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As you may know, I’m a big fan of marine biology. Set adrift from the land and animals with which we are so familiar, it is possible to see the innovation of evolution in its brightest glory. There are deep sea anglerfish whose males have resolved the difficulty of finding mates in the deep, wide sea by becoming parasites, permanently attaching to any females they find. There are animals thought lost to the world, like the nautilus and the Kraken. There are animals passingly similar to those more familiar, and yet so different like prawns which zip in and out of heat vents from absolutely freezing water to boiling water without a care.

And yet, the deep sea is the last frontier on our planet. Whilst Man has conquered Everest, the poles and even tamed the deserts to his will, he knows nothing of the deep sea. When the Ocean covers 72% of the world’s surface, isn’t it absurd that we’ve only explored 1% of the deep sea?

Let me outline a few of the absurdities that ensue. Despite the Louisiana Purchase and the Manifest Destiny of America, 50% of American territory is completely unexplored. We lack even basic maps of the ocean floor. It is a fact that we have better maps of Mars than we do of the Earth itself.

That’s why I’m so enthused that Richard Branson is designing his own one man submarine to explore the deep sea. Whilst all the focus has been upon private capital being used as the next explorers of space, we have forgotten the other great frontier of man – the sea.

Private capital is no substitute for government funded research. For one thing, it is simply too risky to do it that often. Yes, there are many potential rewards but completely unquantifiable ones. Compare this to oil exploration – we know the rewards, we know they’re large. But the sheer improbability of finding oil in a particular place relative to the costs highly limits the profitability of oil exploration. For another thing, private discoveries are not shared with the world, and that is what science is for. In adopting the great impetus of capitalism, we cannot forget the impetus that pulled man down from the trees to stare across the plains of the future – curiosity. Oftimes, the desire for knowledge can be just as powerful as the lust for material rewards.

Both have a role to play. Eventually, innovations in technology driven by private enterprise will flow to the public sector. But this is terribly cool.

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