January 1st, 2015
08:43 PM ET

American innovation is in trouble

By Fareed Zakaria

If you ask people in Silicon Valley what makes it work, they will talk about many things — the ability to fail, the lack of hierarchy, the culture of competition. One thing almost no one mentions is the government. And yet, the Valley’s origins are deeply tied to government support. The reason there were so many engineers in California in the 1950s and 1960s was because large defense companies had attracted them there. Most of the legendary start-ups that fueled the computer revolution — Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel — got off the ground largely because the military, and later NASA, would buy their products until they became cheap and accessible enough for the broader commercial market. GPS, the technology that now powers the information revolution, was developed for the military.

And then there was government funding for research, which is sometimes thought of simply as large grants to universities for basic science but often was far more ingenious. My favorite example comes from Walter Isaacson’s fascinating new book, “The Innovators.” In the 1950s, the U.S. government funded a massive project at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, employing equal numbers of psychologists and engineers who worked together to find ways “that humans could interact more intuitively with computers and information could be presented with a friendlier interface.” Isaacson traces how this project led directly to the user-friendly computer screens of today as well as ARPANET, the precursor of the Internet.

Federal funding for basic research and technology should be utterly uncontroversial. It has been one of the greatest investments in human history. And yet it has fallen to its lowest level as a percentage of GDP in four decades.

Read the Washington Post column

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soundoff (1,621 Responses)
  1. palintwit

    " Christmas for Sarah Palin is about freedom. It’s about her freedom to worship as she wants, and simultaneously to shove that freedom to be Christian down everyone else’s throats. Another thing she’d like to shove down everyone’s throats is her special Christmas moose chili. She does not want to brag about her moose chili, but she does want everyone to know that it is “really, really, really good.”

    And the buffoon of the year award goes to... guess !

    January 2, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  2. rupert

    Palintwit. At 45 years of age, Sarah Palin is more of a hot babe than u could ever be. U must be jealous.

    Blue Saffron is a canary

    January 2, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • palintwit

      1. Sarah Palin is actually 50 and looks like a horse.
      2. You imply that I'm female. What makes you think that?

      January 2, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  3. rupert

    Because u write like a girl. That's why

    January 2, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Reply
    • palintwit

      You're a phucking idiot. Now get back in your trailer. Your sister's waiting for you and her knickers are down.

      January 2, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Reply
      • rupert

        @palintwit. KMA.

        January 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm |
  4. Jaswinder Singh

    Khalistan for Sikhs in India.

    FREE KHALISTAN

    January 2, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  5. rupert

    Palintwit voted for McCain because he loves Sarah Palin. Ha!

    January 2, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  6. Bobby

    Hindus in India have started rhaping in 2015 with new fervour.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  7. rupert

    Hey palintwit. U write like a girl. If u are a guy, u must be feminine looking. I don't like pretty boys.
    @Bobby. Go sukk Modi's di ck

    January 2, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  8. rupert

    @Philip and Blue Saffron. Go drink palintwit's peee.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:06 pm | Reply
  9. Bobby

    @rupert s ukkin diks are yours and your alter ego chrissy etc. sport. Modi is your prime minister rhapist.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Reply
  10. Bobby

    2600 rhapes were reported in India new years eve. A new record for Guinness.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  11. rupert

    warm , yellow, and smelly, phewww.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  12. rupert

    I am a muther f ukkin coksukker.
    Obviously from India.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  13. rupert

    Bobby eats camel s hit

    January 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  14. Blue Saffron

    I am a stu pid muthr fukker b itch

    January 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  15. Blue Saffron

    I fu ck Philip up his as.ss.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:15 pm | Reply
  16. Blue Saffron

    I like palintwit's peee. I sukk paki di cks

    January 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  17. Blue Saffron

    I am an Islamic pig face. I su k Modi's di ck

    January 2, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Reply
  18. Blue Saffron

    I am a muslim from Pakistan. I sukk Modi's big long India di ck because my Islamic religion tells me to do so.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  19. Bobby

    I fukk Blue Saffron & his mother up the azzz

    January 2, 2015 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  20. rupert

    I just b utte f ukked my hindoo muther in India. I am thusly an indian muther fukker

    January 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  21. rupert

    I am a hindoo hog and fukk my daughter every day in India. You call it rhape. I call it gud karma.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:27 pm | Reply
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    Hey, Check this out. http://www.mypayout.com/ref/facebook/b7e65e49.html It's a pretty insane new system for making money online... 100%free

    January 2, 2015 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  23. Blue Saffron

    I am a Pakistani Muslim mutr fuker. I fuk my mother up her Islamic a.s.s.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  24. rupert

    Why do hindoos from India smell like s hit? Bcoz these b@sturds are s hit. Lol

    January 2, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  25. Blue Saffron

    Hey check this out. Nice way to make money:

    Pimpbluesaffronuphisass.com

    January 2, 2015 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  26. rupert

    I just f ukked my sister with the red dot on her forehead. I am a hindoo cok sukker from bombay india. I suk d iks.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  27. Blue Saffron

    why do pakis suk camel di ck?
    Because Islam tells them to

    January 2, 2015 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  28. Blue Saffron

    I just fukked my mother and my sister. Great fukk. Only $20 bucks

    January 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  29. Blue Saffron

    I am from Pakistan. I love to be Muslim. I fukk my mother

    January 2, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  30. Blue Saffron

    As a devout muslim st upid mother fu kker. I fuk my mother's a.s.s.

    January 2, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Reply
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