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Andrew Russell, professor of history and the dean of arts and sciences at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Lee Vinsel, professor in the department of science and technology in society at Virginia Tech, take to the pages of the New York Times opinion section to make an appeal for shifting the focus of the infrastructure discussion.
The argument responds to the state of the nation's infrastructure—every variety of which, according to the article, is in "decrepit" condition. But, why?
Why are we in this predicament? One obvious answer is that officials in federal, state and local government do not allocate the resources necessary for preventive maintenance. But their inaction is a symptom of a deeper problem, one that is too seldom discussed: Americans have an impoverished and immature conception of technology, one that fetishizes innovation as a kind of art and demeans upkeep as mere drudgery.
The duo goes on to add: "Once you notice this problem — innovation is exalted, maintenance devalued — you begin to see it everywhere." The problem isn't just with the media or with industrial leaders like Elon Musk, the problem is also perpetuated by politicians, who would prefer new, splashy projects that the mundane business of maintenance. The article cites New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposal for the Brooklyn Queens Connector—a hotly-debated streetcar project in a city desperate for bus system improvements—as an example, but Elon Musk's plans for a system of tunnels under Los Angeles and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's declaration of a state of emergency for the MTA subway system also provide plenty of evidence of those claims.