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Tech Q&A

Ron Pernick

Describe your latest project.
The revised and updated paperback version of our book, The Clean Tech Revolution, which came out in September.

  1. The Clean Tech Revolution: Discover the Top Trends, Technologies, and Companies to Watch
    $1.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    Newly revised with the latest market trends and growth opportunities!

    "[A] clear, intelligently written roadmap to this new frontier....[P]articularly valuable to entrepreneurs, individual investors and venture capitalists." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    "If you want to understand clean tech, this book is the place to start." Robert Hambrecht, Managing Director, WR Hambrecht + Co.

    "Pernick and Wilder provide a practical guide to becoming involved in America's next great entrepreneurial frontier." Nancy E. Pfund, Managing Director, JPMorgan

What inspires you to sit down and write?
Writing is a very solitary endeavor — you need to sit down, get centered and focused, and put coherent and hopefully insightful and inspiring ideas down on paper. Luckily, as a research-focused writer, there's also a lot of interaction with others (scientists, technologists, policy makers, investors, others). At the end of the day, I'm most inspired by the people who are reshaping our world with clean-tech products, services, policies, and other innovations.

Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
Uh oh, I don't even know what the Geek Test is — so that probably counts me out. But I'm certainly on the geek fringe — having worked in telecom and videoconferencing in the '80s, the Internet in the '90s, and clean tech in the '00s. My sister always teases me for being a "tech geek."

Chess or video games?
I'd definitely lean toward chess.

What do you do for relaxation?
Hiking, neighborhood walks, eating a good meal with friends and family. And I'm a sucker for massages and hot springs.

What was your favorite book as a kid?
Can I pick more than one? As a young kid, I'd say The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. As a teenager, my favorite book was definitely Catcher in the Rye.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
I spend my day assessing a range of technologies that have the potential to change people's lives for the better: green buildings, smart grid, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, solar power, wind power, and others. While we always need to look at the full life-cycle impacts and potential unforeseen consequences of new technology deployment, most of these technologies, I believe, serve the greater good.

Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
As a child, I visited the Ontario Science Centre on numerous occasions. It was exactly what a science museum is supposed to be: awe invoking and hands on. Luckily, there are a number of great science and industry institutions around the world — others that come to mind are the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.

By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
Well, so much depends on how long I live. But let's say I live at least another 35 years till I'm 80 — then I'd say that the biggest developments will be in renewable, carbon-free energy generation, energy transmission and storage, advanced transportation systems, and water filtration and management. I think the next few decades, because of the confluence of forces we outline in our book, will be focused on sustainable, clean-tech development and deployment. Beyond that, I expect that we'll be much further along in the quest to explore and live in space. And I suspect that there will be significant fights and debates and unforeseen advances around life extension, human/computer interfaces, and the creation of new forms of life.

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Ron Pernick is cofounder and managing director of Clean Edge, a clean-tech research and publishing firm that produces reports, events, and stock indexes. He also lectures at Portland State University.

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