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Technology arid Its Role in Modem Society STEPHEN D. BECHTEL, JR. This volume brings together some of the nanon's leading thinkers and doers in the fields of economics and technology. Economics and technology are among the most importa~tforces affec~zrzg Amenca's industrial leadership. Although it is riot always recognized even by people who should know, these fields are inseparable in the real world, and they must be studied jointly if either is to be fully un- derstood. Authors and readers of this volume share much in spins, if not in circum- stance, with our eighteenth-century forefathers. Just as they were, we are presented by circumstances win the opportunity to reexamine our national goals and to reorient our future in the face of adverse economic conditions. And, just as those Revolutionary War patriots were called upon to take a stand 200 years ago, so modern Americans were summoned by President Reagan in his 1985 State of the Union address to what he termed the "Second American Revolution." He spoke optimistically of our opportunities and of our technological prowess. We must, however, be prepared to seize those opportunities if we are to capitalize on them. That can be done only from a position of knowledge and understanding of He interrelationships among all segments of our society. Win He objective of making a contribution to such understanding, this volume brings together some of the nation's leading thinkers and doers in He fields of economics and technology. I wish to share an observation on He recently published report, Global Competition: The New Reality, of He President's Commission on Industrial Competitiveness (see Young, in this volume). Beyond its assemblage of essential data and its perceptive analyses, the report's real importance may 115

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116 STEPHEN D. BECH7EL, JR. lie in the cogency win which it presents ties between technology and our economy, between our economy and the international marketplace, and be- tween the international marketplace and He American work force. We hope Hat the repon, which addresses one of our naiion's most critical issues, will be broadly studied and that its recommendations will be implemented. It is a call to action. REVIEW OF AMERICA'S TECHNOLOGICAL POSITION We as a nation have not always fully appreciated our technologists and their achievements. There seem to be irregular swings in public favor. At the turn of the century, there was a great outpouring of public interest in and support for the activities of such people as Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. In He 1930s, some of the civil engineering achievements of our times inspired public interest, awe, and enthusiasm. Hoover Dam, the first American megaproject, attracted a near-continual stream of tourists to the Nevada desert long before construction even started. The Golden Gate Bridge remains one of the best-known symbols of He West, a California Statue of Liberty. Dunng the initial post-World War II years, the mid-1940s through He 1950s, the public mood continued on He side of technology. Television was new. Automobiles were popular. Jet airplanes were flying higher, farmer, and faster. Those years also spawned He computer revolution, which in turn allowed the pace of technological advance to quicken and inspired even greater levels of public interest and support. But without public support, technology wipers. For example, during its infancy and years of coming of age, the nuclear power industry was enthu- siastically supported, eagerly awaited by an overwhelming majority of the American public. Yet, with the cooling of public sentiment for technology in the mid-1970s, the nuclear power industry came to a stalemate. During the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, we saw the rise of an enonnous public cynicism toward technologists and technology. Industrialists were characterized as wrong until proven right. Engineers were branded as self- centered, lacking in concern for their environment, or even for Heir fellow- man. Civil works~ams and bridges and highways were delayed for years by petitions and lawsuits. Amenca's manned space program, ushered into existence with great fanfare and public interest in the 1960s, almost faded from the skies during the mid-1970s, when the public's fancy turned away. More recently, however, we have seen signs Hat the public view has turned around again. Technology seems to be back In favor. Among the indicators is die rise in He amount of money Hat our society is channeling into research and developmentIn 1984 dais amount was $100 billion; in 1985 it Is exempt to reach 2.7 percent of the GNP, a level not achieved since 1969. The upswing

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TECHNOLOGY AND ITS ROLE IN MODERN SOCIETY 117 in the public interest and confidence In technology and engineering is heartening. It is also necessary if our economy is to grow and prosper. l ROLE OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING As chainnan of the National Academy of Engineering, ~ have had the opportunity to witness the close interdependency between the public and the technical communities. Our Academy itself was founded in 1964 as a result of the cyclic shift in public attention. For much longer, since 1863, Me federal government has had available to it an advisory body, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), for scientific and technical matters. But by the middle of the twentieth century, with the RussianlAmencan race to space in progress, engineering had achieved a stature of special importance. The National Academy of Engineering was established under the 1863 congressional charter by which the National Academy of Sciences was cre- ated. NAE was created to advise the Congress and the executive branch on matters of engineering. In addition, it was given Me following mandate: 1. Further Me interests of engineering education. 2. Expand U.S. participation in international technical exchanges. 3. Conduct or encourage engineering research deemed advisable in the . . natlona . Interest. Recognize outstanding individuals for their engineering contributions to the nation. Today, our Academy is composed of more than 1,300 of the nation's most prominent and eminent engineers. About 55 percent of our membership comes from industry. The remaining 45 percent comes from academia, gov- emment, and other organizations. I think it is particularly noteworthy that more than half (7 of Me 12) of the National Medal of Technology recipients honored recently by President Reagan are members of our Academyone of those so honored was Ralph Landau, a guiding spins behind this volume. The National Academy of Engineenug has been very successful during its first two decades of existence. Yet it, like Me rest of the nation, is at a crossroads. Our organization has mamred: In our twenties, we have "come of age." As NAE enters its Gird decade, we plan to take an aggressive posture in exercising our responsibility to advise the government on matters of eng~- neenug and technology. And just as Me Young Commission (~e Pres~dent's Com~russ~on on Industrial Competitiveness refened to earlier) has identified for the nation and the President specific actions Mat must be taken if Me United States is to prosper into the twenty-first century, so have we at the Academy of Engineering identified some directions Mat we believe must be pursued.

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118 STEPHEN D. BECHTEL, JR. We share with the Young Commission concern about Amenca's ability to maintain its technological leadership. We, too, see a shifting in the lineup of participants in the international marketplace. We, too, want to help Amer- ica keep its position of economic and technological leadership as the sands shift abound us. A major such direction was established on March 13, 1985, when the National Academy of Engineenng was asked by President Reagan '`to take the lead and work with the National Academy of Sciences and other technical organizations, to marshal the nation's technical engineering-based expertise in a campaign that will ensure Amenca's scientific, technological and en- gineenng leadership into the 21st Century." He cited the need to "regain U.S. industrial competitiveness and E-establish our technological leader- ship." He noted "two conditions of utmost importance to these efforts: "First, we must engage the best minds and experience the county has to offer, and "Second, the private sector must take the lead." He went on to say that the National Academy of Engineenng's "Decade III Program will address the broad spectrum of issues essential to industrial competitiveness and technological leadership." On behalf of the National Academy of Engineering, I wish to state that we are not only honored and pleased with He President's request, but we can hope to meet that challenge only with the help and energetic participation of all the interests represented in He pages of this volume and with He full range of scientific, technological, and engineering interests that are not so represented. CONCLUSION The material presented in this volume is intended to elevate public aware- ness of He mutual needs and contributions binding technology and economic heady. Indeed, its importance is exceeded only by the need for continuing dialogue. The engineering profession is beginning to recognize its responsibility to speak out, to participate in public policy debates. We have leaIned Hat we need to communicate the reasoning behind our technological needs if we hope to achieve public understanding of what needs to be done. ~ hope the understanding achieved through this volume will take root, flourish, and spread Cough industry, academia, and government. Of course, it would be unreasonable to hope Hat we can bridge all the gaps that separate the venous interests in various parts of our country. But the key to accom- modation of divergent opinions is understanding, and He key to understand- ing is dialogue.