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Re: Engineering Madness


I was pretty sure my post on Carter the engineer would provoke some hot responses. At least I didn’t say Carter was a “noo-clear” engineer, as he claimed. Actually Carter didn’t get a degree in nuclear physics from Annapolis; his “noo-clear” training consisted of a six-month course in nuclear technology at a state collge in New York after he joined the nuclear submarine program. From this he claimed he was a nuclear physicist, as though he was equal to Oppenheimer. As with so much of Carter, this claim was also a total fraud. (Hint, hint: I’ll have a book to plug about this subject in a few more days.)

More to the point: My dad was an engineer (and a minor Republican party official and local politician in LA–he beat Richard Riordan in an election once back in the 1960s), and employed a lot of smart, savvy engineers in his high-tech business, so of course it is incorrect to make broad generalizations. However, ask yourself this question: Why has the oil industry always been so political, while the technology industry has not tended to be very poliiical (though this is quickly changing)? A variation of this question might go like this: Why was Silicon Valley so politically immature for so long? (It arguably still is.) My perception, from meeting with a number of Silicon Valley CEO’s (mostly engineers) periodically in the late 1980s is that they couldn’t understand why political problems are not solved like engineering problems. The dynamics of ideology and interest-group rapacity was simply beyond their grasp in most cases. This is one reason why the high tech community swoons before the swindles of the educrats for more money for public schools.

This started to change at long last in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s for a simple reason: the trial lawyers started raiding the pockets of Silicon Valley companies, and the Valley had to get poltiical to fend them off. Of course there are exceptions, like the incomparable T.J. Rodgers, but he is an outlier in the Valley, even today.

Perhaps we should engage in a seminar about the applicability of C.P. Snow’s famous “two cultures” argument in the context of contemporary politics.


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