TITLE: Preserve Process Knowledge AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 31, 2018 1:44 PM DESC: ----- BODY: This weekend I read the beginning of Dan Wang's How Technology Grows. One of the themes he presses is that when a country loses its manufacturing base, it also loses its manufacturing knowledge base. This in turn damages the economy's ability to innovate in manufacturing, even on the IT front. He concludes:
It can't be an accident that the countries with the healthiest communities of engineering practice are also in the lead in designing tools for the sector. They're able to embed knowledge into new tools, because they never lost the process knowledge in the first place.
Let's try to preserve process knowledge.
I have seen what happens within an academic department or a university IT unit when it loses process knowledge it once had. Sometimes, the world has changed in a way that makes the knowledge no longer valuable, and the loss is simply part of the organization's natural evolution. But other times the change that precipitated the move away from expertise is temporary or illusory, and the group suddenly finds itself unable to adapt other changes in the environment. The portion of the article I read covered a lot of ground. For example, one reason that a manufacturing base matters so much is that services industries have inherent limits, summarized in:
[The] services sector [has] big problems: a lot of it is winner-take-all, and much of the rest is zero-sum.
This longer quote ends a section in which Wang compares the economies of manufacturing-focused Germany and the IT-focused United States:
The US and Germany are innovative in different ways, and they each have big flaws. I hope they fix these flaws. I believe that we can have a country in which wealth is primarily created by new economic activity, instead of by inheritance; which builds new housing stock, instead of permitting current residents to veto construction; which has a government willing to think hard about new projects that it should initiate, instead of letting the budget run on autopilot. I don't think that we should have to choose between industry and the internet; we can have a country that has both a vibrant industrial sector and a thriving internet sector.
This paragraph is good example of the paper's sub-title, "a restatement of definite optimism". Wang writes clearly and discusses a number of issues relevant to IT as the base for a nation's economy. How Technology Grows is an interesting read. -----