Wednesday, July 08, 2009

If we don't get our priorities straight we'll get bent…

posted by Bill Arnett @ 10:05 AM Permalink

…in a manner that will really hurt.

I speak of a new Microsoft commercial where a rather ordinary man is greeted by applause and accolades while written narrative points out that the man helped create the USB port, now so ubiquitous I don't think there are any new computers being made without one or two. While the man waves, smiles, fills his coffee cup the voice over points out that they, Microsoft, have a different standard by which they determine their heroes.

I think this is the greatest commercial ever made as it points out such a glaring mistake now routinely made in America and elsewhere: We heap accolades, and big bucks, on 'stars' and 'heroes' based on their ability to hit a running man with a football or basketball so he can then score points in a game of absolutely no historical significance except to the players, who may then demand, and get, salaries in the millions of dollars.

We routinely call men of sports, singers who have made millions, and people such as actors heroes and stars, larger than life, commanding the attention of millions and enjoying seemingly unending adulation. Anyone remember how the Roman Empire ultimately failed because it, too, got into hero worship and the games they played while their empire collapsed around them? (And, yes, I know this is an oversimplification of the fall of the Roman Empire, but this worship of men as idols because they could slay more slaves than anyone else contributed heavily to the collapse.

Personally I believe it is already too late to to change this paradigm and return to the days when men like Nikola Tesla (without whom we would not have AC power, the electric motors he designed that remain the best and most efficient motors ever, the "step-up" or Tesla coils that enabled the advent of television, enabled cars to generate the high voltage required to run them, and many other inventions of which we will never know as the government seized his labs and classified all is work 'top secret'. Men like George Westinghouse who spread the wiring for carrying AC current tremendously after Tesla sold him the patent for AC electricity for $5,000 so Westinghouse could have it to use at the 1905 world fair, Henry Ford and other engineers that forever changed transportation and shipping; the railroad barons with the foresight to lay tracks from shore to shore; the Wright Brothers who brought us flight [and were probably rewarded with the most fame]; and countless engineers, mechanical engineers, architects, and other unrecognized persons who are directly responsible for building the greatest nation on earth, which has done nothing but atrophy and which continues to fall apart at an ever faster rate.

That's why I'm so impressed with the Microsoft commercial, but it simply doesn't go far enough. While countries like China graduate around 9,000 engineers a year the United States graduates a paltry 900 or so. With that kind of superiority in the pursuit and application of knowledge it is no wonder America is falling behind so rapidly as to be considered irrelevant.

An easy example: my Warrior Woman wife is Filipina. The Philippines started programs years ago to improve their electrical and computer hardware so now a country years and years behind us in so many areas have cheap cell phones, able to call everywhere in the Philippines and, check this out, internet access SIXTEEN TIMES faster than our best rates of transmission.

Why? Because it is a matter of pride and hard work that the country has made graduating engineers a priority, as have so many nations. America the leader in innovation and new inventions? I think not. We're too busy educating engineering students from India, China, Singapore, and many other countries and then, with no prospects of working with genuinely cutting edge companies, they return home educated, celebrated by their citizenry, and ready, able, and capable of helping their country surpass America at every turn.

If our leaders expect us to 'invent new technologies' and count on our 'innovation' to restore America to greatness, then they better glorify, support, and give incentives to TV shows like Numb3rs and start programs to locate, identify potential engineers, pay for their education, housing, cars, a very generous salary and glorify those people as the heroes that will most benefit society and change forever the paradigm that says the man who can score the most points in a game of sport does nothing to advance technological achievements or improve the human condition. They are NOT heroes or stars or even of modest benefit to America.

Engineers build roads, bridges, railroads, highways and maintain and invent new infrastructure.

Show me a single sports team that has accomplished anything for America other than providing entertainment and getting cheap land and massive tax breaks for their stadiums that exacerbate the problem. Go ahead, I dare you.

MEA CULPA: This wonderful commercial is from INTEL and not Microsoft. I have no idea how I got Microsoft fixed in my head as the creators of this commercial, but if I could fix my head I wouldn't know how to act. I apologize to Intel and our dear readers for the gear slippage to which I occasionally (o.k., often) fall prey. This mistake was mine, mine tell you all mine, completely in it's entirety and anyone claiming otherwise should write me if they wish to assume this mistake in my behalf (the going price for assuming blame is a dollar twenty-two ninety five and a kewpie doll freshly smuggled in from Kewpie Land.)

The rest of my comments above are still accurate as far as I am concerned, so there.

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