JUNE 2, 2018

Is Hawaii’s Innovation Economy Ready to Take Off?

For decades politicians and the local business community have talked about having a diverse economy. One that expands the state’s traditional main economic drivers of tourism, the military, and construction. Besides gains in the state’s healthcare industry, “diversity” in the economy had been mostly wishful thinking and the “brain drain” commenced.

In recent years, the slogan to promote a “diverse economy” has been replaced with a push to achieve an “innovation economy” – that sounds much more catchy, time-appropriate, and forward-thinking. Best of all, locals appear more excited about it.
What is an “innovation economy” that Gov. David Ige, local businesses, and the old and new local industry players are buzzing about? In a nut shell, it embraces new ideas, high-technology, entrepreneurship, digital age careers where geographic boundaries do not exist, clean energy, biotechnology, new media and creative forms of communication, cybersecurity, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers.

It’s turning new knowledge in today’s new economy into viable means of earning a good living. Among the attractive goals of this new movement is reversing the “brain-drain,” keeping our best and brightest, bringing back home our best and brightest, and attracting the world’s best and brightest to make Hawaii home where good, high-paying jobs are available.

This innovation economy movement is in the early stages but appears to be gaining traction. A Hawaii state website cites a 2015 report that ranked Hawaii 12th in the nation for startup growth. Startup accelerators and business incubators are popping up in the state. And the crown jewel of this movement just broke ground, the beginning construction of the Entrepreneurs Sandbox facility in Kakaako (to be completed in 2019). It’s envisioned to be the ignition point for an Innovation Block, which will eventually incubate and house Hawaii’s tech industry.
Luis Salaveria, Director of the State’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) has been playing an integral role in the fruition of the Entrepreneurs Sandbox as well as helping to “reengineer” Hawaii’s economy into an innovation economy.

Some other projects he has worked on toward this end: VERGE Energy Conference (a public-private initiative to building clean energy and emerging technologies), Hawaii State Trade Expansion Program (designed to help small businesses increase their exports), and Creative Lab Hawaii (a media, music, fashion design accelerator to increase creative entrepreneurship), to name a few.
He has more than 20 years of public and private sector experience, holding leadership positions along the way. What’s also impressive is his volunteer work in the community. He currently serves as treasurer and sits on the Board of Directors for the Filipino Community Center.

His leadership style matches well with the State’s pursuit of an innovation economy because he emphasizes collaboration. He describes his leadership “as strategic, visionary and collaborative, where my goal is to move people towards a new set of shared outcomes. With my team, I prefer to set people free to innovate, experiment, and take calculated risks to achieve a common goal.”

Salaveria is truly working to make a difference in our community and State. We wish him, DBEDT, and all the major movers-and-shakers in the private and public sectors of this “innovation” movement, a huge success. What an achievement it would be for Hawaii to transform into an innovation hub that rivals other world-class cities where cutting edge technology, creative entrepreneurship, and high level services are a major part of their economy. And instead of a “brain drain,” we’d have high paying jobs for our children and attract the best and brightest to our state, not just for the weather, but for work.


Excessive Violence in Movies Is Harmful

In yet another community, another high school, victims fell in the hands of a mass shooter. This time, eight students and two teachers were killed at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

Unlike other incidences of mass killings, the shooter didn’t use an automatic weapon or AR-15, but carried out his assault with a pistol and shotgun. Since the latest mass killings in Las Vegas and Parkland where the weapon of choice had been automatic weapons and the use of rapid-fire bump stocks, much of the attention was been on banning AR-15s and bump stocks. Now, this latest Santa Fe High School murders raise new questions and expand the scope of argument beyond automatic weapons.

Besides firearms, the world has witness mass carnage by killers who have used automobiles, rented vans, even knives to commit multiple murders. The fight to ban AR-15s and bump stocks must continue in order to minimize deaths, but perhaps it’s also time for Americans, law enforcement, psychologists, sociologists, and other professionals to explore other risk factors that contribute to individuals suddenly wanting to go on a killing spree.

Culture of Violence

The political right falls on the wrong side of history in their defense of automatic weapons; but they are correct that the problem is not just about guns. It’s true that American society is one of a culture of violence. There are many risk factors that contribute to the devaluation of life. Violent movies in particular desensitizes viewers to carnage. Past mass killers have reported a fascination with images of violence in popular cinema that contributed to them going on a killing spree.

So, multiple risk factors when they are present – exposure to and preference for violent movies, poor mental health in dealing with life stresses, and the fact guns are readily available – all must be addressed in stopping the violent epidemic plaguing our country.

Addressing mental health and adopting tougher gun control are parts of the solution. But the glamorization of violence in movies has gone ignored.

A Common Sense Media study shows 90 percent of movies and 60 percent of TV programs show some depictions of violence. Kids 8 and under watch an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes of TV a day; older kids watch an average of 4 hours daily. That’s a lot of exposure to violence. When a child becomes a legal adult, they would have seen 16,000 assassinations and 200,000 acts of violence on television. Not to mention the fact that many children who do not have solid real-life role models look to fantasy TV characters to identify with and imitate.

Studies show with both preschool and school-aged children, they are more likely to imitate the violence they see on screen if someone they see as a “good guy” is using violence to solve a problem, especially if there are no realistic consequences for the violence.

A new study published in Pediatrics, the medical journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), found that viewing shows in which cooperation and empathy are emphasized (instead of shows that demonstrate aggression) can improve behavior in 3- to 5-year-olds in just 6 months.

Another study published in Pediatrics found that quantity is key. Excessive TV watching in childhood and adolescence (we’re talking 3+ hours a day) is associated with an increased risk of criminal convictions and anti-social behavior in young adults. The AAP recommends no screen time for kids under 2, and no more than 1-2 hours for kids preschool age on up.

Research shows that choosing appropriate TV and movies for children are something more parents ought to consider. The political left, who are closely tied to Hollywood and their veneration of freedom of speech and expression, cannot just point their fingers to the political right as being obstacles to a safer world by resistance to bans of automatic weapons. It’s hypocritical.

Given the country’s violent epidemic, as a matter of common sense and responsibility, Hollywood executives and directors ought to voluntarily stop portraying power of their fictional characters to violence, guns, and killings. The political left ought to be pressuring Hollywood on this much in the way they have come out condemning the NRA. Clearly, there is no one single factor that makes a person act out violently; and violent movies cannot be solely blamed as most people who watch them do not resort to aggression. But prolonged exposure to violence in media is a risk factor, especially to youths who are more impressionable and vulnerable.

Denying the link between violence and movie/TV programs as a risk factor is like denying smoking doesn’t cause cancer because not all smokers develop cancer. In a meta-analysis of 217 studies published on the topic of media and violence, psychologists George Comstock and Haejung Paik found a correlation between watching TV violence and physical aggression against another person. Another meta-analysis conducted by psychologists Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman found a statistically significant strength in the relationship between watching violent media and acts of aggression or violence later in life.

Finding solutions

The scope of finding solutions to the country’s mass killings should not be relegated to a debate on gun control. Unfortunately, politics by both parties are getting in the way to adopting legislation. Why? Because it’s increasingly apparent that Americans’ freedoms such as the right to have arms and right to free speech and expression (2nd Amendment and 1st Amendment) are center to these discussions that could prevent mass shootings, which make this issue even more sensitive. But if we are serious about finding solutions, intellectual honesty suggests all risk factors must be considered.

Mass killings cannot just be accepted and normalized; and quite possibly, the extent of freedom we have on guns and freedom of expression in making excessively violent movies are not normal. How much of those freedoms are Americans willing to compromise? – is where the country is at a deadlock.



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