In "Countdown to mediocrity?" (see Oct. 24, page 28), I'd be willing to bet that the "government-funded advisory group" that wrote the National Academies' report [on the erosion of science and technology leadership] was packed with educators, executives and research directors instead of engineers. They missed the problem completely. In the United States nowadays, becoming an engineer is like becoming an artist or musician. You do it for love of the work rather than any expectation of steady employment or respect, unless you happen to be among a few superstars.
Many readers have written to EE Times over the years saying they advised their intelligent sons or daughters to go into medicine or law instead of engineering. These are professions where, once you "pay your dues," you can have some control over your work environment. More experience brings greater respect rather than the perception of obsolescence.
If you want to work long hours as a physician or attorney, you can, but not because you're getting near the end of the project and your manager is pressuring you. If you come up with something clever, you get respect from your peers instead of having to sign over patent rights for a pittance. Your job can't be outsourced, offshored or eliminated just to boost quarterly earnings. Even elementary school teaches get tenure in California.
I'm old enough to remember when we engineers were respected by employers and the public alike (remember the space program?). Now, to CEOs, we are a fungible resource, like cubicle furniture. This is generally not true in other countries, and is probably the main reason for the decline in U.S. [engineering-school] enrollments. All the PR, science teacher training and endless studies will not help U.S. engineering when any high school student can pick up the local paper and see that Cisco has offshored 4,000 jobs to India this week. Let's talk to engineers and not those causing the problem.
Discussion of cars, drivers took a well-traveled road
What Ron Wilson describes in "Whizzy cars, dizzy drivers" (see Sept. 26, page 4) is hardly a new phenomenon. Airbags have killed people because they are designed with the assumption that no one wears their seat belts. Antilock brakes have not turned out to be the panacea they were supposed to be, since so many people refuse to understand that they can't give you dry-pavement braking on glare ice.
Your 45-mph fuel-conserving speed seems out-of-place in an otherwise excellent argument. I have been hearing that bromide for decades, yet I have never seen any real test data. Besides, who is going to do something that so clearly clashes with self-interest?
Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
Leadership in innovation appears bound for Asia
Thank you for George Leopold's commentary (see Sept. 19, page 4). I agree that innovation is key to the future health of the U.S. electronics industry. Unfortunately, interest in developing internal, or evaluating external, innovation does not appear on everyone's corporate priority list. But holding on to cash reserves and getting free government money are apparently high on the list, as Leopold noted.
We get much praise from technical opinion leaders in the United States for our innovations, such as the low-power, copper-based 10-Gbit interconnect we demonstrated this year. Unfortunately, however, most we have met with in the U.S. corporate world appear to be waiting for someone else to take the lead. I fear we are on our way to becoming a nation of followers.
It appears that leadership in electronics innovation is shifting to Asia. (Some, I suppose, will argue it happened years ago.) I attended a "reverse trade show" in Japan where a number of major Asian companies set up booths to meet prospective suppliers, as opposed to the traditional prospective buyer. In the spirit of the event, the exhibiting companies ostensibly sought innovative solutions and development partners. I wonder if it is possible that we would ever see such an event in the United States?
San Jose, Calif.