So, first cue up Bach Organ music (various preludes and fugues). This is the best music for self-righteous indignation about self-satisfied, smug idiots. The grandeur of the music helps convince one as they write, of how right they are. I am not immune to such efforts.
Next, go back to the web site of idiocy. Note that since yesterday, they have taken down the name and picture of the person who lays claim to the idiocy.It now says “by Honeywell” up instead (presumably the company?). Someone got some bad feedback and ran coweringly into a pseudonym. I (obviously) do not object to pseudonyms, I object to the post-facto pseudonym. Here, btw, is a link (the easiest to find, I’m sure there are others) to the original, by one John Slattery:
I do not feel bad about posting this, since yesterday it was up for the whole world to read. Instead, there is now an ugly graphic in shades of orange and green, or harvest and forest that brings to mind kitchens of the late 70’s. Said graphic, needless to say, does not say “science” to me, but I am biased.
I am referring to yesterday’s post titled “An Open Letter to Science”. It pissed me off, but my monkey brain would not let go of it. The reply I liked most (on twitter) was from Alex Chase
But there are lots more angry comments at the link, as well as some supportive ones (“get over it”).
So… why am I pissed off? First, this letter mixes up technology and science. Engineering and basic science research. Much of what Mr. Slattery wants are techno-toys. He wants what he read about in adolescent Heinlein novels (which are cool, which are things I want too). But is he too young to remember manual typewriters? Sliderules (which my text editor informs me is no longer a word)? Going to the movies? Percolated coffee? Black phones that weighed 10 pounds and had curly cords? There are other techno-toys out there. If he’s not happy with the selection, go invent some. Dreaming & building is okay, complaining about other people’s lack of sensitivity in not building what you want is not.
Second, there is no understanding of how the business and economics of technology innovation works. Steve Jobs may have had a vision, but he had a vision of things people wanted and sold them at a price people were willing to pay. A large potion of the world has a cell phone right now. Only some police and tourist places have Segways.
Third, there is no understanding of the economics of how science works. There are the economics of NIH, NSF and DOD and what science gets done. NIH has moved away from funding basic science in favor of translational work. DOD is busy funding breast cancer research, and not developing personal jetpacks. And, then we can talk about the NASA budget and why we haven’t been back to the moon since I was in junior high. Want your pizza on the moon, Mr Slattery? Do something about the NASA budget.
Finally, there is no sense of what science is. He does not get that what is invested in today that might, might I tell you, bring new toys next month, year, decade. The tech companies make the stuff that appears next year as gadgets. But thats based on scientific research that has been ongoing for a lot longer. Some very proximal changes (not faster chips, but a different kind of chip; not larger screens, but a different kind of screen) do get done by tech companies, because they can see the immediate advantage of such qualitative jumps. But the big stuff, the stuff we barely imagine today (time machines? teleportion?) is based on science that is not being done. Cue up all the discussions on problems in NIH funding (which apply to NSF, too).
So in the end, it comes back down to:
“Dear John, You get what you pay for. Love, Scientists”