We must have read it wrong! A recent issue of USA Today quoted
Hollywood Director James Cameron making what some could consider a snide,
snobbish remark about design engineering.
Cameron is director of the movie Titanic, the special-effects-laden tale of the ship by the same name that was originally scheduled to be at a movie house near you sometime this summer. Production problems--specifically, difficulties developing the computerized version of the special effects--have delayed the debut until approximately December.
Answering some complaints about the delay in the movie's release, the director bragged about the movie's artistic risks. Then, he said: "If you can't take chances as an artist, you might as well be working at General Motors designing the next family sedan."
You mean, Mr. Cameron, that there's no risk in automotive design? Maybe you don't realize what's at stake when specifying new materials, alternative braking-system components, new transmission linkages, passenger-side air bag systems, or any of the thousands of other elements that will make up the innovation in the next family sedan.
Design that sedan poorly, specify the wrong components, blow the finite element analysis, and you can build a car that could kill a company--or people. Ask Ralph Nader. Read his book on the Corvair, Unsafe at any speed.
Automotive engineers wrestle with risky decisions every day. For example, what's the optimum height for minivans that will both satisfy customers' wants and not tip over? Engineers use an incredible amount of imagination to solve such problems.
The same is true in aerospace design, medical design, and other engineering tasks, where much more than just critical acclaim is riding on even the smallest decision. The risks designers take in those industries--and the imagination they display--can vastly improve the quality of all our lives.
Maybe we're being just a little too thin-skinned. But, gratuitous comments like Cameron's really frost us.
And he, of all people, should know better. After all, it's design--special effects, computerized and otherwise--that will make his movie a hit. Just ask the directors of Batman and Robin and Anaconda, both of which rely heavily on fluid-power design technology, as reported in this issue.
Lighten up, James Cameron. Don't take yourself so seriously. And, start taking others--like those sedan designers--a little more seriously. You owe them. We all do.