Sunday, June 25, 2006


Ryan Harne wrote this essay for scholarship funds at Virginia Tech. » Blog Archive » they hush it up but they know it
Sure, computers have revolutionized everything from economics to the environment, but that is often viewed as removed and sterile. An Eiffel Tower, a Great Wall, even a moon landing is tangible, to some extent, but the triumph of computers is hard to grasp or conceptualize. People have gradually become disillusioned with engineering, giving up their associations of brilliance and ingenuity for a new type of engineering labeled as an exercise for nerds. The American pastime of radically forging ahead in new fields is getting an unceremonious curtain call.

Much of the current public attention is drawn towards passive entertainment, keeping active thrills for occasional vacationing experiences, and interpreting ambition as a defect in the human ego. Universities have begun to suffer from this cynical approach within science and engineering programs as a dwindling number of students apply for those degrees. Even though there are many national or multi-national projects in play for great, technological leaps forward, the publicity for such ventures is minimal and the public-at-large is simply not concerned. Efforts like the One Laptop Per Child, the Space Elevator, and the Ansari X-Prize (now Lunar Lander Challenge) get negligible notice in the public eye; but these are the inspiring aspirations of our time! Virginia Tech is now involved in some fantastic programs for furthering human knowledge and technology (System X, numerous Fralin Biotech and Transportation Institute projects, and near-endless others) but prospective students, and even some current students, are oblivious to the front lines of VT’s research. For excitement to be gathered and a troupe of goal-oriented students to be rallied, there is a dire need for lasting academic motivation to be fostered.
The sentiment of the essay is one that most of us might agree on. We stand on the shoulders of giants with the expectation that we'll forge new links in the chain of knowledge (to mix a metaphor). What happens to us as a society if we just stagnate?

Pray we'll never find out.
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