Fusing arts, science and technology

By: STEPHEN CAPILLAS June 29,2017 - 10:02 PM


An appeal by Cebu’s renowned furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue during last week’s event sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in one of Cebu City’s hotels had me thinking about whether or not the Philippines can join the ranks of technology giants in the US, Europe and Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and lately China.

In the DOST’s Technology Transfer Day event held last June 20, Cobonpue called on industry leaders to integrate creativity with science and technology, something that should have been pursued by the country’s leaders in both government and business a long time ago.

If they needed a prime, classic example of an effective fusion of creativity and science and technology, they need only look at Apple whose founder Steve Jobs pushed for elegance, functionality and cutting edge technology in their personal computers and mobile devices.

Apple rendered the Walkman obsolete with the iPod and then elevated the mobile phone to smartphone status with their iPhone line which will mark a decade of existence/10th anniversary this year.

Though fellow American companies like Microsoft and Google are fast catching up and Asian powerhouses Samsung and Sony remain close behind, Apple continues to dominate the global smartphone and mobile devices market.

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I don’t know if Cobonpue had Apple in mind when he issued last week’s call for industry leaders and the government to merge creativity with science and technology.

Being a furniture designer, Cobonpue cited his experience using technologies from the DOST to improve on the products that he makes, some of which are used for international events like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit and even the annual Ironman triathlon competitions held in Metro Cebu.

While we do need innovation in the furniture industry and other small to medium enterprises, I certainly hope the Philippines can become a technology hub in Asia and the rest of the world, and it’s not just because that is where the really big money is.

History has been defined in part by humanity’s constant push to do things better, and this is clearly seen through their advances in science and technology which continues to be a game-changer in the world’s economies.

Were it not for technology, we would still use the horse and cart to move from one place to another for days on end and we would have never reached the moon nor even saw the world from beyond the skies.

Were it not for science and technology, we’d still be calling from a phone booth and sending letters through snail mail instead of doing both from a phone we can hold in one hand.

I’m no economics expert, but the way I see it, for far too long the country’s economy had been geared towards supply side rather than actual production of manufactured industrial products and services.

A cursory look at the country’s exports show that we are mostly confined to selling fruits, veggies, meat and agricultural produce while we supply the metals and do third-party work on electronic products and even animation in major Hollywood productions.

We are decades behind Japan, South Korea and China in terms of technology and manufacturing and we can’t even produce our own car — the closest we got to doing this was in producing the Kia Pride, a joint venture with South Korean car manufacturers at the onset of the ’90s.

It’s the 21st century and there’s no better time to play catch-up than now, what with the internet revolution ushering in an information explosion the likes of which had never been seen.

And based on the recent strides of China in mobile devices technology, we don’t have to be original to achieve industrial growth.

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Speaking of technology transfer, I was reminded of a story written by a Japan-based American officer named Jack Seward in a book entitled “The Japanese” in which he recounted the time he went out fishing with his new fishing rod.

He overheard two Japanese fishermen admiring his fishing rod, marveling at its design and asking each other why they, the Japanese, cannot make fishing rods like the one he used.

Seward said he hid his fishing rod and smiled at the fishermen because he didn’t want them to know that he used a fishing rod made by the Japanese.

At the time he wrote this, Japan was two decades removed from the nuclear devastation of World War II and had been criticized for being copycats of American-made cars and other electronic products.

Three decades later and Japan had built Nissan cars and companies like Sony and Mitsubishi that competed with American muscle cars and won a sizable share of the world market.

It was also in the ’80s when Japanese companies like Sony bought Columbia Pictures in Hollywood and other American companies.

Fast forward to the present and Chinese companies like Huawei, who were criticized for being copycats of Apple cell phones and tablets, are now making their own strides in capturing the global cell phone market.

Back home we have Star Mobile and MyPhone, and while we’re way behind, it’s not the height of impossibility to say that we can catch up provided that the government and the private sector pursue technology transfer and industrialization vigorously in the next decade or so.

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