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We are Dilbert

Last meetup highlighted serious problems in the Hutt Valley. I'm finding it very difficult to make up my mind which problem to be most appalled about.

This morning's Dom Post clinched it for me. The biggest problem we highlighted last Thursday was that career advisers in several Hutt Valley high schools are advising technologically talented kids not to pursue careers in engineering. I have no idea if this is also happening in Porirua or Kapiti. But even if the problem is confined to the Hutt, it is so despicable I can't believe these so-called career advisers still have jobs.

What focussed my thoughts was a newspaper article about a study in Nature Geoscience by Bristol University climate modeller Professor Pierre Friedlingstein and several co-authors. The paper points out (correctly) that humanity's fossil carbon budget will run out in about 30 years at current rates of carbon dioxide emissions.

What pisses me off is that no-one, not the good professor and his co-authors, not the Times reporter who wrote the newspaper article, and certainly not the erudite Dom Post, mentioned that this problem would get worse if we listened to the greenies. Nor did anyone mention that the problem can be solved using technology that has already been invented, and that being alive will keep on getting more and more fun for each new generation.

They'd rather let young people think there's no future for human civilisation. Even though nothing could be further from the truth.

Man-made global warming can be stabilised by phasing out fossil carbon emissions over a period of sixty years. Anyone can work that out from Friedlingstein and his co-authors' abstract. And, as I have written before, many times, humanity can do it without inventing any new technology. We simply need to regulate how energy companies manufacture electricity, petrol, diesel, jet fuel, and other energy products. We don't NEED ethanol or hydrogen or battery powered cars, but if those technologies help, it's all good. Equally important, we need to spend profits and surpluses wisely. Pissing away billions on Kiwirail is not helping.

I have no problem with the way Professor Friedlingstein worded his paper. The world needs to be shocked into regulating carbon dioxide emissions. It needs to happen very quickly, and the regulations need to apply to every country on the planet.


Humanity will need every technologist that can be trained. Carbon-neutral petrol costs more than fossil petrol. That's why it is critical to maximise per-capita economic growth over the next seventy years. If, at the end of this century, our great-grandchildren can look back on a century in which real incomes doubled (which is less than 1 percent annual per-capita growth), then they won't complain any more than we do about petrol prices.

We have very good reason to believe innovation drives per-capita growth. If technologists all over the world get stuck into pushing the boundaries of technology, humanity should have no trouble maintaining strong per-capita economic growth. And people in the future will be able to afford carbon-neutral energy.

That's not the only reason the world will need technologists. Oil companies and electricity companies will need millions of engineers and technicians to design and develop new energy infrastructure.

Meanwhile, back in the Hutt Valley, career advisers steer promising young folk away from technology careers. Why? Is it because, like Dilbert, engineers wear ties that are so old and decrepit they curl up at the ends? Or is it that they forget to tie their shoelaces? Or have to be reminded to get a haircut every couple of years?

Get over it!

Technology is what makes us different from the animals. It has never been more exciting. It's cumulative. The more we do it, the more fun it gets to be.

I would very much like to hear what career advisers are saying to young people who understand physics and math. If you're one of those people, you'll have no trouble working out how to record the next conversation with your school's career adviser. You don't have to tell them you're doing it. It's perfectly legal, as long as you are taking part in the conversation. So if you're a Hutt Valley nerd, or a geek, or a wannabe boy racer, and you don't like what your high school career adviser is saying, tell someone. Comment on this blog. Send us email.


Kevin Cudby is a Wellington-based Freelance Writer and Parametric Modelling Consultant who loves writing about cool new technology. Email him to discuss your requirements: hello {a}

We are Dilbert

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