Here's an interesting article: "Lack of Engineers at Crisis Point, Experts Say" from our local free newspaper The Business Monthly. We're basically facing a "brain drain" in the aerospace and defense industries. What will happen as the qualified workforce -- in other words, capable engineers -- becomes smaller and smaller?? Does that mean the future is in jeopardy??
Keep this "engineer scarcity crisis" in mind as you read about the fact that the Future is Now. An article by Joel Achenbach from the Sunday, April 13, 2008 Washington Post. Here's a quote worth noting:
Science is becoming ever more specialized; technology is increasingly a series of black boxes, impenetrable to but a few. Americans' poor science literacy means that science and technology exist in a walled garden, a geek ghetto. We are a technocracy in which most of us don't really understand what's happening around us. We stagger through a world of technological and medical miracles. We're zombified by progress.
[Christine Peterson, vice president of Foresight Nanotech Institute] has one recommendation: Read science fiction, especially "hard science fiction" that sticks rigorously to the scientifically possible. "If you look out into the long-term future and what you see looks like science fiction, it might be wrong," she says. "But if it doesn't look like science fiction, it's definitely wrong."
So much to discuss within these few sentences -- like "We are a technocracy" --?? What does that mean? When ever I hear of any kind of "--ocracy" I think of rulers, and not the nice kind either -- In a Theocracy the religious fanatics rule --- In a Monocracy the King rules -- In an Aristocracy the snooty people rule. So does that mean in a technocracy the technocrats rule? So I'm thinking any "--ocracy" other then Democracy is most likely a bad thing.
But here's a thought -- Would Achenbach's or Vounnegut's concern become valid, if we do have fewer engineers in the future? If it does get to the point where only a few can understand our world's underlying technology then -- wouldn't they be paid more, perhaps be respected more, and finally, by default, be more in control? Is a technocracy on the horizon because of the "engineer scarcity crisis?" So maybe you should encourage your kids to become engineers. The more engineers there are the more likely we'll avert this technocracy scenario. We do want to avert this, don't we?
Another great aspect of Achenbach's article is the suggestion to use "science fiction" as a means to understand the future. As if to prove his point he fills his article with Sci-Fi references, from Star Trek to Godzilla. But here's my concern . . .
science fiction show us what technology is possible. But as the population of engineers decreases then logically wouldn't take longer for that future to get here. Maybe the article shouldn't be called "The Future is Now" but rather "The Future has Been Delayed Due to Technical Difficulties." Wow, depressing thought.
So maybe you should encourage your kids to become engineers. It's the only way to stop the present from staying that way.
Is there any way we can solve this "engineer scarcity crisis?" According to the Business Monthly article we need to convince young people that engineering is, simply put, "cool." Well I can attest to that. After all, we're the ones who make the future happen. And that is way "cool."