As Feynman said, I believe that when a scientists speaks outside his own subject he’s just as dumb as the next guy.
“Engineering is the foundation of our economy. Almost £500bn is the gross value added of sectors where engineering is an important component – about a third of the economy – and yet there’s a shortage of engineers. We’ll need about 1m more scientists and engineers in the economy by 2020.”
Yes, and food is a major component of all human activity therefore agriculture is 100% of our economy. Nothing happens without accountancy therefore that’s also 100% of our economy.
Ooops! We’re already at 200% of GDP while considering only 3% of the population. And when you end up with a ridiculous answer like that then obviously your original assumptions are shite.
As an economist once pointed out it’s the division and specialisation of labour that leads to economic wealth. So economists don’t go around looking for the Higgs Boson, as they ought not to. So please could we have rather fewer physicists trying to mangle their very limited understanding of economics?
“I feel like I’m saying ridiculously simplistic things – of course science and engineering is the way to grow the economy. We professionals assume it’s self evident that societies and economies are based on these pursuits so we don’t bother making sure everybody understands that.”
But it’s not even true, let alone simplistic. The way to grow the economy is to increase the value added in the economy. That’s actually how we measure growth after all, GDP is the amount of value added in an economy.
It certainly can be true that science and engineering add value, yes. But they’re not the only things by a long way. So does ballet, accounting, some bureaucracy and hanging all politicians.