I do my best to question conventional wisdom, but I had heard and repeated the fact that the US had lost its manufacturing and it was never coming back so often that I assumed it must be true. But I pick up the December 2012 issue of the Atlantic magazine recently and two articles jump out at me – both declaring that manufacturing is re-emerging. James Fallows writes of US startups exploiting new technologies to speed up the process of design-to-product, and Charles Fishman writes about US corporations like GE moving production back to the US.
James Fallows’ article, Mr. China Comes to America, opens with these words: “For decades, every trend in manufacturing favored the developing world and worked against the Unites States. But new tools that greatly speed up development from idea to finished product encourage start-up companies to locate here, not in Asia.” That got my attention! Charles Fishman’s article The Insourcing Boom goes even a step further. It’s opening words: “After years of offshore production, General Electric is moving much of its far-flung appliance-manufacturing operations back home. It is not alone.”
I make no bones about the fact that I like to report good news, but I don’t want to make nice or play Pollyanna. This information from these reporters strikes me as the real thing and I’m only too glad to admit I may have prematurely buried “made in America”.
James Fallows www.jamesfallows.com
Charles Fishman www.thebigthirst.com
After 3.8 billion years of R&D on this planet, failures are fossils. What surrounds us in the natural world is what has succeeded and survived. So why not learn as much as we can from what works? Nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on Earth.
In January 2009, Harvard received the largest philanthropic gift in its history — $125M — to create the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and today’s guest is its founding director, DON INGBER. I find this whole notion of imitating nature one of the most exciting developments in human activity and something that gives me great hope.
The human body is an engineering marvel that maintains its balance while executing complicated movements, and senses and adapts to heat and cold. Every 20 seconds, it circulates blood through its extremities. Its cells are able to replace wounded tissue, find and destroy dangerous invaders, and interconnect to produce thoughts and emotions. Our bodies – and all living systems – accomplish tasks far more sophisticated and dynamic than any entity yet designed by humans. By emulating nature’s principles for self-organizing and self-regulating, Wyss researchers develop innovative engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing.