Many of the world’s greatest inventions are credited to Americans, from the telephone to the computer. Anesthesia, the miracle of painless surgery, is among the greatest gifts that American medicine has given to humanity. The invention of the safety device on passenger elevators by Elisha Otis in 1852 led to the construction of skyscrapers and encouraged metropolitan growth around the world. Nylon , the first man-made synthetic fiber, invented by the du Pont company, has forever changed the lives of people around the world. The impact of Bill Gates’ MS-DOS is not even measurable. Some attribute Americans’ genius to their ability to question, to think critically and creatively.
Professor Chin Ning Yang, a Chinese American Nobel laureate in physics, related the experience of some of his students from China and Taiwan. “Professor Yang,” they would say to him, “I find it very strange that I was among the best in my class in examinations, but now that I am doing research work, the American students are much more lively, much better than I am.” Yang believes that despite the criticism of the American educational system, it produces highly creative individuals. Now Yang encourages his Asians students to explore: “You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].” Indeed, it is incredible that 29 percent of Silicon Valley CEOs were born in Asia.
Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 435-446). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.
I was proudly part of the company that started the current technological revolution by inventing the transistor. When I started college in the 1960s I was taught how the vacuum tube worked. But before very long the transistor took over and things really began to accelerate. The 1960s and 70s was a great time for the U.S. technologically. We simply ruled the world.
Back then a couple of kids in their garages went about miniaturizing the main frame computers of IBM. They put crude devices, at least by today’s standards, on a desktop instead of requiring a massive air filtered room. I can remember when Jonas Sulk invented the polio vaccine.
I, and I image many of you, sometimes take for granted much of what we have in this country. But when we take a serious look at much of the rest of the world we come to understand America’s strengths. Creativity has been almost an exclusive American product.
“You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].”
These words are at the core of the differences between America and Asia. We American were just not afraid when things became somewhat muddied. We embraced change at almost all levels of our society. Sadly, I’m not sure that is as true any longer among a larger segment of our society. Fear, particularly the fear of change has overtaken too many of us.