The Case For Smart Factories

By John J. Fanning

Over the last year I have been speaking before groups around the country about existing opportunities to create jobs and the danger we face by not recognizing those opportunities. As you might imagine, sometimes it’s a tough sell.

For the past five years, we Americans have been subjected to fears and predictions of gloom and doom. Sometimes it seems that if it weren’t for bad news, we wouldn’t hear any news at all. But tucked away from all the carnage and despair being broadcast on main stream media outlets and cable channel news, there have been a few news reports that offer not just hope for better economic times – they inform us of real opportunities that exist today.

When I present to groups I usually begin by describing a few new breakthroughs that have recently taken place. I tell them about the invention of an artificial leaf that was created at the Nocera Labs at MIT. This leaf has the ability to separate oxygen and hydrogen from water molecules and store the hydrogen in a fuel cell that will produce electricity. I also tell them about a breakthrough by IBM researchers who created a nanoparticle that seeks out and destroys the cells that make up harmful bacteria. I tell my audience about the discovery by Penn State researchers of a sixth structure for developing proteins, polymers, minerals and engineered materials and that this discovery will lead to development of materials we never before thought possible, perhaps even a superconductor.

At this point, I ask if anyone in the audience does not believe that any one of these new inventions or discoveries has the potential to fundamentally change all of our lives. So far, not one person has raised his or her hand.

Then I get down to the point I really want to make. I tell my audience how all three of these scientific and engineering breakthroughs were announced within the span of just thirty days this past summer. I also explain how the most remarkable thing about the development of these wonders is that considering the times we live in, their development is really not all that remarkable. Nearly every day new announcements are made of scientific and technical advancements. We just don’t hear that much about them because America’s airwaves and digital streams are filled with insignificance and mediocrity.

Most Americans have heard of Moore’s Law suggesting the number of transistors integrated into a single circuit doubles every eighteen months. But many of us fail to realize the implication of such rapid increases. To put it simply, back in 1971 approximately twenty three hundred transistors could be crammed onto a computer circuit board. In 2011, the number of transistors on a computer motherboard is over 2.5 billion. With all that computing power at the fingertips of millions of bright men and women, what else should we expect other than accelerated scientific and technological breakthroughs?

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Posted by on Jan 1st, 2012 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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