innovation in plant.biology

S. A. Modena samodena at
Mon Sep 21 00:24:58 EST 1992

In article <1992Sep15.150855.26754 at> claird at (Cameron Laird) writes:
>			.
>>>Related, but distinct, question:  do winners, or losers,
>>>adopt new technologies?.............
>			.
>			.
>Let me throw a different question back to the audience:
>does anyone know of a good place electronically to discuss
>innovation? .....................

>Cameron Laird

Innovation?  Certainly, I've never taken a "course" in it!  ;^)

Richardo's exposition reminds me that no one ever mentioned that I
should or needed to take a course in ethics, history or political
economy...or anything related to the "human(e)" side of science.

Come to think of it: courses in science ethics is an experimental
colloquium here at NCSU.

In reality, my scattered reading and observation in these areas has been

What I imperfectly know of innovation comes mainly from accidental
exposure to people that I recognize--by hindsight--as innovators (of
various sorts).  Definitely, there was no social consciousness attributable
to these people...just unbridled genius.

Just today I finished reading:  

    "Accidental Empires:  How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their
        Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't get a Date."
     by  Robert X. Cringely
     Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA   1992 
     ISBN 0-201-57032-7
     Library call # HD9696.C63U51586
This book recounts simultaneously the rise of the PC computer industry
and the personality characteristics of the *innovative* main players.
In 306 pages, there is mention (briefly) of 2 women. Otherwise, Cringely
interprets the successes and failures of start-up type technology innovation
in terms of the social needs/disappoinments of nerds.  

Since I have a foot in both worlds (computers and plant.biology) this
book is a remarkable, thought provoking contrast to much of what I've
read on the social-economic history of techno-agriculture (and presumably
plant biology).

Cringely says that there are first-wave, second-wave and third-wave
companies. Stolid IBM is the epitomy of a post-third-wave company (i.e.,
in accerating decline on the way to a smaller and unrecognizable
future self by 2000).  Who knows?

I'm going to quote the last three paragraphs, which are cast in terms of 
the U.S.A. versus Japan, but which I think is a call to *all* sides
to reconsider how and where and why we expend our creative efforts.
Please, substitute words like plant.biology or gene-splicing or
gene-guns and ask yourself how that reads if I were on this side of
the argument or on that side.  :^)  Of course, substitute your countries
of choice into the scenario!


"Here's my perscription for computing happiness.  The United States is
losing ground in nearly every area of computer technology except software
and microprocessors.  And guess what?  About the only computer
technologies that are likely to show substantial growth in the next
decade are--software and microprocessors!  The rest of the computer
industry is destined to shrink.

"Japan has no advantage in software, and nothing short of a total change
of national character on their part is going to change that significantly.
One really remarkable thing about Japan is the achievement of its craftsmen,
who are really artists, trying to produce perfect goods without concern
for time or expense.  This effect shows, too, in many large-scale
Japanese computer programming projects, like their work on fifth-generation
knowledge processing.  The team becomes so involved in the grandeur of their
concept that they never finish the program.  That's why Japanese companies
buy American movie studios: they can't build competitive operations of
their own.  And Americans sell their movie studios because the real wealth
stays right here, with the creative people who invent the software.

"The hardware business is dying.  Let it.  The Japanese and the Koreans
are so eager to take over the PC hardware business that they are 
literally trying to but the future.  But they are only buying the past."

As we think of plant.biology, basic and applied in it's myriad forms,
I hope we all might try to identify what is past or moving into
obsolescence....and where the future is.  The wealth of nations is/will be in
the creativity it fosters in it's citizens.

|     In person:  Steve Modena     AB4EL                           |
|     On phone:   (919) 515-5328                                   |
|     At e-mail:  nmodena at                           | 
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|     By snail:   Crop Sci Dept, Box 7620, NCSU, Raleigh, NC 27695 |
         Lighten UP!  It's just a computer doing that to you.

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