QOTW Series: What is your hypothetical personal “moonshot” project?

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The Breakwater team closes each Monday all-staff meeting with a “Question of the Week” to get the creative juices flowing. QOTWs are posed by team members on a rotating basis and range from prompts on current global issues to the most underrated Halloween candy to imaginary scenarios that call for outside-the-box thinking. Our answers help us get to know one another better and we thought it might do the same for you. We hope you enjoy these snippets and learn more about the people behind Breakwater Strategy.

What’s your answer?

Question of the Week:

The long-lost heir to the Vanderbilt empire, you’ve inherited a fortune of $185 billion USD –– vaulting you into the ranks of the world’s wealthiest. Elon and Jeff have already staked out the rare earths of Mars; Bill – having ended malaria as we know it – is now aimed squarely on averting a climate catastrophe; Brian is dead-set on dramatically extending the human lifespan. Suddenly finding yourself in desperate need of both a sense of self-actualization and a cocktail conversation-starter at this year’s Bilderberg Meeting, what have you chosen as your personal moonshot project?  

High Speed Rail

Claire Wootton, Associate

It wasn’t until I moved to the East Coast for college that I really discovered the beauty of train travel. Despite the deep history of trains in the United States — and specifically the Midwest — as Chicagoan, the list of cities I could reach by train in a day was a small one. As my moonshot project I would take on the U.S. passenger railroad system, focusing on creating an efficient, affordable, and environmentally-friendly mode of travel throughout the United States… though I realize its perhaps an all-too-obvious example of “history repeats itself.” 

Jin Kang, Senior Associate

A functional, convenient national train system would be a great start, but why not dream bigger? A transcontinental rail system (that goes underwater as well) uniting the world and connecting countries. In America in particular, it’d help shrink the equality gap, especially between those who are rural vs. urban. It would also help those in developing nations who neighbor more developed countries with better economic outcomes.

Bronx Revitalization

Karianna Torres, Associate

My personal moonshot project would be to revitalize the Bronx in a meaningful way–rebuild infrastructure, provide resources for public schools, help the homeless, invest in local nonprofits, uplift local artists and small businesses, etc. Seeing the constant violence and deterioration of my hometown is hard to watch. It may seem selfish to focus all my newfound fortune into one place, but I want to see my home thrive again.

Prison Reform

Lydie Neill, Associate Director

My moonshot project would be attempting to reform the prison system as it currently exists. I wouldn’t pretend to understand the innerworkings of how it could be fixed, but I would fund the research and the work of mental health professionals deeply immersed in these issues (including my sister!). The research would then inform our all-encompassing strategy to support those suffering from mental health issues from the beginning of their lives, expanding access to much-needed resources, seeking to prevent a dangerous and traumatic cycle of incarceration, and preparing for life beyond bars. This work would need to coincide with the work of so many others – so, hopefully the rest of the team also turn out to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. 

Battery Technology

Nick Rosenberg, Associate Director

I think climate change is clearly a huge issue that we’ll need to address in the coming decades, but rather than take on the entire broad topic, I’d focus on an aspect of the challenge that I think could have wide-reaching impact: advancements in battery technology. As energy production shifts from coal and other carbon-intensive sources to renewables, storing electricity from sources like wind and solar in next generation batteries will be a critical part of ensuring consistent power for our energy grid. We’re already starting to see signs of a remarkable transition in transportation, and improved battery storage will be a key to replicating this transition for other energy intensive sectors. As an added benefit, I’m hoping these advances will improve my phone’s battery life!

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