Interesting Article - How Technology Grows

How Technology Grows - by Dan Wang

Technology should be understood in three distinct forms: as processes embedded into tools (like pots, pans, and stoves); explicit instructions (like recipes); and as process knowledge, or what we can also refer to as tacit knowledge, know-how, and technical experience. Process knowledge is the kind of knowledge that’s hard to write down as an instruction. You can give someone a well-equipped kitchen and an extraordinarily detailed recipe, but unless he already has some cooking experience, we shouldn’t expect him to prepare a great dish.

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There are in fact broadly speaking two classes of marine engineers. There are those who have a good understanding of the principles and how they apply to every day problem solving and a than there are those that don’t. The ones who are more or less doing things by rote.

In general the engineers who have been trained in the U.S. are in fact, on average in the first class, they have a good grounding in both practice and theory.

It been argued ad nauseam that U.S. trained engineers only believe they are better simply because they are American but it does have some basis in fact.

It’s true in many cases of engineers trained elsewhere of course as well. But not everywhere.

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Interesting read. The piece glosses over an important aspect: In order to have healthy industry, a country must have a working class. A lot of European countries have willfully dismantled their manufacturing base because of the utopian idea that we’ll all be middle class. Germany has a large and visible working class, whereas in the surrounding countries it has been replaced by destitutes on welfare.

This bring to mind a comment by someone (I believe it was Bugge) in one of the Jones Act threads, commenting how an American shipyard closed its doors not because it wasn’t profitable, but because it was felt that the bound capital would provide a better return elsewhere. I can’t find it back, though :-/


Countries that have apprenticeships that include compulsory college ( with exams) have pretty good quality people.

Another article along the same lines:

America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military - The American Conservative.

The United States has, for instance, lost much of its fasteners and casting industries, which are key inputs to virtually every industrial product. It has lost much of its capacity in grain oriented flat-rolled electrical steel, a specialized metal required for highly efficient electrical motors. Aluminum that goes into American aircraft carriers now often comes from China.

At risk is everything from chaff to flares to high voltage cable, fittings for ships, valves, key inputs for satellites and missiles, and even material for tents. As Americans no longer work in key industrial fields, the engineering and production skills evaporate as the legacy workforce retires.

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< weep >