Technology innovation must not be moved offshore
By ara c. trembly
H.G. Wells’ classic novel “The Time Machine” depicts a distant future in which England’s industrialized society has “evolved” into a world in which workers and consumers have become separate but still co-dependent cultures, with the physically superior workers preying on the lazy, ineffectual consumers.
Wells’ dark vision shows us the peaceful Eloi (the consumers), a physically weak people who spend their days playing like children and their nights huddled and hidden in fear of the Morlocks (the workers, who actually provide the warmth and energy for the planet). The Morlocks live and work in the energy plants underground and can’t seem to tolerate the daylight. They have devolved into nocturnal cannibals, and among their favorite dishes is the helpless Eloi, who are eminently ripe for the picking.
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So, their co-dependent dance goes on, with the Morlocks breeding a food source and the Eloi “enjoying” a habitable climate, like prized cattle being prepared for the slaughter. Certainly, we of the 21st century would regard such a scenario as horrid and impossible, yet we have only to look around us to see that seeds are being sown that could lead us down a similar path–and that technology is intimately involved.
It’s no secret that the United States is moving away from being a manufacturing economy and toward being a service economy, and that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Clearly, technology–and in particular the Internet–has helped enable this shift to producing ideas and intellectual property instead of bolts and widgets. But what happens when we not only stop manufacturing hard goods but also stop manufacturing new ideas?
IDG News Service reported several months ago that Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates was warning companies not to outsource their core business functions and staff. He cautioned that companies should beware of outsourcing for cost savings alone and should keep their key engineering and intellectual property resources at home. “If you rely too much on people in other companies and countries…you are outsourcing your brains, where you are making all the innovation,” he said.