The Rise and Fall of American Technology

By Lynn G. Gref | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Metaphors can be very useful for the explanation of concepts and remembering things. One might think of an automobile as a metaphor for a country’s economy. In the case of the United States, it has been like a high-powered Indianapolis racecar since the Civil War. For most of the rest of the world, its economy has been like an underpowered economy car. Continuing the metaphor, technology has been the engine, engineers and scientists have been the pit crew, and the American spirit has been the fuel. Moreover, the United States has been burning up the track and its lead over the rest of the world has been daunting. Alas, Americans may have become complacent or have lost the thrill of the race. Worse yet, they may have turned against the race altogether because of guilt over the consequences of their past preoccupations.

Here are some facts behind the metaphor. Information workers comprise more than 45% of the U.S. workforce, largely due to the information technology revolution. The application of technology accounts for two thirds of the annual increase in worker productivity since 1995. Roughly, 6.5 million workers hold high-paying high-tech positions in America’s businesses. More than 200,000 entrepreneurs open technology-based companies every year. Research and development (R&D) spending in the U.S. is at a record level, which has resulted in an exploding array of technology based products and services. That is great! However, we must try to assess what the future has in store and where America can go from here.

The quickening pace of technology and the explosive growth of technology comprise the theme of a number of books and articles. Information and modern communications technology has touched everyone in one way or another. New and improved products hit the marketplace at a dizzying rate. It would seem that everyone is familiar with Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors on a chip will double about every two years. In fact, briefings by senior industry representatives assured the Army Science Board that they know how to proceed in the development of microprocessors for the next decade that will preserve Moore’s Law.

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