Business roundtable; Science, technology, and society
The following program is made possible through a grant from nation's business. This is a business roundtable a program of current comment from leading members of America's business community. Today. Welcome. The Ferguson retired chairman of the board Bendix corporation. Well explore the topic. Science Technology and Society with series host Alfred L. C. Lee Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Michigan State University. We're fortunate to have on Business Roundtable a man who's been associated with a company that's been in the forefront of science and technology and he himself has been deeply involved in many of these developments over the
past many years. Mr. FERGUSON It seems at least to a layman that we have had an unbelievable number of scientific and technological breakthroughs starting approximately with World War 2 and great developments have come out of this. Is this true and what are some of the. Well we started off with a big subject that I couldn't compass in the whole afternoon probably just mention a few. Dr. Seeley course the first was the development of atomic energy and the application of it to commercial power plant structure which is going on so rapidly these days. Secondly we probably should mention the enormous character of computer development. Which started after World War Two really really started in the early 50s and how it has changed our whole. Data Processing and business method structure is really tremendous in the course
radar and its use for weather forecasting and its use for observation of aircraft and structures in the sky was another item that came out of after World War 2. And this is only our this had some of its developments during World War Two did yes but his real application came at the end of the war. We it was used in the English war front I remember reading about it and you remember. The application of sonar in a much wider scale came after World War 2. But it is a start. Well sonar is the propagation of a sound wave in water to. Detect submarines and ships and items underwater and a ridge to where they are in some cases even control. Now those are perhaps the highlights of some of the more important products. Well now why. Why did this great expansion take place at the period it did. Is there any
reason why since World War 2 we found this great expansion of scientific knowledge and the development of technology. Why for example why didn't this take place 30 years ago or 50 years ago. Is there any logical explanation for this. Well I'm afraid research and development and the products that come from it are a gradual growth structure. We learned something today we apply to something else tomorrow. We make into Future Research Development Program and some as a matter of evolution I think. Of course the requirements for World War to stimulated research and development and you know way that was never done before. And we we started on a program as a nation not only as government but as the end of the industrial enterprise of this country that have just made research and development down forward ever since that time. In other words you think that the base is support. For the need for finding quick
solutions to scientific problems during the war. It's celebrated this progress than many fold. Indeed it did. And then since then we build upon some of the things that developed at that time plus industries conviction that it had to do. Substantially undertake research and development or was going to continue to exist. Well here's the government role in this what about the funds that have been involved in this kind of research both government and private. Well let me just give you the current picture here Dr. Seeley. In 1987 the funds. That were used the actual expenditures were about 17 billion. In industry. About three and a half billion in the government laboratories in about three billion at the colleges and universities. This is going to certainly affect research in research and development. So the total expenditure in 67 was about twenty four billion dollars. How
these funds came. Very substantially from government and were. Portioned out to universities and industries by the government. Actually the industry contributed about thirty two percent of these funds in the government 63 percent in one thousand sixty seven. Now you mention funds is obviously being a necessity for research just as money is obviously necessary for many other kinds of activity. Are there any other factors other than the availability of money from the government and the fact that private enterprise in this country put large sums into research and development are there any other factors that perhaps also contributed to this. Well I think the fact that the government in many cases assisted in making. The facilities available was a big factor. Industry now is assuming more and more of that share the expenditure. Of course. Tremendous factor was available of people and the attitude of people the desire to
participate on the part of people and the university's development of people who were capable of carrying out this research plus their own profit Sora staffs in other words. A scientific explosion like this requires a tremendous number of trained people. Oh my. And that therefore the universities do have a big role to play here. They have had an enormous role really to play in this and could not have been accomplished without the educational support in terms of people. Question I wondered about. Is one of the other reasons for this big breakthrough is is it possible that competition among our different companies the United States has also brought this about. That seems to me again as I view the competitive situation in many countries of the world that the competition in the United States between various business concerns is a little different. Different level or almost different magnitude and that their desire for working to make a profit in the
compas competition that takes place may well have incited some of this breakthrough. I think competition has been a tremendous factor here. Competition between segments of our society industry's competition in the minds of people they're rewarded comes from some of this is also vital factor with people. The fact that we have great freedoms in this country to undertake almost what your heart desires in this area is an enormous factor. And the support of government funds as I mentioned earlier has been a big factor in this great acceleration of research and development. What about the future rate of expansion. Do you think that we're going to have very a continuation of the celebrated rate of scientific breakthroughs and technological developments that we've had. Well let's say the past 25 years. Well I think we'll continue to have an acceleration but not at the great rate that prevailed in the early 50s at one time in the early 50s the
accelerated rate was about 20 percent increase per year over the average of the last decade it's been about 12 percent this year next year and the year after we foresee 6 or 7 percent a year of advancing expenditure and effort in this direction. So we see it as a continuing growing program but the rate that prevailed earlier will not be continued. Let's talk a little about what's happened in Western Europe. Here again is another highly industrialized society in Western Europe for example it seems to me they had at least some of the factors present that you have just discussed. And yet today I hear when I am in Europe much talk about the so-called science and technological gap between Western Europe and the United States and there you find many Europeans very fearful that the great advance and lead that the United States has
in this area is going to condemn them to kind of second class economic consigned difficult technological countries. What do you think about this Mr. Ferguson. Well first I don't like to admit we have any second class anywhere because I don't think it's very diplomatic perhaps but it is true that many of the many of the bases for our research and development work have come from inventors and original thoughts and Europe. And. They have not progressed with them as rapidly as we have. Why. Do I think that. We had the people that wanted to progress within this country. We had the support of government. We had the support of industry we had the enthusiasm we had that freedom. And as a result of this many European countries are now asking themselves why is this gap. In fact a group of economic community people. Just finished a report which I
read New York Times about three or four weeks ago. And where they try to outline some of the reasons for this. So the facts were cited were the fact that of freedom. The fact that. You were a freedom or explorer explorer in the financial support to explore our government has certainly given great financial support to this. European governments have not had not given as much. Another factor has been that those engaged in it in Europe have been on the older side of the scientific fraternity. Ours are much younger. Another factor is that. The. And I don't think it's been the vision as to what some of the possibilities were of some of these programs. I was just thinking as you were talking that. The radar was invented in Great Britain so the name penicillin was not true. Basically it's true penicillin was a British
Discovery the first jet engine came out of a very jet engine was Great Britain radio came from an Italian and you could go through a number of pretty basic things from which gigantic industries spraying and yet most of them did develop in the United States instead of in the native country where where these develop. Does this have anything to do with it. Comment I made a little earlier on the competitive situation also in these countries. The desire therefore because of competition to develop new markets and new products very quickly. Yes some cases of course. There's been too much government domination of something after it originated. And you mean in Europe and Europe which hasn't exists in this country there's been support and enthusiasm for it governmental wise in this country. And I think one of the major things I like to repeat again is the availability of capital to support the program and the
enthusiasm in the need of the government and the interest in the competitive character of industry. Wrap them all up together. Now let's take a tremendous scientific and technological program that's taken place in this country space. The whole concept of space exploration. Here our federal government has spent very large sums of money since the development of this and I suppose that we've gotten in a sense kind of competition with Russia in this so-called space age and terms of these kinds of programs. Some of our people in this country raise a question about the fundamental value of these programs of what value are they to the people of the United States or perhaps subsequently the people of the world. Is it important to land a man on the moon for example. Is it important to fly people around a space ship or hunder world very fast. What significance
is this. Well we get around to this subject. We got through today. But. I think first we've got to look at some of the things that have happened to indicate how much it's been worn and how much it's been worth to us. We certainly already see the results. Of the availability of a satellite for communication. We're using satellites now for navigation around the world. And these came out of the space they came out of the space program entirely. We already see the results of satellites for a weather forecasting program worldwide. Back we're building a new center in Denver Colorado to bring together all of the results in the pictures and the referee records and reports we're getting every day from the satellites that are up there telling us about the weather the future. So from the viewpoint of the satellite itself the value has been enormous. Now we can talk in terms of its value to general industry. There are three broad
areas of development come out of the space program that I think aren't fully appreciated valued industry into research and development and other products. Number one it has brought about. The transition from the use of transistors as were developed in the late 40s and they really big large vacuum tubes That's right first added back into this big. Then you've got a transistor maybe as big as this and I think here now we have what we call an integrated circuit. Which was developed largely originally for space purposes. Because it was only the space program that had the requirement for the minimum of weight and had the. And worded expenditure to undertake this enormous program of development of integrated circuit. Now the integrated circuit today is a little flat piece half as big as my fingernail. And that little segment would take the place of your home radio. If we were to give
it a speaker. Now the first of these cost a thousand dollars apiece as compared to a transistor for 35 cents but the space program brought about such a demand for the weight saving and the benefit of this type of miniaturized electronics that overnight it's really flooded all of our research and development efforts in the future. Now we're just going to reduce the size down of a great many civilian products and the performance and then improve the performance. Secondly is reliability. We have had to make things in space per space reliable because we're dealing with human factors. We're dealing with. You can't afford to have a bill not go wrong and waste a 5 million dollar space package or launching. So the reliability has become critical and this reliability is business 70 to all of the industry who've been suppliers of this part not part in this system and this component for this program. And the third one is complexity. Here
we have one of the most complex products in complex technological philosophies and actions and the requirements that we've ever had. All of these are now being widely disseminated industry in fact Mr. Webb the head of Nassa has got a very major program of trying to disseminate to all industry that benefits of what have been accomplished through space programs. In other words you think aside from those you mention that there are conceivably many other benefits that are going to flow from this program. We have not begun to feel all of it and it will be a benefit to the consumers of the world in a sense with better products along the lines. We are a nation available over the world. Well you mentioned in this connection one item with regard to communications. You know many people think that communications is one of the things that it's really essential for the peace of the world that the world's been divided communication wise and although it's much closer together than it used to be that if we had better systems of
communication that at least is a possibility this could be helpful from a peace viewpoint. What's going on in science and technology and communications. Well of course here we've got to come back to the space program the satellite is being the probably most important. Project of the future looking down the road into what is going to be possible because with US satellite structure is going to be possible to have instantaneous communication all over the world providing you have the receiving apparatus. And in these various countries you see this in the very near future. Yes I do because our government is working with the governments of 58 other countries today in trying to set up a network of community for a basic basic satellite communication system. Then other words we could broadcast telecast from any point in the world and be received any other plate point that's the way I feel is going to happen. And the next step forward I think we're going to see television the same way.
Now this. Some people are still doubtful but Russia has already set up a chain of 25 stations hooked to Moscow on the ground relay link that will be a uniform television program for all of Russia. We are similarly engaged and so is England so is Europe. The day is going to come I think when we will have direct communication direct picture in your home from a satellite in space it will not go through a ground station it won't be piped from New York or from San Francisco. It may be coming direct to your home. This is also going to lower the cost tremendously as well. This will take time but I think the importance of this is if we can both listen to and hear other people and what they think in say energy and we can see what theyre doing and we can take what we can take the visual object and make it available all over the
world. I think its going to a lot towards world peace. I read something about the this picture telephone as a communication device is this within the near future. I think its very definitely as I am sure that we had the telephone people here they would tell you that they see the picture phone as making very rapid strides and with widespread use in this country within 10 years. Well let's turn to another facet of the subject what. What do you conceive as the some really desirable areas of scientific and technological research for the future. What should we as a nation perhaps looking at it from a nationwide viewpoint be working on what from an industrial businessman's viewpoint should be we be working on. Well we've got some big problems as you're aware of as I am. One is certainly the correction of air and water pollution. Here the government has already started a program where industry will be brought in to participate somewhat similar to the system type of approach which was present in the
atomic energy program in the space program. We see great potentials in oceanography in the use of this more use of the seeds. Give us give us some illustrations. Well I'm going to make a prediction for we finish today that. We're going to actually mined minerals at the bottom of the sea within a comparatively few years and we'll probably find I'd only manganese and many other valuable metals but gold and even diamonds that have been washed down into the sea. We are certainly going to find ways to. Get more usefulness of the food it's in the sea. Mention that a little later too. These are these are some of the areas I'm sure we're going to see much more done in this area communications. We've already and discussed it briefly and
I think that we will see more of our research and development the future and directed that some of the problems of social science as well as physical science. I would you would think that physical scientists have some tools that could be brought to bear on social science problems yes indeed I do and I'm sure that our social science problems are going to be a bit more demanding of all of us. What about lasers as a scientific device which. There's been much comment about the value of the lasers and their use. What do you see it. What are the uses now and what do you see some other potential uses here. Well the greatest use of laser is going to be in the communications field. You know this is the light beam is a light beam which you're able to direct in in one restricted pipe you might say is against broadening out in all directions and with a laser it is going to be possible to increase
the number of voice messages that you are now employed with a ton of use by the telephone company. Let me say that in these microwave the great big towers use horns on it they can today a transmitter about 24000 message voice messages or voice conversations simultaneously. With a laser they hope to raise this to two hundred thousand two hundred two hundred thousand simultaneous communication channels. In other words you think that in the future we're going to have laser beams that the communications are going to be used as channels rather than the press or the right telephone for the for the transmission of digital information which as you know is now handled with a telephone company an enormous for the connecting to computers one with another all with data processing transmission potentials of the future do look very promising by the use of laser to a much greater extent. Now one man is even predicting that in addition to being able to perhaps
cut holes in this or this piece of metal with a laser that we may even find lasers that we can dig a tunnel under the ocean would be a nice way to drive to Europe under the ocean. Well I'm not going to predict that. Oh no not far. Well you're in English and French would like that one under the NASA would WHY YOU'RE IN A predicting mood. Why don't we look at what you as a former chief executive officer of one of America's great scientific technological companies. What do you think are going to be some of the future developments in science and technology of say the next 10 years. You know I read a few comments I have here are your own personal I'm not certain some of my former associates would accept Ollie's and maybe some of people in business would agree with me but let me read these hastily. We're certainly going to see
transportation by supersonic aircraft not too far in the future. We're going to see widespread use of the photo phone as a part of a telephone system we mentioned that we're going to see whole newspapers by years simply dialing your telephone to get a newspaper or a whole newspaper on newspaper. You dial a telephone number tell us where you get us and you get a newspaper on a screen in your home. We're going to see Flat TV screens both large and small and so that you can put on a wall anywhere in any room and maybe read your newspaper in bed in the morning with a flat screen at the foot of your bed. In other words you will be restricted to those small 21 24 inch tubes anymore with a great big banks too and that's the problem. I want to get it flat. I mentioned we're going to see mining in the bottom of the ocean for metals gold and diamonds. We're going to see growing a fish. In tremendous volume as a basic protein food which will prevent which will help prevent world starvation.
We're going to see a new food supply from the ocean. We're going to see this satellite communication system it'll bring TV directly in your home from all over the world. We're going to see a satellite ground communication system. Plus this satellite will ground both ground and satellite where you can talk to anybody at any time and any place you mean in the whole world and in the whole world from your automobile from your home from the beach from walking down the street and from your office. This is going to be via the satellites via the satellites plus ground links that hook them together. We're going to see soon. We already see a little bit of this direct dialing to Europe. You're going to be able in your office to dial your friend in London and talk directly the same way you can talk to Detroit today. We're of course going to see vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for short hops to connect up as Peter lines to the main trunk
lines of aircraft transport that has tremendous implications and doesn't you know I think quick transportation between places that now is not feasible without necessity of largely ways as you know our experience. We're going to see 50 percent of our electric power generated by nuclear reactors by 1980. We're going to see a landing system for commercial aircraft 7 0 7 0 DC 8s whereby you will safely land at commercial airports and all kinds of weather will no longer be a weather block to landing. You mean if it's 0 0 your odds get you're going to be able to land you're still going to come in and land with him with complete safety. And this is not far off. We're going to see weather forecasting the ice and by means of satellites which will be I think more dependable and some of it has been of the past. And I think we're going to see some weather control or deviation that will make Mark Twain's old
statement that nobody ever does anything about it will make it obsolete otherwise we're going to be able to partially at least control the weather. I think we're going to help control it I won't say we're going to fully control it. I think we're going to see fully automated post offices by means of automation electronics. I'm not going to predict that we're still not going to have a deficit that in the post office. I think we will probably see automatic translation of books from one language to another language automatically. We're going to see the use of light able occasion with your predecessors applicator I'm sorry to interrupt you but we're going to the end of our time in the Business Roundtable and many thanks for being with us. Well it's been very enjoyable to be here because I'm steamed up about the future research into. Participating in today's Business Roundtable was Malcolm P progress and retired chairman of the board Bendix corporation. Host for the program
- Business roundtable
- Science, technology, and society
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- The guest for this program is Malcolm P. Ferguson, Bendix Corporation.
- Other Description
- A program of current comment from leading members of America's business community.
- Media type
Host: Seelye, Alfred L.
Interviewee: Ferguson, Malcolm
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-4-19 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Business roundtable; Science, technology, and society.” 1968-04-12. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2h02>.
- APA: Business roundtable; Science, technology, and society. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2h02