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The Argument For Design

The consequences of any industrial revolution extend far beyond the domain of scientists and technologists. Indeed, they are difficult to even imagine. For example, try to envision the present world without any electronic devices. You can't. Nobody can. It would be a very different world from ours.

Similarly, the world that will develop after the next two industrial revolutions is difficult to imagine starting from today, but there is every reason to believe the consequences of molecular engineering will be even more profound in every way that those that followed the development of electronics or computers.

One thing, however, is clear. Unlike all of the industrial revolutions that preceded it, molecular engineering requires, as an essential component, the ability to design, model, and simulate molecular structures using computers.

Computer aided design has been largely an adjunct to engineering so far. It has promised productivity gains, cost savings, and other benefits but except at the leading edge, as in VLSI design, has rarely been an indispensable component of the design process.

But with molecules, if you can't model it, you can't build it. Computer aided molecular design is one of the key enabling technologies of these imminent industrial revolutions, and stands to benefit both by helping to bring them about, and to profit from the fruits of their success.

A computer aided design company that comprehends, throughout the organisation, what is about to happen and takes the small, cautious, prudent steps today to position itself to ride this next wave stands an excellent chance of emerging as one of the dominant industries on the planet as molecular engineering supplants our present technological base to the degree that integrated circuits have replaced vacuum tubes and electricity has displaced steam engines.

  ``Leverage'' is commonly used these days in a financial sense to mean risk/reward amplification through the assumption of debt. But there are many kinds of leverage. Technological leverage, the power born of knowledge, is supreme among all forms. We used it to build Autodesk into the company it is today, fending off competitors with far more money and people by simply knowing where technology had to go and hitching a ride.[Footnote]

Autodesk is, at this moment, the preeminent global force in computer aided design. Around the world, technology is poised at the threshold of access to capabilities scarcely imagined a decade ago, and computer aided design is an essential component of this next chapter in the human adventure. The technological leverage of this next industrial revolution is ours, if we want it.

The lever pivots on the micrometre technology of the microprocessor. At one end, we reach to grasp it with our metre scale human hands, at the other, it manipulates atoms to designs born of the human imagination. With this lever, and the knowledge, courage, and vision to operate it wisely, we can truly move the world.

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Editor: John Walker