Friday, June 4, 2010

18: Life at the Threshold of Magic

Just Imagine living in a world where the behaviour of everything more complex than a tungsten filament light - is driven by magic!

Imagine it, because that is the world where most people ... The Estate Agents, Teachers, Hairdressers, Shop Assistants, PAs ... Financiers, Lawyers, Accountants, Spouses, Mangers, Leaders and Politicians ... actually live today! [1]

As science professionals our threshold-of-magic is relatively high; we either understand most of the technology around us, or have sufficient knowledge to know that we could; and we assume, incorrectly, that everybody around us has the same appreciation. But even 'we' are not immune to a threshold-of-magic, there are things we don't understand: Energy, Space, Matter, Time and Life for example ... Magic happens for us when we flick their switch; we don't really know how, we just accept that it does. (And Does anyone really understand the magic of Finance and Money??)

If a tungsten filament light bulb is beyond the man in the street, then what can possibly be 'his' understanding of the chemistry in an integrated circuit, mathematics of embedded computation, or the intricacies of Boolean logic and HDLs; or the internal workings of a Blackberry, iPod, Car or Aeroplane. They work when they flick the switch ... magic happens.

Yet one way or another these non-scientific humans are so frequently the targets for our presentations, our appeals for support and requests for intervention. If we fail to express ourselves in terms they can understand, the outcome is inevitable!

We see our silos well enough; Microelectronics, Design, Software, Hardware, Process, Factory, Support, etc. We know which family we belong to, and for whose wellbeing which we will fight religiously. But our paymasters just don't see it ... to them it is all shades of magic ... very colourful, but as meaningless as mythical wars between fairies, goblins, elves, trolls and wizards (& witches ;-).

Of course Executives/Politicians want to make the right decision, so will follow past strategy and listen to the key-words from other pundits, but to really influence them it has to be in their language. It shouldn't be that difficult we live amongst them and talk to them every day ... just not about the technical stuff.

So, how do you feel about "Smart Electronic Systems" [2] then? In some ways it is just another classification; yet in others it is a relatively rare bridge between cultures. It is a just three words, but its intuitive meaning is broadly aligned between the scientific and lay communities; it is a concept we can all understand :-

So which business of any hue, would not agree its future prosperity would be depended on the increased use of Smart Electronic Systems: To improve the functionality of their product; to improve production of their product; and/or to improve their business process?

And who active in the supply-side of this technology, would be so short sighted as to deny their particular role (research, design, manufacturing, support, installation, methodology, etc) was not contributory to Smart Electronic Systems?

... It is intuitively important, inclusive (multi-disciplines) and scalable (hierarchical); and to be seen to be working on them brings professional and public, acclaim and recognition. It is a banner to which all can comfortably rally.

So whatever your scientific discipline micro/nano-electronic process development and fabrication; design and manufacture of chips, boards and systems; methods and tools; IP, Hardware, Software and Services (Including IT/ICT and 'The Digital World'); Installation, Configuration and Maintenance ... all fit. It turns out (as we already knew!), that we are all equally important cogs in the Smart Electronic Systems world!

With this clearly demarcated category, its direct and indirect contribution[3] to societies needs can be quantified ... Support of Businesses, Health care, The Environment, Security, Transport, Government and Economies. We can quantify the direct business opportunity and economic contribution from their Design, Manufacture, Installation, Configuration and Maintenance.

... The links between the technologies and human care-abouts are all there!

How will this effect your next presentation/proposal/report ...

Well start by recognising that you are trying to pass a message. Recognise that your audience is not as smart as you are in your area ... though they are probably at least as smart in others. Believe they are there because they want to hear you and will try to understand what you have to say ... and will help you if they can. So explain your request in terms they can understand ... uncluttered by superfluous demonstrations of your credibility or command of acronyms.

... Like shooting fish in a barrel.


1: Arthur C Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".
2: Smart Electronic Systems (SmartES). A new term (as far as I am aware).
3: Direct Value is measured by sales; actual sale of a specific product or service (in our case technical). Indirect Value emerges from enablement activities of a product. Usually through the improvement of the manufacturing or business process, as well as inclusion in that businesses own products. Indirect value may be 0x, but is frequently 100x direct value.