Monday, May 27, 2013

Very Good News for Engineers

From the most recent column in The New York Times by Tyler Cowen - - link.  Very good news for engineers - - (1.) New advances are creating world-class opportunities for low-cast continuing education, (2.) The less health care is as a % of GDP, the more we can spend on bridges that seem to keep falling into rivers, (3.) New advances in natural gas and oil development will create strong opportunities for engineering worldwide for the next half-century, and (4.) Being the destination point for the world's technically bright and creative is the key to our economic future.

From the article:

NEW KNOWLEDGE, LESS COST When it comes to education, an even greater productivity gain may be on the way. This month, for instance, the Georgia Institute of Technology announced a new online master’s degree in computer science, for a price of no more than $7,000.
It’s part of a trend toward less expensive education and certification. The examples are numerous: the Khan Academy offers free online instruction in mathematics and other topics, and Coursera and other companies have popularized online courses for millions of users.
How far these trends can be pushed is unclear, but it can no longer be argued that the basic technologies of education haven’t changed in decades or even centuries.
LOWER HEALTH CARE INFLATION The growth rate in health care costs has been slowing for the last four years. In some years, in fact, it’s been no higher than the growth rate of the economy as a whole. And much of the change appears driven by efficiencies, rather than by the recent recession. This is documented in a paper by David M. Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard, and Nikhil R. Sahni, a fellow at Harvard Business School; it appeared in the May 2013 issue of Health Affairs.
This cost deceleration isn’t guaranteed to stick, but the danger that sharply rising health care costs, compounding over time, will crash the entire economy is now somewhat reduced.
POWERING AMERICA FOR LESS We appear to be at the start of a new era of cheap energy. Through advances in both oil and natural gas production, the United States is again becoming a leading exporter of fossil fuels.
Many of the nation’s economic troubles, like slow productivity and income growth, began about the same time that America’s first age of cheap energy came to a sudden end, in the early 1970s. The effect of today’s energy boom on broader productivity remains to be seen, but it could prove a source of further gains. Unfortunately, cheap natural gas isn’t the path toward sustainable green energy, although it is cleaner than coal and has helped the nation make some progress in reducing emissions.
MOBILIZING THE CREATIVE This final development, concerning the fate of talent in lesser-developed nations, is perhaps the most fundamental. If you were born a genius in Shanghai in 1960, for example, your chances of making much contribution to the larger world were small, because China was largely isolated back then — and extremely unfree economically. It now does a much better job of mobilizing its considerable natural talent.
While the populations of countries like the United States are aging, the number of innovative young people worldwide has never been higher. Countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia, despite recent slowdowns in growth, still are making progress in improving their educational systems and scientific networks. That increases their ability to supply technological innovations — or scientists and entrepreneurs — to the United States. These gains can be reaped in coming decades.

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