Today, let's worry about the goose and her golden
eggs. The University of Houston's College of
Engineering presents this series about the machines
that make our civilization run, and the people
whose ingenuity created them.
We have a problem, you and
I. We have a problem. America is slipping. We're
living off the fat of our land, and we're giving
its substance away. We staked a claim to world
leadership a hundred years ago, but only after we'd
become first in invention and production. Now we're
trying to live in wealth without creating wealth.
We see a reflection of the problem in our
universities. Too few Americans study science and
engineering. The ones who do usually stop at a
bachelor's degree. We have to seek out immigrants
to take up the advanced intellectual work that we
aren't doing ourselves.
When our engineers join industry, they're told
about the two roads they can take -- management on
the one hand, production and design on the other.
Management leads to seven-digit salaries and power.
Making things, it seems, is a dead end.
The situation gets worse: A recent Forbes editorial
noted that business-school graduates come to the
same fork in their road. The high-pay road leads to
investment banking. Industrial production jobs mean
second-class citizenship in the business world.
America was built on making and doing. But now
we've quit asking where the cement comes out. Our
machine isn't producing much cement these days.
Ship-building has long since passed to Japan and
Korea. We've given petroleum feedstock reduction
away to the third world. We manufacture hardly any
of our own electronic parts.
Worst of all, we're abdicating innovation. For
example, we haven't initiated a new, large-scale
transportation system in 40 years. Japanese
innovation dazzles us. We fail to see that it flows
from old-world values: the corporate good,
knowledge, and daring. The American financial
enterprise, its eye on security and short-term
gain, has stopped taking risks. New technologies
are too dangerous for organizations that want only
to stay safe.
And so we go on killing the goose to get her golden
eggs. Without the old virtues to nourish her, the
goose will stay dead. What's the solution?
Actually, you are the solution -- you with your
dream-driven, earth-connected ability to ride your
creative impulse. And today, a good idea has more
elbow room than it ever did. An industrial gamble
has a greater chance of success.
Trading securities might be a road to wealth. But
quite another road leads to pleasure in the world
of ideas. Quite another road leads to the
satisfaction of knowing you've put more into the
world than you've taken out of it.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston,
where we're interested in the way inventive minds