What’s going to replace our technology? I’m a skeptic that anything is. It’s the other way around: our technology is finding its way into a variety of other fields. I view the integrated-circuit technology as the way you make complex structures of materials layer by layer. We got the biology industry making their gene chips using our technology, and all these little MEMS, or microelectromechanical systems. This technology is just very versatile in making these microstructures, and I don’t think it’s likely to be replaced by something else.TR: What concerns you most about the technological road ahead?
Moore: One concern I have is the rate at which the U.S. is training engineers. We are squandering a good portion of our lead in the world by not training enough of our people so that they can be major participants in industry. There are really good jobs that are going begging, and many of them are getting exported. Intel has technical operations in China, Russia, India and so forth, and we have them there frankly to a significant extent because that’s where there are trained people. I guess I’m still sufficiently U.S. oriented that I cringe to see the quality of jobs we’re exporting overseas.
TR: Does that mean we haven’t motivated people in this way?
Moore: That’s exactly what it means. Frankly, our schools K through 12 have not done a good job with the basic programs necessary to motivate people in the direction of a technical career. Technical careers start early. I don’t think you can wait until people start college to convince them they ought to become engineers, if they don’t know how to multiply and divide. I know in my case I knew generally the direction I wanted to go in before I started high school.
TR: But with the foundation, you didn’t want to get into K through 12 education, to try to promote more people to go into engineering?
Moore: Not unless we had some special new idea for doing it. So many people are tackling it in so many ways, it’s awfully hard to know how to do something different and have an impact. It’s kind of like solving world hunger, the way I look at it.
TR: So instead the foundation focuses more on higher education and science. What were your motivations for starting it, and what do they say about the role of government in funding scientific and technological research?
Moore: The way research is funded in the U.S., with peer review and government projects and the like, does a very good job on the mainstream. Established scientists who are in the system continue to get support. It’s a lot harder for unusual, possibly harebrained ideas to get funded. Those don’t do so well in peer review, typically; and new people trying to get started, or established scientists trying to change fields, have trouble getting support. So I hope we’ll be able to find some projects like that-some of which will be complete failures, but a few of which I hope will open up some new areas.