterprise.

And, unlike Thomas "The world is flat" Friedman, Newton says that regional city states that master technology and finance will emerge as world powers. The San Francisco Bay Area, he posited, can be looked at as one big company. In fact, he's trying to get a student now to study the region as if it were a unified whole to see how revenues and profits are balancing with expenses. Someday, you may even see Chinese universities open branches in the Bay Area (although Newton also expressed skepticism about U.S. universities opening branches up in Qatar.

"The real irony of the flat world is that where you are has never been so important," he said.