Home' Technology Review : January February 2012 Contents Notebooks 11
work against the cross-cultural collabora-
tion needed to preserve the Web’s diver-
sity at scale. Local legislation can hinder
attempts to share information; companies
can fear negative commercial consequences
from providing access to their data; and
limited budgets constrain the few organiza-
tions, such as the Internet Archive, that are
dedicated to preserving the Web.
In a perfect world, this would not be the
case. Individuals, governments, universi-
ties, libraries, and corporations would all
work to preserve the world’s most vibrant
cultural medium. Imagine for a moment
an approach to preservation that builds on
the fundamental strengths of the Internet
itself—distributed, ubiquitous, relatively
inexpensive, not easily quelled or manipu-
lated by any single actor. “Netizens” from
around the globe would work to build a uni-
fied Web archive spanning cultural, political,
and commercial boundaries. Subject-matter
experts would ensure that their spheres
were adequately represented; others would
confirm that a representative sample across
all domains was being collected.
The result would not be a single resource
but, rather, a distributed collection of them.
We would need the equivalent of search
engines for this Web of the past, and new
tools to mine, graph, and study it.
Making this happen would require a
global willingness to exchange data for
long-term preservation. Is this too far-out
to imagine? Perhaps. But such coöperation
is appearing within international research
communities and cultural groups in both
Europe and the United States. This work
creates a foundation we can build upon.
Only by encouraging this type of collabo-
ration among like-minded communities can
we hope to preserve any significant slice of
the Web. The future does not afford any-
one the luxury of the unlimited time, funds,
computing power, and storage capacity that
would be needed to do it alone.
kr i s cAr peNte r Negulescu is director oF We b
ArchiviNg At th e iNterN et Archive, A NoN proF it iNter-
N et librAry t hAt preserves digitAl coNteNt.
the u.s. can compete with china
if it gives factory workers smarter
tools, says rodney brooks.
In October I joined a distinguished panel
at the National Academy of Engineering
on the future of manufacturing. One argu-
ment presented was that the United States
needed to find things that it alone could
make, ceding other manufacturing to China.
That wrongheaded thinking pervades
discussion about the role of manufacturing
in America’s future. It ignores huge opportu-
nities by equating advanced manufacturing
with manufacturing advanced stuff—things
like jet engines that only big companies buy.
The United States cannot afford to stop
making ordinary stuff—things we buy at the
store, like running shoes and cell phones—
and hope to compete by doing only design
and innovation. Making more competitive
products relies on a tight intertwining of
design and manufacturing (see “Can We
Build Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs?” p. 36).
Once we outsource to manufacturers in
China, they soon offer us design, too, since
they are the ones who can most easily change
existing product lines or introduce new ones.
The contractor soon becomes an innovator
in its own right, recruiting local designers
to work with its now expert manufactur-
ing engineers and get results faster than any
U.S.- based design team. We saw this movie
already in Japan and then in Korea, and now
it is showing in Taiwan and China.
Making ordinary stuff domestically
keeps transportation costs low and creates
short supply chains that respond quickly to
customers. More significant, it offers the
chance to empower factory workers with
information technology, just as the personal
IT revolution has empowered office workers.
Thirty years ago, most office workers
could not control information flow. They
received paper memos and reports printed
from mainframe computers. Distributing
your own memo was a multiperson pro-
cess; changing a printout took weeks and
a dozen people. The PC changed all that. By
the economic boom years of the late 1990s,
any individual office worker could produce
memos and automate simple tasks, using
tools such as e-mail and spreadsheets.
The same democratization of informa-
tion flow and automation has yet to come
to manufacturing. By analogy, our current
industrial systems and robots are main-
frames, and advanced-manufacturing inno-
vation is concentrated on supercomputers.
But the building blocks needed to create the
PCs of manufacturing abound; these will be
the robotics and automation tools for the
masses. We can create tools for ordinary
workers, with intuitive interfaces, extensive
use of vision and other sensors, and even
the Web-based distribution mechanisms
of the IT industry.
It was hard to imagine secretaries becom-
ing “programmers” in 1980, and it is hard to
conceive of ordinary U.S . factory workers
becoming manufacturing engineers. But
people who once would have been called
secretaries now routinely use spreadsheets,
typeset publications, and move money glob-
ally. We need to create the tools to similarly
empower our factory workers.
r odNey brooks is proF essor eMe ritus oF robotics
At Mit ANd FouNder oF the MANuFActuriNg stArtup
h e ArtlANd r obotics.
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