Neil deGrasse Tyson rips startup culture: "Society has bigger problems than what can be solved with your next app"

The famed astrophysicist discusses the scientific method, Pluto and the downfall of American Innovation

Published October 13, 2014 6:10PM (EDT)

Neil deGrasse Tyson                          (AP/Frank Micelotta)
Neil deGrasse Tyson (AP/Frank Micelotta)

Neil deGrasse Tyson delivered an energetic, hour-long keynote address at the MIRCon security conference in Washington last week.

The famed astrophysicist, who hosted the reboot of "Cosmos" earlier this year, discussed a long range of topics from his hand in demoting Pluto from planet status, the purpose of the scientific method, Isaac Newton, quantum physics and America's decline in innovation.

During a Q&A following the address, which can be found at the hour mark, Tyson discusses the decline of STEM in the United States.

"Nobody's talking about 'tomorrowland' anymore. We're waiting for our next app," Tyson exclaims. "Now I love me some apps, don't get me wrong here."

"But, society has bigger problems than what can be solved with your next app, in transportation, and energy and health. And these are huge sectors of society and they are solved by innovations in these fields," Tyson continued. "Without it we might as well just proceed back into the cave, because that's where we're headed."

"We're a sleepy nation right now. I want us to be a nation of innovation," Tyson stated later.

He also addressed the security personnel in the audience -- malware analysts, cryptographers and engineers. Tyson called them the "hidden sentinels" charged with protecting information and intellectual property.

"Part of your job as internet security professionals is to protect the intellectual property, to make sure that at minimum it is not stolen, and next not corrupted which would stall everything down to a halt," he said.

h/t the Register

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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Innovation Neil Degrasse Tyson Pluto Science Scientific Method Theory Video