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It's not what game you're playing, it's whether you win


The car-friendly guide to fixing human-made greenhouse emissions.

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It's not what game you're playing, it's whether you win

Engineering is about predicting the future. Whether they are designing bridges or aircraft, engineers are expected to design things that do their jobs without breaking down, collapsing, or wrecking things around them. Scientific engineering tools make it possible to predict how designs will behave under various conditions. That’s made it easier for engineers to accurately predict, for example, how much traffic a new bridge can safely carry.

Engineering tools are useless for predicting what people will do. We can predict with considerable accuracy, how many people can be safely stacked onto a footbridge before it will collapse, especially if we know how much those people weigh. No-one can reliably predict whether or not anyone will want to use the footbridge. We build footbridges where we think people will want to walk, and then build really high fences to stop them going anywhere else (especially at railway stations).

That’s why Technology Valley should embrace any business that might conceivably boost regional per-capita income. We have, in the Hutt Valley, companies building cars and boats, we have companies developing new drugs and natural extracts, along with electronics and superconductor manufacturers. Who’s to say which ones will succeed?

The other day a scientist told me: “The New Zealand economy is biological.” All economies are biological, because economics is about people, and last time I checked, we are mostly biological (apart from dental work and the odd prosthetic). But I don’t think that’s what this scientist was talking about. He wanted me to believe that New Zealand’s economy depends on bio-based industries. I already know that. I also know that New Zealand’s per-capita income has been lagging the global average for more than a hundred years.

I don’t doubt that adding value to primary products could be part of the solution.

I also think it’s critical to cast a wider net. New Zealand businesses will succeed if they exploit the advantages of being Kiwi to beat their competition. I don’t care if they make cars, natural therapeutics, or spacecraft. If their business helps boost per-capita income in New Zealand, Technology Valley should be doing whatever it can to help them.

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