Google recently spent $12.5 billion dollars acquiring Motorola. Monday, the company known primarily as an Internet search engine announced it would be closing about one third of the 90 former Motorola facilities, and fire about 4,000 workers. That’s business.
What Google really wanted was the nearly 20,000 patents Motorola owned – heavy weaponry in the field of mobile communications, in which it seems everyone is suing everyone else – Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and others – over who actually invented the latest piece of technology, or even the way a switch moves up or down to select a function.
That’s business at high altitude, where companies rise and fall, workers are hired and laid off, and those who guide such goings-on generally come away with a large share of the booty, whichever way the market goes, to start their next venture.
By the way, in a global economy, even lay-offs are outsourced – as nearly 3,000 of the 4,000 former Motorola employees learned Monday morning.
On the other hand, the largest solar array in Pennsylvania is slated to go live in October, near Lancaster. The 30-acre array will produce enough electricity for some 950 homes.
It’s possible the technology that makes the cells that squeeze electricity from speeding waves of sunlight could be developed almost anywhere on the planet. Send a couple of Kenyan’s, or Chinese, to college, set them in a decent research lab, and turn ’em loose.
The question is, do we want the research lab there, or here? As it is, the solar cells are made in Canada.
Wind generators need technicians to maintain them – one technician for every 10 turbines. The turbines can be assembled in China, and maybe even designed there, but they cannot be erected there, nor can they be maintained there.
What got me mind-surfing this wave was a camera-laden ATV landing last week on Mars. The six-wheel rig was placed on the pointy end of a speeding bullet and fired some 140 million (if I’ve counted the zeros correctly) miles from home, then parachuted to a soft plop, and began sending back the first pictures humans have ever taken from the surface of the Red Planet.
A few months before that, a fellow who invented a very well-known Internet-based banking system sent a cargo ship to rendezvous with the International Space Station and return.
Almost any nation on Earth could have made those things happen. The U.S. did it.
When I was a kid, most everyone on the planet was excited to get to the moon. The same exploratory drive that led Marco Polo to China and Chris Columbus to America had us glued to our televisions as a fellow human – coincidentally, a U.S. citizen – took “one giant step” on the planetary satellite, proving once for all it was not made of limburger cheese.
Then we turned the space program from exploration of distant worlds to a local military supply network and began to believe we’d gone as far as we could.
When I was a kid, a few men and a few horses could cut all the marketable timber from a mountain in a few months. Now, one man can sit in one air conditioned, stereo sound machine and totally denude the same mountain in a few hours.
Some so-called experts have suggested our children should decide when they are as young as six what career they want to follow. Their education could then be tailored, and they would be ready to enter the workforce when schooling was over.
Unfortunately, the jobs that exist when the kids are still capable of dreaming will have been replaced by the time they enter the “real world.”
We have become a culture that measures “growth” by the size of the bottom line; does anyone really believe that businesses which have learned to make more profit with fewer employees – or have gone out of business entirely – will immediately hire the unemployed workers as soon as it’s clear who will be president come January 21, 2013?
I’d rather my grandkids, instead of being trained to complain when the machines of their childhood have been replaced and the distance to explore shortened by artificial fences, be encouraged to dream of new machines and new distances, unrestrained by the artificial fences of old knowledge.
That’s what we do best.
Photo by mpancha
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