Horizon (1964) Episode Scripts

N/A - Now the Chips are Down

Archive programmes chosen by experts.
For this collection, Prof Alice Roberts has selected a range of programmes to celebrate Horizon's 50th anniversary.
More Horizon programmes and other BBC Four Collections are available on BBC iPlayer.
ANNOUNCER: This Friday evening on BBC Two continues with this specially extended edition of Horizon.
Tonight's programme, which is on the development of the microprocessor, will be followed in 50 minutes by a live studio discussion on the implications it raises.
As a result, the Portrait programme can be seen later than published, at 11.
35.
Now Horizon.
You're going to see something absolutely amazing .
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a machine reading to a blind man.
A computer will read an ordinary book.
It will speak it aloud in its own artificial voice.
The first words of the book are, "Why, suddenly, do so many feel "so strongly about Jimmy Carter, pro and con?" COMPUTER: Why, suddenly, do so many feel so strongly about Jimmy Carter, pro and con? It's thought attempts to unravel the mysteries of Carter's extraordinary success story as he emerged from Georgia to .
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G-U-I-D-E-L-I-N-E-S - guidelines for understanding and evaluating the man and his campaign.
'A man will talk, and a computer obey.
' Turn right.
Jog.
Turn right.
Jog.
'A man's voice being understood by a machine.
' Stop.
Forward.
Run.
Turn left.
Faster.
At the heart of both these machines are tiny powerful computers built around the new technology of silicon chips.
This is the size of a computer today, as powerful as the biggest of only a few years ago, but a thousand times cheaper.
What makes it possible is this Inside here is a silicon chip, with all the important components of the computer etched onto its tiny surface.
It's called a microprocessor.
Under an electron microscope, magnified and slowed down, it's possible to see it at work.
Electric pulses being directed by switches.
By sending the pulses along different channels, a chip can be made to do anything from arithmetic to reading a book.
Such chips will totally revolutionise our way of life.
They're the reason why Japan is abandoning its shipbuilding, and why our children will grow up without jobs to go to.
Their story began only 30 years ago.
In the early '50s, the switches in computers were valves.
Each one was handmade and expensive - around ã5 each at today's prices, and the world market was dominated by huge American manufacturers.
But in 1947, William Shockley invented the transistor, for which he was to get a Nobel prize.
The transistor switch was simple - two pimples of germanium fused to the faces of a disc of germanium - and with the electrical connections made, it was complete.
The transistor murdered the valve industry with a rapidity that was brutal.
The United States valve-makers had been slow to see the importance of transistors, and Japan quickly took advantage of the breakthrough to set up transistor factories.
They became the major transistor makers in the world.
The transistor radio was one of the first signs of the dawn of industrial Japan, but they didn't keep the lead.
In 1955, Shockley left Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he'd invented the transistor, for Stanford University.
Stanford tries to persuade its best students and scientists of distinction to exploit new and sophisticated technologies commercially.
The university runs an industrial estate just outside the campus.
It offers collaboration on research and it invests in the factories.
It was here that Shockley's semiconductors began.
Shockley had chosen a team of eight brilliant scientists to help him create a transistor of a new material - silicon.
Germanium transistors stopped working when they got warmer than a cup of coffee, and the army gave him 15 million to make a transistor to withstand battle conditions.
But after only two years, his eight scientists left him.
They said they found him intolerable to work with.
The eight persuaded the Fairchild Camera Corporation to set them up as a new company with Robert Noyce as general manager.
In their factory, they created a new industry and won the lead back from Japan.
Here, Noyce developed the technique first suggested by an Englishman of making several transistors at once.
On a chip of silicon were printed insulated conductor bars.
Three more layers of conducting material were printed on top, and square holes punched through so that each layer could make contact with any of the others.
In each hole, the touching layers form a transistor.
The final metal layer wires them together.
That's how, by 1963, they'd reduced the cost of transistors tenfold.
The know-how of getting more transistors on a chip evolved fast.
The single transistor was made in 1957.
In 1963, it was eight on a chip.
Today, the figure is a quarter of a million.
BEEPING CONVERSATION OVER RADIO What fuelled these developments was that an enormous number of circuits was needed to beat the Russians to the moon, and to the second generation of guided missiles.
Money for defence and space really made the industry boom.
There were three main centres of production - San Francisco, Phoenix and Austin.
But San Francisco was the centre of the action.
The industry grew in a valley at the south end of the bay.
Here, Shockley's eight were running Fairchild.
But in 1959, five of the senior staff left to form a new company called Rheem.
In 1961, eight more left - four to form Signetics and four Amelco.
In 1962, two formed another company .
.
and so it went on.
Senior staff from Fairchild left to set up one company after another, making it the world's centre for the semiconductor industry.
Almost all the managers derive from Fairchild.
They're known as the Fairchildren of Silicon Valley.
The valley that used to be bean fields and orchards is now filled with huge industrial parks, all in the silicon chip business.
This was the dream of the Fairchildren that came true five years ago - to put a whole computer onto a single chip.
The ã5 computer, the microprocessor, had arrived.
And it was done by Robert Noyce, the man who's still acknowledged as king of the Fairchildren.
From microprocessors, he's made a personal fortune of 50 million, and among the staff of his factory, he coyly admits there are about 30 millionaires.
Production begins by taking the designer's drawings and recording the position of each part into a computer, in this case, the little square transistor holes.
The computer will reduce the scale 10,000 times to create a photographic printing mask.
But before it does that, it draws out the design so it can be checked.
All the detail in this huge sheet is compressed into just one of the tiny squares of a printing mask.
It's used to print the circuits 200 at a time on to wafers of silicon.
This is a scanning electron microscope examining just one of these circuits after a test.
The lines are no more than two ten thousandths of an inch wide.
Layer upon layer, each placed upon the next to an accuracy of one ten thousandth of an inch.
If we enlarge just the small moving window, there's a transistor .
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and there's another.
The special areas where the circuits are built are constantly monitored for dust in the air.
They're ten thousand times cleaner than the best operating theatres in the world.
In here, they're protected by airlock after airlock from the outside world.
If dirt were to get in, all this equipment would be made useless for months.
How do they build up these layers and position them so precisely? These wafers have had one layer etched on already.
This is how the second goes on.
In the oven, with the right temperature, and the right gases flowing past, the second layer grows over the whole surface of the wafer.
It grows to form a translucent film over the pattern already there.
The next stage removes all of this second coat except a cobweb of fine lines fitted into the first layer.
Each wafer is given a coat of photographic emulsion and spun to spread it evenly.
Where this coat is exposed to ultraviolet light, it goes hard.
Where it's unexposed, it dissolves easily.
And the pattern to be projected onto the wafer is in the mask.
They both go into a printing machine of incredible accuracy.
The pattern already on the wafer has to be aligned with the pattern on the mask.
Then, after a flash of ultraviolet light, the unexposed parts of the emulsion dissolve away and strong acids reach through to etch off the unwanted parts of the second coat.
And so the whole complex circuit is built up.
First layer .
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second layer .
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layer after layer, till the microprocessor is finished.
But completing the wafer is not even half the cost of the process.
In fact, there are many more people, more equipment and more money spent on testing the circuits than actually making them.
Each computer chip is tested with a full run-through of every possible instruction it can obey.
Once set up, the testing of a wafer is automatic.
Each test takes less than a quarter of a second, and most chips fail.
The failures are marked with a drop of red ink.
In slow motion you can see what's happening.
Fail.
Pass.
Pass.
Fail.
Junk.
Junk.
Junk.
There's no possible way of repairing them.
In fact, they're doing extremely well, if as few as one quarter of the circuits work.
Junk.
Junk.
Junk.
Junk.
It works.
It works.
Junk.
Junk.
Junk.
Junk.
That's why there's a certain tension in the wafer areas.
The equipment is expensive.
Each furnace tube costs half a million dollars.
The kit in this area alone cost 40 million.
It takes three days to complete a wafer and there's no way of knowing if the one you're making is going to work when it's finished.
There are stories of firms who had chips in full production and suddenly lost control.
The testing jumped to 100% failure rate.
In spite of intensive efforts to find the fault, for month after month they produced nothing but junk.
The process has so many steps that it can be impossible to find out what's wrong.
That's why here they separate the production into small units in different buildings, so, if disaster strikes, it doesn't hit everything.
And that's why so many people spend so much time looking down microscopes.
After the wafers have been tested, they're shipped to the Far East by air.
In fact, all the manufacturers send their chips to be mounted where labour is cheap.
Once the circuits are scored and cracked apart into individual chips, the cost of handling them will be no longer shared among the circuits on the wafer.
CRACKING At this point, the individual good ones are worth 50 pence each.
And even with the low wages of Taiwan, making connections to a chip adds another 30 pence.
Gold wires are squeezed out like toothpaste and welded by vibration.
Miniaturisation is not an end in itself.
It is simply the best way to make the cheapest circuits.
And yet the smallness is impressive.
A human brain has about a thousand billion electrical connections.
To have built that with valves, if we knew how, would have resulted in a machine the size of Greater London.
Built out of 1960s transistors, it would have been the size of the Albert Hall.
With present day integrated circuits, and including power supplies, wiring and everything, we could fit it into a single dressing room.
And by 1980, with the next generation of integrated circuits already in the laboratory, it could actually be smaller than the human brain.
If it weren't for the necessity of mounting the chips in some kind of frame, that would already be true today.
This is brain tissue magnified 5,000 times.
The black lines are individual neurones.
On the same scale, this is the surface of a memory chip.
The astonishing possibility that follows is that it is now feasible to replace defective nervous tissue with synthetic brain.
One of the first experiments in which this is being done is almost complete at Stanford University.
'John Freitras is totally deaf, although he can lip-read a little.
' Well, what are you Who are you betting on in the World Series tonight? Tonight? - Dodgers.
- Dodgers! All the way.
'Soon, he'll have a small circuit embedded in his skull.
'It's built around a microprocessor and three other chips.
' It'll pick up power and sound through aerial coils as it lies buried.
The microprocessor will convert speech into patterns of electric pulses and send these to his brain along four fine wires.
Wires like these have already been permanently implanted and connected to his brain.
Temporarily, these four wires come out through a plug.
Today's test is to check that the wires put in two months ago are still operating stably.
'He'll have them stimulated in turn, and he asks for the level in each to 'be adjusted until they all feel equally loud to him.
' Any pings or sounds this morning? When he plugged it in, did it OK, OK.
- All set? - All set.
OK.
Here is the reference.
BUZZING OK.
So here we go.
BUZZING Two.
BUZZES CONTINUE AT DIFFERENT VOLUMES Four.
- Go up a little on four.
- OK.
Three.
One.
- Go up a little on one.
- OK.
Three.
- Go up a little on three.
- OK.
Go up on that one.
- Fine.
- Fine? OK.
'He won't hear words.
'He'll feel inside himself patterns of a quite new kind.
'He'll have to learn the meaning of each sensation that the buried 'microprocessor sends to his brain.
'Twice weekly since the operation, 'a computer has been recording these results.
'It's working out the best way to program the artificial ear.
'And it'll program it in situ.
' One 'There's a tremendous amount of money to be made here.
'The device and the operation will sell for several thousand pounds.
'It's a good example of what is to come.
'A whole lot of money is going to be made not just by selling the chip 'but by selling applications, too.
' Electronics pervades almost all products and manufacturing techniques.
And when key components become a thousand times cheaper through the use of silicon chips, there'll be dramatic effects.
The biggest changes are yet to come, but some we've seen already.
The manufacturers looked for a way to sell their chips directly to the public.
And at least 20 manufacturers rushed in to make calculators.
A new industry was born, selling ã100 million of chips a year.
The existing mechanical calculator industry came to an end.
They couldn't cut their prices and they didn't know what had hit them.
They were out of business.
But the competition between the electronic calculator manufacturers was fierce.
So fierce that after four years there are only two or three chip manufacturers still making calculators.
Their next idea was to sell chips in watches.
The price of the cheapest watches came down and down till now it's below ã10.
The effect on the Swiss watch industry was shattering.
They laughed when the cheap electronic watch was introduced, calling it a passing fad.
At that time, they used to make half the watch movements in the world, but the electronic watch has stopped all that.
17 firms went out of business and there was widespread unemployment.
Europe lost a ã200 million industry to the Americans.
CHILDREN CHA BEEPING I want to catch you before you get back! 'Now, there is a new war.
'This is the current way chips are sold directly to us.
' Got you! BEEPING 'It may seem trivial, but making games around chips that control 'TV screens is an industry worth a quarter of a billion pounds a year.
'And it's growing.
' This one, I have it.
- I'm getting nearer.
- Got it! 'The imaginary rockets are controlled by the same chips the US Army 'used in their defence programmes '.
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made on the same production lines their demand created.
'But the significance of the chip does not lie in gadgets.
'Her whole future will be changed by cheap electronics.
'The way she will live, the kind of work she'll do, will be different.
'You can already see the change happening.
'The future is there if you care to look.
' 'The new supermarket checkout terminals 'have microprocessors inside them.
'They're now called point of sale terminals.
'Each one is a computer in its own right and they have the power to do 'a whole lot of new things 'the mechanical cash registers couldn't do.
' Besides totalling the bill, this terminal can check up on the validity of a credit card.
All the cashier has to do is punch in the card number and the terminal makes its own automatic telephone call.
That's just a step from the terminal actually ringing your bank's computer and transferring funds to the shop's bank computer.
This is already being done in shops in New York.
As each item is checked out, the terminals remember what has been sold so automatically a total list of what has to be ordered to restock the shop is being built up.
In the future, that re-order will be issued quite automatically .
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and will be responded to by a completely automatic warehouse.
Automatic warehouses are working now.
This one is not part of a supermarket, but it could be.
Loads are delivered to it by lorry and run in towards the main store.
They have identifying labels on their sides.
A camera reads that label and a computer automatically decides where the load will be stored.
PRINTER CLICKS RATTLING AND WHIRRING No-one needs to know where anything is stored, and no-one cares.
The computer does it all.
When the goods are needed, the computer will know where to find them.
WHIRRING We are on the verge of automated shopping systems that'll use very few people.
All the man has to do is read which lorry this load is for.
If you think that is sinister, just think for a moment about the way the computer in the terminal works.
Each time a key is pressed, the computer makes a note of the time.
The terminals are keeping a record of how fast each girl is punching her machine.
It can make a detailed record of each cashier.
How much money she takes per hour, her number of mistakes.
In Denmark, where shop automation is more developed than here, the checkout girls in the biggest supermarket chain have refused to operate the new terminals till that part of the computer's supervising program has been deleted.
Microprocessors applied to selling petrol have already led to 100,000 petrol pump attendants being rendered unnecessary.
CLATTER OF TYPEWRITERS The change can already be seen in the office.
There's a new machine coming into use.
It's called a word processor, and it's probably a more important step than the invention of the typewriter.
It uses no paper, the text can be moved around, edited, and instantly corrected.
The machine works out line lengths, where to begin a new page, and even corrects simple spelling mistakes.
The text is stored in memory chips controlled by two microprocessors.
They rearrange the text by shunting it from one memory block to another.
MAN: 'Word processing centre.
'This is Mr Chandler, company secretary.
'Could you kindly put together for me a legal contract headed, in capitals, '"Subchapter of Agreement".
' For this kind of letter, the secretary has hardly anything to type.
Legal documents are made of standard paragraphs which will already be in the word processor's memory.
All she has to do is call up by number the paragraphs required for this particular agreement.
And if a paragraph has to be moved, the machine does it automatically.
Even in a long document, it takes the overflowing text onto all the following pages and renumbers everything.
And if the final document is needed on paper, a printer takes care of that while the secretary gets on with the next job.
This system will change office work.
Conventional typing speeds are governed by the time it takes to correct a mistake.
Power typing they call this.
No need to think about layout and line lengths.
That's done automatically.
And if you're not making mistakes, then you're not feeding the machine fast enough.
And it could keep a record of your typing speed.
Two or three word processors can do the same volume of work as ten typists.
The operator will never have to leave her seat to post anything or do any filing because the next generation of word processors will communicate with each other.
They'll be on a ringmain to a computer in which all the electronic documents will be filed.
Mail can be sent, via the computer, to any other word processor in the building or, via a satellite, to anywhere else.
Word processors will replace filing clerks and postmen.
Few people realise how automated some industries have already become.
This is Fiat in Italy, and robots are welding the parts of a car body together.
20 robots man the production line by themselves.
But now, with really cheap computing, whole new levels of automation are being opened up.
The United States government is financing robot research.
In a laboratory near Boston, this robot assembles a complete car alternator in two-and-a-half minutes out of standard car components.
An automatic assembly of this complexity has never been achieved before.
WHIRRING Three bolts fix the end bearing.
It mounts the armature and does everything except take a tea break or go on strike.
And that's the alternator complete.
There are a whole range of American research projects keeping a low profile for fear of attracting union hostility.
Programming robots has been a problem.
For example, how to spray a chair is difficult to describe in a robot's language.
Here, a recording is made of what the man is doing, and then he's no longer needed.
His skill has been absorbed into the machine.
'But automation isn't just for blue collar jobs.
'It's going to affect lawyers, businessmen, teachers, everyone.
' .
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insert .
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frontal lobe neoplasm.
'One of the most eminent consultants in internal medicine in the USA is 'teaching his skills to a computer.
' The system knows that it doesn't know anything about frontal lobe neoplasms at this time.
'Dr Jack Myers has been building his skill into a machine for the past 'seven years.
' .
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grand mal history.
'In a hospital in Pittsburgh, 'a junior hospital doctor is using Jack Myer's automatic consultant.
' Have you noticed any swelling in your feet? Let me take a look here.
'He's using it to make a diagnosis that would normally require 'the experience of several qualified consultants.
' OK, there is no swelling.
All right, fine.
'The machine has just asked him 'if he was ready to answer questions about the patient's hands and feet.
'"Go" means "I'm ready".
'The computer asks, "Is there swelling under the skin?" Answer, "no".
'"Please enter finding about the surface arteries.
"' Mr Fogel, I'd like to check and see whether you have any changes in your arteries from hypertension.
'"I'm ready.
" "Are the arteries thickened?" '"Yes.
"' Just breathe normally, please.
'And so he goes on, with the computer asking for a variety of examinations 'and laboratory tests '.
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until, after several days, in less time than an expert could do it, 'it can pick out the diagnosis - 'the six sites of damage, and their causes.
' WOMAN: Trauma.
MYERS: Yeah, could be, a haematoma 'Jack Myers feels that the computer is now more competent than he is 'in the diseases he has taught it so far.
'He thinks there are now less than three years' work to do, 'and at present he's teaching it about brain tumours.
'This is what he and his students are working on.
'The students comb the textbooks 'and he assesses the significance of what they find.
' Um, I'm not sure if it'll lend enough importance.
All right, let's hear what it is.
Neurofibromatosis.
History.
I'd put it down as an actual manifestation because, you know, it doesn't disappear.
Libido increased.
One one.
'So even an extremely high level, professional job can be automated.
'Automation can affect everyone.
' There are few enough people working on the land now.
All you see is the occasional tractor driver.
But automation is becoming so cheap, it'll even happen here.
The equipment on this tractor will sell for less than ã4,000.
All the ploughman has to do is cut the first few furrows.
Then he can leave the tractor to carry on by itself.
It knows that it's time to end the furrow when it's rotating eye sees a line of light reflecting poles.
It can keep ploughing round the clock, all day and all night, too.
Automation is coming in every farm, office, factory and shop.
People involved in this technology are concerned about the future.
We must now expect that many of the big electrical companies, such as General Electric, Philips and its many English subsidiaries, arewill reduce their total employment by up to 30% in the early 1980s, even though by that time their total production may be double what it is now.
How will we cope with automation on this scale? To build this will be condemning a generation to unemployment.
And if our industry employs so few people to generate wealth, how do we share the money out? Will we become a divided nation of the very rich and the very poor? Could we automate rapidly, even if we wanted to? Would the unions let it happen? Most unionists would hold the view that widespread automation is wrong, that the social pain would be too great.
I think it may be necessary for individual nation states to make clear decisions about what kind of society development they want, and, if necessary, be prepared to protect themselves from the ruthless introduction of this kind of equipment by the multinational corporations.
Because, in my view, it is spurious to suggest that the introduction of this kind of equipment enhances and improves the quality of life automatically.
It may improve the profit for big multinational corporations but it's going to cause massive problems in this country.
And, if necessary, we should protect ourselves against the introduction of that kind of equipment.
But the use of this equipment is already growing fast in Japan, Germany and the USA.
If we aren't able to automate as fast they are, won't this only further disadvantage the UK? Won't the sheer cheapness and volume of their production kill our industries? So, won't the jobs be lost anyway? When the chips are down, what are the priorities? What is industry there for? Its industry's job to create wealth.
It's creating wealth in order to raise the standard of living and if, in the process of doing that, there are problems of employment, then these problems have got to be tackled separately.
They are not one and the same thing.
We have two problems.
This, it seems to me, is going to give rise to massive dislocations.
And I think we fail to understand just how important work is to human beings.
If you ask anybody what they are, they never say I'm a Beethoven lover or a Bob Dylan fan or a James Joyce reader.
They say I'm a teacher, a nurse, an engineer, or whatever.
People relate to society through the work.
But the future is not necessarily bleak.
We do have companies that are booming on the products of Silicon Valley.
In one key industry of the future, we are world leaders.
You want a million from the outsider? OVERLAPPING ORDERS MAN: Anyone been exposed? They want a million-and-a-half.
OVERLAPPING ORDERS 'These are the dealers that buy 'and sell foreign currency for one of the largest banks in the world, 'the Chase Manhattan in New York.
' Make a price.
OK.
227, who wants it? 'Their problem is that when they trade 'they don't know how much currency 'the bank has already bought at any given moment, 'nor how much they need to buy.
'The figures they work to are usually several hours old.
'What the bank is installing is an information system to replace 'the paperwork and give a real-time display of the bank's position.
'It'll be updated within seconds of each deal.
' We pay at 30.
Two, three million.
MAN: Wait a minute.
What are you doing? 'It may seem surprising that such a system 'would be relatively difficult to build, but it is.
'Real-time trading systems don't exist yet in American banks.
' - 39.
30 - 39.
30 against Feds.
I'm on it.
Mike, I'm on it.
That's done? .
.
That's done.
'So they've bought what's known as a software package from a British 'company called Logica.
'Logica have a team of programmers 'and systems analysts living in New York to install it and make it work.
'They're earning a quarter of a million dollars on this job, 'which comes back to Great Britain.
'Yet there is nothing physically being exported.
'They're software men.
This is our booming industry.
'We are a world leader in writing software.
' I can't see what's wrong with it, really.
- Where is it? - It's here, right? Where's the PC? Ah, this Have a look at the PC, right? 'You can't touch software, you can't hold it in your hand, it's the set 'of instructions that have to be written 'to make the computer to do its job.
' - Oh, I see.
- Yeah.
'And it takes man years of work to prepare even simple software programs.
'Software is now a major cost in computers, 'often as much as 40% of any new application.
' I'm not sure.
Do you know about that, Yuri? If you doif you purge down to If you put "PU:" or something, does it delete all the versions still? No, I don't think so.
No, no.
'The end result of all their programming 'is a complete system that puts 'this display in front of the dealers.
'At the touch of a key, he can call up any currency 'and see if he's long on it, or short.
' So, it can go in the carousel, can go on their desk.
You could have a big one in the middle of the table there.
We could have four, facing four ways, so that all the traders can see them.
Now, we have 156 currencies that these people work with.
How many might we get on a screen? Well, I guess we'd get probably something like 10, 15, possibly as many as 20 on a screen.
'The quarter of a million this team is earning has two components.
'First, there's the copyright fee for the original software package 'written in London.
'It took 30 man years to write, and any customer pays 100,000 for it.
'Then, there's the tailoring, 'the work needed to modify the package to suit this particular bank.
'That earns another 150,000.
'What we're exporting is brainpower.
' What about the online application? There we'd be looking for someone that could identify and solve a problem very quickly, so their knowledge should be rather widespread.
So it's not just a programmer, you actually want someone with a bit of systems background as well.
- Yes.
- Probably someone like Jan or Glynn.
Would both of them be willing to stay through the end of 1978, - if necessary? - Well, they're both bachelors and I think they're really enjoying New York life, so I don't see any reason why not! 'Programming is a particularly British skill.
'In fact, we invented it.
' Our main competitors at the moment are, again, from Britain, rather than from the States.
But I would assume that, being in America, as soon as this type of package comes on to the market, that we will have competition here as well.
There are, I think, about 14,000 different banks in America - it's a very large market.
Well, we certainly feel that we're looking at a multi-multi-million-pound market, just for trader.
'Some people believe that we must change from hardware to software - 'that we should stake our future on the chips not by making them, 'but by programming them, and that we should use our software skills to 'develop high technology industries around them.
' We are in a time of great innovation opportunity and this is the great strength of the British.
I mean, time and time again we have led the world in innovation and in invention and I think we've absolutely got this opportunity at the moment.
I think we ought to regard the microprocessor and everything that goes with it as not an industry in itself, as far as we're concerned, but the raw material for an industry.
We can buy a processor forwell, it's virtually nothing, effectively it's nothing.
Shall we say fivefive dollars? The actual product at the end of the day that might be a word processing device, an automatic typing system, some automatic learning or teaching machine, some trading system for a banker, can be, shall we say, ã5,000 or 5,000? You're looking at a thousand to one multiplier in terms of the difference between the processor cost and finally what you can sell it.
We're going to find all sorts of new ideas sprouting forth, and we do want to be able to tap them off, to be able to give somebody with a good, if you like, lateral thinking idea of applying a microprocessor in an entirely new sort of way - give him the opportunity of really building on that, exploiting it, producing a world-beating product from it, marketing that product and reaping the rewards from it.
The example of industry creation that everyone quotes is the EMI body scanner - an X-ray camera rotates around the patient's body, taking various pictures from different angles.
All the pictures are fed into a computer which combines them into a single view, as if you would see a section cut cleanly across the body of you in which you can see the backbone, the muscles and everything.
What do EMI have that the others don't have? They have software, in the widest sense.
They have a piece of applied mathematics that enables them to process the information .
.
do this on computers, and to create the image.
That is what they have.
The heart of it is software, and that, immediately, in a short time, leads to an industry creation.
An idea that didn't exist five years ago has now sold ã200 million worth of equipment.
Is our future, then, the creation of more industries like this? One can hope so, but so far there are no other examples to point to.
What will happen, then, to the men in today's jobs? Can we all live on the wealth of automatic factories and the earnings of an elite band of 60,000 software engineers? It's time to think about the future.
The questions are these.
In the long term, when the only plentiful resource is going to be people, is automation the wrong road to take? Could this technology be the end of an age, the end of the line of evolution, and not a beginning? But, in the short term, can we afford not to automate? If we don't, won't our industry be disadvantaged by the automated industries abroad? And if we do automate, will we be able to cope with the problems of large-scale unemployment? Perhaps the survival of a nation depends upon its people finding meaningful lives.
The questions shout.
What is shocking is that the government has been totally unaware of the effects that this technology is going to create.
The silence is terrifying.
It's time we talked about the future.
Well, that's exactly what we are going to try and do now in this especially extended edition of Horizon - both ask and try and answer some of the momentous questions raised in that film, and with me are three men who are very much qualified to do so.
There's Robert Clayton, who's technical director of the industrial giant GEC.
He is also a member of ACARD, and that's the Advisory Committee for Applied Research and Development, a special advisory group set up to report to the Prime Minister.
Also Mick McLean, who's fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University.
He spent a year travelling in Japan, Europe and America, examining the effects of recent technological developments in the electronics industry.
He's written a report on this for OECD, the organisation which links the most advanced economic nations.
Thirdly, Barrie Sherman, who is the Director of Research for the union ASTMS, the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs.
Now, gentlemen, do you agree that this extraordinary revolution is happening and that's going to happen to us? Mr Clayton.
Undoubtedly, I think we're already into a second Industrial Revolution.
This remarkable integrated circuit industry, ã1.
5 billion last year, double by 1980 again, is going to affect all aspects of industry and of life.
Mr McLean, how fast is it coming? You've been and looked at these countries abroad, how fast is this going to come into our lives? Well, I think probably a bit slower in Britain than is happening already elsewhere.
There are enormous international differences between the pace of change, I think.
This is one of the problems we're obviously going to come on to later is how fast we can cope with these changes in Britain.
But does it mean, Mr Sherman, as you see it, does it mean a total change in British industry? Er, I think, ultimately, probably yes.
I'd like to agree with Mick, I think it probably will come somewhat slower in Britain than in other industrialised countries.
We tend to be the nation of risk averters and we're getting more risk averting as time goes on.
Er, it would seem that we're going to be at least three, four years behind a lot of our competitors.
One of the extraordinary things that occurs to me is the cheapness, that one's talking of 30p for one of these chips, that it's the sort of cost that one simply cannot avoid.
Is that true, that anybody taking an economic judgment is going to be bound to go into microprocessors unless he is forced not to by somebody else? We must be very careful there's not an oversimplification here.
You can talk of the ã5 chip, but that is the central processor.
You've got to associate with that a lot of memory.
In addition, although it may only cost you ã100 to design the hardware, almost any microprocessor system is going to cost you ã10,000 to do the software.
What does it mean for a company like yours? It has permeated almost all our areas of operational already.
It's most remarkable that in our budgeting and planning meetings, even last year, when we came to discuss what was the technology, almost every unit that talked to us talked about the application of microprocessors and solid-state.
Can we afford not to? Can I put that It's a crude question.
Mick, can we afford not go into this business? I think, obviously, in the long-term, no, obviously not.
If we're going to stay in the international trading environment that we're already in, we have to try and compete with our competitors in Europe, Japan and America.
In the short term, there are a lot of people who are saying, I think Mike Cooley on the show made the point, that we perhaps should try and stay out of it.
Perhaps even Mike would think we should try and stay out of it for good but I think ultimately we've got to get involved in this kind of business.
Mr Sherman, you as a unionist, would you have agreed with Mr Cooley, or would you find yourself sitting absolutely on the opposite end of the fence? Er, I'd agree with him partially.
Um, it's very worrying for trade unions, quite obviously.
There is a potential job loss and in that respect it's very worrying.
It's very worrying politically, apart from just from a trade union point of view.
But you, as a research officer, do you think British industry can afford not to keep up with the other leaders? Ultimately, it's going Can I make a very small point about that? A lot of the things we saw, like robot production lines in a car firm, I do not believe that the Western European, Western economies are ultimately going to make those cars anyway.
I think the so-called developing countries at the moment, or some of them like Iran, Korea, perhaps Brazil and Argentina, they'll be using the low technology stuff to make those cars, those industries will probably go.
The middle income nations at the moment? - Right.
- Why are you implying that we're not in it already? That excellent film took a lot of examples from America but my own company is selling a computerised steel billet mill to Brazil.
ã7 million, about 14 microprocessors in it.
We're doing telemetry in Tehran.
I think Microprocessor again.
Traffic control.
We're doing for Victoria Station a system, I think there are going to be 40 microprocessors in it.
Quite a bit of British industry is already operating in this area.
Mick, you have been and looked at what these other what we think of as the industrial leaders in the world in advanced technology.
Aren't we miles behind them? Well, just as a very personal opinion, I think we are in a number of very vital applications, yes, miles behind.
Robert's right in saying, of course, there are strengths in British industry.
Robert's pointed to some of them.
But I think in many of the high volume, big money-spinners, we're not really up with the major big league.
Now let's look at the government side.
The film made quite a strong judgment about government.
We do have in this country a high degree of government interventionism in British industry, I don't only mean nationalised industries but there's government ordering, the government uses fiscal means, it uses investment allowances, and regional inducements to affect the way industry goes.
Now, is the government, and you three people should be aware of whether they are, is the government aware of this revolution and its implications? I think the film was a little unfair.
If one talks, certainly, to the senior technical civil servants in the Department of Industry, they are very aware, both of the need for some semiconductor industry in this country, and there has been a great deal of discussion on this in the last six months.
And one hopes that very shortly they will be announcing a very substantial programme in this field.
You, Robert Clayton, you're going to be advising the Prime Minister directly what his options are.
What are they? Well, there are two parts.
I'm not sure that I go with you in using the word option.
What are we going to do? In the first place, we are concerned that there must be some semiconductor manufacture in this country.
You cannot opt out of this completely.
You cannot just say that you will buy it all from overseas.
The most difficult question for any government is to decide the extent to which it will support an industry, and what the products will be.
But a lot of discussion on that has gone on.
Now, secondly, the Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development, led by James Menter, in particular, saw that the microprocessor at first, and then we widened it out to solid-state as a whole, would have a tremendous impact on British industry, both manufacturing industry and service industry, and, as result, the particular job I'm doing is to lead a working party at the present time to look at the impact of solid-state technology on industry.
Mick McLean, you've been looking at this in America.
Should we be in the chip process, should we go into it, because aren't they light years ahead, we can't possibly compete in making them, they've got the process down to very fine art.
No, I agree with Robert there are very good reasons why we should try and stay in the business - of making chips.
- That is making - the basic chip itself? - Making the basic chips.
I think we're going to come onto this point later, I'm sure it will raise itself anyway.
But the idea that we can opt completely out of manufacturing and go just into the software and applications business, I think, falls down on the very sharp rock that the skills that you need to write software or to write applications programs, they're usually derived and generated by being very heavily involved in the manufacturing business as well.
This is a debatable point, we can talk about it later.
But I think Robert's right.
Well, there's an argument about it.
By definition, governments are bound to be involved in - short term considerations.
- Right.
Almost always, they're bound to think of the next election, they are in politics.
Do you think the government is going in the right direction? No, I think there is a problem.
And the problem is that Robert may well be looking at whether we're going to manufacture or not manufacture, the impact of the chip, actually, in a very macro sense, in our whole economy sense, actually looking at it and see where it will affect the industry.
I'm very much more worried, and I think now more than ever trade unions are starting to become worried and in fact the whole labour movement is starting to become worried that there are economic, social and political repercussions.
Now, they are long-term or medium-term.
They're not going to be tomorrow, probably five years, ten years.
Now, these will almost certainly need some extra government agency to look at them.
Because, as you say, governments last for five years.
There is this lovely thing called fifth-year democracy.
Well, as Mick McLean said, the Japanese, he has seen the Japanese experience, the question of where stuff is actually made, the Japanese are making the chip and then they're assembling the technical thing elsewhere in Korea.
MICK: Could I just also say ROBERT: Not these chips yet.
One important point to make, Robert, is that not only are we behind in Britain, I think, in many areas in the technology itself, but also we're very far behind in government response to the technology and the changes.
The governments of the US, Japan, Germany, to some extent France, have been a little bit more timely, perhaps, we can argue about this later.
Certainly they've taken, at least in Japan anyway, they've taken a much broader view of the changes.
They've not just concentrated on the limited technical aspects of how to build a thriving semiconductor industry.
They've really, I think, in terms of awareness we're even further behind than we are in terms of technology.
We talk about the, and the government talks, and everybody talks about the industrial strategy, about regenerating British industry, using North Sea oil money, but it's still often, I think, usually looked at in terms of the traditional industries.
Are we going to miss out this time, Barrie? Er, well, that very much depends on what government we get next and quite what we do.
- Well, answer it both ways.
- Answer it both ways.
Right, I can't forecast the next government, I wish I could.
But I assume Let's look at the existing industrial strategy, which I'm not, frankly, and I think a lot of other people are not, frankly, enamoured of.
It doesn't appear to be doing too much.
We do happen to have sector working parties.
We do happen to have little neddies.
We have all sides of industry and government represented.
We could, could have each sector working party looking at whether they are going to use these chips, how they're going to use these chips, plan these chips, but ultimately it's going to have to be done, this look, and this hard look, by individual firms, by individual ones.
You are technical director of a large individual firm.
You say your firm is doing these things.
But looking at British industry in general, is it? I think it is.
One of the problems we're going to have is helping the small companies to get into this field.
But the big companies, if you take not only my own company, but Plessey and Ferranti, and don't let's too denigrate British industry, because in radar and in avionics, air traffic control, systems like that, which are based on solid-state technology and will be based on microprocessor, this country has a very big record of achievement and has still got it.
But can I come back on a point? In what ACARD is looking at, we are looking at the implications on employment, we're looking for the opportunity sectors, we're looking for where there may be chances, looking for where there will be dangers to industries.
We are taking a seven-year look, and, of course, the next government may get rid of us but we're still trying to have a good look.
Can I ask if there are any trade unionists on it? Er, no, but - Thank you! - .
.
we do talk to the trade, um Can you suggest to me a trade unionist who has at the moment the technical knowledge for the first phase that we're doing? We would welcome an input from any trade unions, we will gladly talk to them.
The strength, as Barrie pointed out, the strength of the sector working parties within the NEDO organisation is the very fact they are trying.
Yes, but let me come in on that.
The sector working parties absolutely horrify me.
Hardly any of them mention the word solid-state.
In the telecommunications sector working party, it merits one word, it just says, "Switching will be influenced by solid-state," or something like that, and that is the totality A lot of the sector working parties are very aware of what's happening to their sectors, to some extent in machine tools, in telecommunications, in very many of the machine building sectors, they're looking at it.
All I wanted to point out was if you want an extra governmental body to take a long-term view, I think we should copy what's good about NEDO and take a tripartite structure to look at it because it does affect everybody, not just the people involved in industry.
Let me take us on to another area.
The film mentioned software and said we were world leaders in software, I don't know whether you might agree or disagree with that.
But it's a lovely answer to say this is what we're good at, we're getting out of some of the older industries, we're getting into the service industries.
But isn't everything still about wealth creation, and that's what we really need to talk about? And therefore software isn't any good unless it is applied to something that creates wealth.
Mick? I'd like to make the extra point, which I already started to mention.
I think one of the reasons we're any good at software at all at the moment is because for years we have had a thriving mainframe computer business in this country.
Helped by government support.
- That's ICL.
- ICL, and a few other companies.
Minimally helped by government support, I must emphasise that we are way behind in this as well.
The governments of France, Germany, Japan and the US in very many ways help their computer industries a lot more than we have.
Why, by government ordering? By government ordering and by direct subsidy.
In Japan, they have perhaps the most comprehensive programme ever involving protectionism, subsidies, government ordering - the whole gamut of policy methods to try to build up what is now a very thriving and very threatening computer industry.
That was an aside, really.
- Can I pick up Mick's point there? - You can.
For two reasons - the Americans have been superb at government intervention by purchasing.
They have wanted it for defence, they have wanted it for space, and this has affected their solid-state industry, their computer industry.
The Japanese have an incredible way of bringing together the firms, the government and the banks and arriving at a strategy.
It is a beautifully coordinated operation - and it undoubtedly succeeds.
- And you're saying that we do not? That's what we need.
We need a strategy and all I was doing was agreeing with Barrie and saying if the strategy is going to be thrashed out, a long-term strategy, it's got to involve the unions and many other sectors of the community as well.
Can I just make a point on this because I'm a little bit worried about the implication of your question, actually, because, quite honestly, if we do export, and if, in fact, we do prepare all the programming work and the software, in fact that is creating wealth.
Wealth is not necessarily a physical commodity like a table or a chair or even a TV camera.
But software experts We are a low-wage economy, software experts can leave with their skills with them.
Silicon Valley, I am told, is filled with British experts.
Right.
They can indeed.
There's another point which I think is slightly worrying.
If, in fact, we get into this idea of software.
If, in fact, it becomes a large, predominant industry in Britain, then it assumes a degree of knowledge for the people participating.
Now, that degree of knowledge is only really obtained by, if you like, just in social classes.
If you look at all the statistics on education, just the top few people The greatest number of people are in the top two social classes.
If you are then going to have income and wealth distributed just to those two top social classes, and not as at present, it means a lot of social problems.
I think we'll get into that.
.
Probably one of the least of them I think we will get into that later.
I'm still concerned about this question about is software in itself really an industry, or does it have any meaning? What meaning does it have for the so-called industrial regeneration of Britain? Surely it is merely a technique, the use of these techniques, for creating more wealth-creating factories? No, I am sorry, software is a perfectly exportable product, in the same sense that the film of a television production is.
It is perfectly fair to call it an export.
What worries me much more is that if we export software rather than systems, and this is where I did disagree with the film, we should emphasise that, starting with solid-state, applying our software ability to the better products of our conventional industry, we can both create exports, substitute imports and make much more efficient use of our resources.
So software in itself is the wrong end.
But we haven't been very good at doing that so far.
You pointed out earlier, to be absolutely fair, we do have some thriving electronics industries.
A lot of them, the ones that are thriving, are very much in the military, very high technology, high cost areas.
We're not competing very well at all in any of the mass - We're not a world leader.
- Not in the mass production areas.
We're not in the mass production of computers, minicomputers.
Part of Robert's own company will even agree with that.
Gentlemen, let me take you on to a thing that's already been raised by Mr Sherman, the effect on employment.
Whatever happens we are going to be losing job opportunities, there are industries that are dying in this country, and there is talk of creating new ones.
The implication of that film is we're going to be losing a lot more jobs - secretaries, shop assistants, warehousemen, - as well as production workers.
- Right.
Is this your anxiety? Yes, except that I wouldn't look at it really as an anxiety.
I would think it's a marvellous opportunity.
I know it sounds rather silly, but I think people have been inculcated in Britain with this lovely work ethic and it's been kind of channelled through the Establishment, the Church, all the organs of the Establishment, right from the Industrial Revolution.
Now, I think we have a chance, and a very great chance, to start looking at how one can reorganise the working life, not only in terms of when you retire and when you start, but how you work, how many hours you work.
And this all depends on where the wealth from this new technique, where it gets distributed.
But that only works if there is overall expansion of wealth.
Yes, but one assumes there will be.
If, in fact, the silicon chip enables you to be more efficient and proficient, then it equally assumes you have higher profits.
If you have higher profits, they can be distributed.
If they're distributed round the right way, I think you don't move to Utopia, but you move and you have the opportunity to move to a much better situation.
If, on the other hand, they all go in one direction, just as profits, or they leak out of the country, as so often happens, in those cases then you retrogress.
There's also the question of whether we're competitive with other countries.
We've seen some of our industries go down the drain.
We thought they were world leaders and we suddenly found they could hardly live.
What's your feeling, Mick, having travelled and looked at exactly this problem? There are a number of points to be made - one about trying to help our industries and stop them going down the drain, like, largely, the British cash register industry, for example, has.
Again, on the point of government intervention, the Germans are very quick to come in with support programmes for their small scale industries to try and help them adjust.
But is that to protect employment or to try and create new job opportunities? It's to stop them making old mechanical clocks and help them start making digital clocks, electronic clocks.
That was an aside.
I'd really like to reply to Barrie's point about saying in the long run, it would be quite likely we could create a much, much better society in which really very boring and tedious jobs, like petrol pump attendants and shop assistants are got rid of.
No-one really wants to spend your life doing those kind of boring jobs.
But I repeat that is only tenable if you get overall expansion.
This is one of the problems.
Again, I'm very worried that we will fall in the middle in the UK.
We won't be competitive enough to reap some of the benefits of the new technologies and yet we'll absorb them just fast enough to get rid of enough jobs to cause real social problems.
I wanted to make just the one longer point that while I entirely agree with Barrie that in the long run we could build a better society and agree with him that it depends on how wealth and income is shared, in the short run, there is going to be tremendous social upheaval.
No-one would disagree with that.
This is perceived by somebody like Cooley, speaking on that film.
I mean, our particular union tradition, with its craft union tradition, is going to be against this, isn't it? It's an idea of the protection of jobs and a particular craft.
One sees it in the print unions at the moment where there's a complete new technology which is being resisted.
Yes, but, but I don't think that unions are necessarily Luddites.
One of the problems there's been an enormous resistance to technological change, or some technological change, is because, one, there's been no consultation.
The first thing a union knows about it is when their people are out on the streets.
Secondly, there has been no effort at retraining, there's been no effort trying to look at alternate uses, like Lucas Aerospace, there's rather an argument going on about that at the moment.
And I think this is an area which has to be explored.
There has to be consultation.
I can assure you that the unions now will certainly use the Employment Protection Act and ask companies whether, in fact, they are going to get technological redundancies and the information provisions, and we will use it very hard.
My real point is that, given that union tradition, however much the unions may try and change, isn't this going to stop us as an economy changing fast enough? Well, we've got to have an attitude in which we see this as an exciting opportunity.
I am optimistic about this.
I believe Are you optimistic about union attitudes, too? I happen to be in a company in which the top man believes very much in consultation at the present time.
I mean, he has always believed, but he emphasises this tremendously, and I believe we will get the cooperation of the work people.
Do you believe there's going to be sufficient resistance on the union side to make it impossible for us to change fast enough, Mick? No, I don't think so.
I don't think the unions are really the big barrier to change.
As I said earlier, I think the UK is in danger of not going fast enough, or not going slow enough, falling between the two areas.
I don't think the unions are the big barrier.
The unions should and must be involved in the social upheaval that's going to take place.
If we are all agreed on that, and we seem to be, how are people to be prepared for this? How are you going to share out the jobs, if there are less jobs? Right, well I'd like to come back to Barrie's point there.
Sorry to interrupt you, Barrie, when you were about to make yours.
But before I forget it, you mentioned earlier is this dreadful thing of the work ethic.
I think one of the things we have got to get over is the idea that we've got to share around the existing jobs.
It may not necessarily be that we have to do that.
If, instead of training youngsters to believe that the only thing worthwhile to do in life is to work for the rest of your life, we can train them for life rather than work, then it may not be a problem.
You mean we can have a generation who doesn't expect to do a job? Well, we're starting to see one already, actually.
That's right.
We have to get through something else first.
We have got to create more wealth, product, services, with less people, be more efficient.
We have got to use that wealth which we create to provide the things which we're lacking at the present time, and at the same time to get rid of some of the dreadfully boring and tedious jobs.
But you said there's going to be unemployment among secretaries.
Many of us would like able to find secretaries at the present time, so more efficient use of secretaries may get us a few more.
The film showed us how it could be possible.
Well, you quoted the film.
All right, jobs, you say, people needn't have them, we can have a generation that doesn't have jobs.
- No, I didn't say that.
- How do you share out wealth? Look, I think you have two distinct problems.
One is the work ethic and work, and secondly to get a political and economic mechanism to be able to share that wealth.
Now, I think the first bit is easier than the second bit, to be quite honest.
Let's just look at the first bit very briefly.
At the moment, we've got both the English trade union movement and the German trade union movement, very interesting, together, discussing the 35 hour week.
It doesn't necessarily mean 35 hours, it might mean one week on, or rather four weeks on, one week off, four months on, one week off.
That is sharing out the jobs, was my phrase for it.
Yes, in some method or another.
I think that's inevitable, it's going to come, and it's going to come much sooner than later.
Also the working lifetime will be shorter, you'll get sabbaticals, you'll have longer holidays.
There'll be all sorts of mechanisms that will actually get this work sharing.
The second bit, though, I think is actually the crucial point.
- Sharing out the wealth.
- Yes, very crucial.
Now, if you've got fewer people working, then that means you've got fewer people to tax.
If you have fewer people to tax and you want the government to take up the slack, and goodness knows we need to.
You could create jobs almost ad nauseam in the health services and schools.
It's got to be paid for.
One follows this It's got to be paid for.
Isn't there a danger that we're going back to the old two nations, there will be those who have jobs and those who are never going to have jobs? - Mick.
- I think it's possible.
In the short term, the medium-term, which is what we're really worried about, not in some sort of long-term, idyllic future when everything is adjusted to, I think there is a great danger of that happening.
I think the traditional Barrie's point about you can soak up jobs in the health service or in education, one of the worrying things I saw travelling around was that these are areas where the microprocessor is also creeping into.
In education, in health, your very example on the film was the EMI body scanner, which is a very high technology piece of equipment which creates no jobs in the health service, and yet provides apparently very good medical care, or your medical computer.
If you look at what the government is not consciously trying to do, but what has happened over, let's say, the last ten years, we have had a run down of manufacturing industry, certainly in manpower terms and in almost every other terms as well, but that manpower has been picked up by the service sector, public and private, and this is precisely the sector that will be hit the hardest.
- Exactly.
- Yes.
Now there you have this major problem.
You can only do it, I think, by, frankly, I've tried to work it through, taxing the corporate sector.
I'm awfully sorry! Gentleman, we're reaching towards the end of our time.
Can I put a final question to each of you, which is is a prediction for Britain, are we going to expand wealth fast enough to deal with these problems that you've been identifying, because it has to expand, or are we going to see resistance and opting out and Britain not staying up with the leaders? Mr Clayton.
From the people that I work with, I believe we're going to do it.
Mr Sherman.
Yes, I would think that sooner than later we will realise this.
I don't think it's a conscious decision, it will just happen.
Because this isn't something that will happen overnight, it will happen as a drift.
And I think ultimately we will do it.
Mr McLean.
Unless we develop a strategy, not just for an industry or a sector, but for Britain, worked out by an extra governmental body with a lot longer viewpoint than most governments have, I think we're going to have a lot of problems and fall in the middle, as we discussed earlier.
Gentleman, thank you very much.
Mr Clayton, Mr Sherman, Mr McLean.
That's all from us on this extended version of Horizon.
So, at this late hour, good night.