a dearth of dorks

One of the factors that contributed to the earlier Acquiescing to Evolution post, a news item from a few days ago: China and several other Asian countries have surpassed the US in numbers and percentage growth of students in the "hard sciences." Not sure where I first read this, but some posts on VC Confidential reminded me--a few excerpts:

Marc Faber presented two interesting tables from Robert Herbold (former COO, Microsoft).

BS/BA Degrees BS Engineering % Degrees
(000's) (000's) Engineering
US 1,253.0 59.5 5%
China 567.9 219.6 39%
S. Korea 209.7 56.5 27%
Taiwan 117.4 26.6 23%
Japan 542.3 104.5 19%

All four Asian countries have a 4-8x the relative number of students going into engineering and China & Japan have 4x and 2x the annual number of BS degrees in absolute terms compared to the US. Another set of figures is around Ph.D's.

Students Receiving Ph.D's in Physical Science or Engineering
1987 2001 Growth
US Citizens getting degree 4,700 4,400 (6.4%)
Asian Citizens getting 5,600 24,900 345%

The national and wide social implications of this made me quite concerned when I heard the news, but on an individual level, not enough to regret my major choice. I'm sure I'm not the only one carrying that sentiment, though the news sparked a buzz of concern in nerdy social hubs. As VC points out, many Americans like me are sufficiently cushioned by the US's longstanding international privilege not to feel the "need to win to get food" (neatly tying back to the earlier post).

Update: Also on this note, R&D investment trends point going east. See the analysis at BoozAllen, stats summariezed by
—77% of new R&D sites planned in the next three years will be established in China and India.
—By the end of 2007, China and India will account for 31% of all global R&D staff, up from 19% in 2004.
—Between 1990 and 2004, China and India together grew their share of foreign R&D sites from 3.4% to 13.9%. —Between 1990 and 2004, R&D sites in the U.S. fell from 19.6% to 15.9%, and in Western Europe fell from 30% to 28.1%.
—23% of foreign R&D sites do nothing but customize products and services for the local market.