Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Big Engineering 65 Educating the World
It gives us not only mobile phone but also internet coverage everywhere in in the world (well possibly not at the north and south poles because they aren't visible from the equator).
It does so for relatively simple receivers because with the signal capability up to a million times stronger than current satellite broadcasters picking it up is easy. That, plus mass production, means 10s or even hundreds of millions of receivers could be produced at relatively small cost.
As regards mass production this is a relevant recent comment by Jerry Pournelle.
After 1940 America mobilized, Detroit began to turn out tanks and trucks and artillery, airplane factories sprang up, Kaiser finished Hoover Dam and put in shipyards where there had been nothing but mud flats, and GM’s Knudsen showed everyone that if you could produce one of something, you could produce a million of them, and do it with workers who hadn’t been trained – this was the time of Rosie the Riveter. Hitler never really believed that Sherman tanks were being built by women, and where did we get all those bombers?
Up to then the limit to mass production was the skilled work needed to make machine tools; in the period leading up to WW II American industry learned how to make machine tools – tools to make the machinery for mass production machines – and to get past the limit that had previously been imposed by the requirement that workers had to be highly skilled to make tools to the precision – one thousandth of an inch – needed to build precision machine tools. That opened the way to true mass production. Incidentally, we are still learning that lesson, but it isn’t fully learned yet: that is, it takes highly skilled workers to build some of the production facilities required in modern large chip production. That limit is being overcome, and Moore’s Law continues to be a good approximation of reality, with the inevitable consequence that fewer and fewer workers are required to produce more and more goods.
Then all that is needed is a teaching programme. Multiple choice questions may not be the only way to run tests but they work and you would only need 1 programme to teach millions of people that way. Might not be the best education system in the world but it would certainly be far from the worst.
Julian Simon always said that population growth was good because human beings are the only real wealth producing resource. We can find out.