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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Topics: Fareed's Take

soundoff (1,620 Responses)
  1. Philip

    @Arun Patel. Talk to me son.

    January 8, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  2. Philip

    Am putting my "Wind chill/Fart warming factor" comment on my all-time faves copyboard. 🙂 Right next to "Does it just feel like [Blue Saffron's anus is] 98F. he he

    January 8, 2015 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  3. Philip

    Pretty soon it's just going to be me and one other person here. And some dude posting lists of words.

    January 8, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  4. Arun Patel

    Namastey

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    Al Badr
    All Tripura Tiger Force
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    Al-Umar-Mujahideen
    Babbar Khalsa International
    Communist Party of India (Maoist) all its formations and front organisations
    Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) - People’s War, All its formations and front organizations
    Deendar Anjuman
    Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DEM)
    Harkat-ul-Mujahideen / Harkat-ul-Ansar / Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami
    Hizb-ul-Mujahideen / Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Pir Panjal Regiment
    Indian Mujahideen and all its formations and front organisations
    International Sikh Youth Federation
    Jaish-e-Mohammad / Tahrik-e-Furqan
    Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen
    Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front
    Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL)
    Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)
    Khalistan Commando Force
    Khalistan Zindabad Force
    Lashkar-e-Taiba/ Pasban-e-Ahle Hadis
    Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF)
    Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), All its formations and Front Organisations
    National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
    National Liberation Front of Tripura
    People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleippak (PREPAK)
    Students Islamic Movement of India
    Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA)
    Tamil National Retrieval Troops (TNRT)
    Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
    United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)
    United National Liberation Front (UNLF)
    Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)[

    United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)
    National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
    United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS)
    Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)
    Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF)
    Dima Halim Daogah (DHD)
    Karbi National Volunteers (KNV)
    Rabha National Security Force (RNSF)
    Koch-Rajbongshi Liberation Organisation (KRLO)
    Hmar People's Convention- Democracy (HPC-D)
    Karbi People's Front (KPF)
    Tiwa National Revolutionary Force (TNRF)
    Bircha Commando Force (BCF)
    Bengali Tiger Force (BTF)
    Adivasi Security Force (ASF)
    All Assam Adivasi Suraksha Samiti (AAASS)
    Gorkha Tiger Force (GTF)
    Barak Valley Youth Liberation Front (BVYLF)
    Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA)
    United Liberation Front of Barak Valley
    Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA)
    Muslim Security Council of Assam (MSCA)
    United Liberation Militia of Assam (ULMA)
    Islamic Liberation Army of Assam (ILAA)
    Muslim Volunteer Force (MVF)
    Muslim Liberation Army (MLA)
    Muslim Security Force (MSF)
    Islamic Sevak Sangh (ISS)
    Islamic United Reformation Protest of India (IURPI)
    United Muslim Liberation Front of Assam (UMLFA)
    Revolutionary Muslim Commandos (RMC)
    Muslim Tiger Force (MTF)
    People’s United Liberation Front (PULF)
    Adam Sena (AS)
    Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
    Harkat-ul-Jehad
    Jammu & Kashmir

    WAIT WAIT.....SOME MORE FREEDOM FIGHTING ORGANIZATIONS IN INDIA

    Akhil Bharat Nepali Ekta Samaj (ABNES)
    Al Badr
    All Tripura Tiger Force
    Al-Qaida
    Al-Umar-Mujahideen
    Babbar Khalsa International
    Communist Party of India (Maoist) all its formations and front organisations
    Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) - People’s War, All its formations and front organizations
    Deendar Anjuman
    Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DEM)
    Harkat-ul-Mujahideen / Harkat-ul-Ansar / Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami
    Hizb-ul-Mujahideen / Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Pir Panjal Regiment
    Indian Mujahideen and all its formations and front organisations
    International Sikh Youth Federation
    Jaish-e-Mohammad / Tahrik-e-Furqan
    Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen
    Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front
    Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL)
    Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP)
    Khalistan Commando Force
    Khalistan Zindabad Force
    Lashkar-e-Taiba/ Pasban-e-Ahle Hadis
    Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF)
    Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), All its formations and Front Organisations
    National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
    National Liberation Front of Tripura
    People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK)
    Students Islamic Movement of India
    Tamil Nadu Liberation Army (TNLA)
    Tamil National Retrieval Troops (TNRT)
    Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
    United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)
    United National Liberation Front (UNLF)
    Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)[

    United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)
    National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)
    United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS)
    Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO)
    Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF)
    Dima Halim Daogah (DHD)
    Karbi National Volunteers (KNV)
    Rabha National Security Force (RNSF)
    Koch-Rajbongshi Liberation Organisation (KRLO)
    Hmar People's Convention- Democracy (HPC-D)
    Karbi People's Front (KPF)
    Tiwa National Revolutionary Force (TNRF)
    Bircha Commando Force (BCF)
    Bengali Tiger Force (BTF)
    Adivasi Security Force (ASF)
    All Assam Adivasi Suraksha Samiti (AAASS)
    Gorkha Tiger Force (GTF)
    Barak Valley Youth Liberation Front (BVYLF)
    Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA)
    United Liberation Front of Barak Valley
    Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MULFA)
    Muslim Security Council of Assam (MSCA)
    United Liberation Militia of Assam (ULMA)
    Islamic Liberation Army of Assam (ILAA)
    Muslim Volunteer Force (MVF)
    Muslim Liberation Army (MLA)
    Muslim Security Force (MSF)
    Islamic Sevak Sangh (ISS)
    Islamic United Reformation Protest of India (IURPI)
    United Muslim Liberation Front of Assam (UMLFA)
    Revolutionary Muslim Commandos (RMC)
    Muslim Tiger Force (MTF)
    People’s United Liberation Front (PULF)
    Adam Sena (AS)
    Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
    Harkat-ul-Jehad
    Jammu & Kashmir

    January 8, 2015 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  5. Philip

    The demise of social media. We really weren't that interesting after all.

    January 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  6. Blue Saffroń

    Not only American innovation is in trouble but so is American Journalism. You know why Fareed? Because of hypocrites like you who for a few bucks have sold their souls. Do our biding and we shall pay you more. On second thoughts no thanks. I can find better pedigree at lesser cost.

    January 8, 2015 at 10:52 pm | Reply
    • ShiningStar

      What pedigree is Fareed? Don't they have caste system in India?

      January 8, 2015 at 10:59 pm | Reply
      • Blue Saffroń

        The point is he talks about lack of innovation and then plagiarizes the heck out of journalistic work. Go figure.

        January 8, 2015 at 11:10 pm |
      • Igor

        Yup, Fareed invented plagiarism.

        January 9, 2015 at 4:09 am |
  7. Gustav

    Isn't french fries an american invention?
    Je Suis Friteś!

    je te aime peuple français

    January 8, 2015 at 11:20 pm | Reply
  8. Public Announcement

    Blue Saffron's current an al temperature is 99℉

    January 9, 2015 at 12:04 am | Reply
  9. Ustov Golthier

    Je Suis Monsieur Blue Saffroń.
    Nous l'aimons

    LOL. Monsieur certainly shut up the merde from India aka @bat canary.

    January 9, 2015 at 3:50 am | Reply
  10. Ustov Golthier

    Thank you for cleaning up this forum @ Blue Saffron.

    We love ya.
    Now we can have some intellectualism here.

    January 9, 2015 at 3:52 am | Reply
  11. Chappel H

    How can American innovation be dead when Fareed invented plagiarism? Made In India.

    January 9, 2015 at 3:58 am | Reply
  12. Igor

    Innovation is not dead but reinventing itself.
    We are transforming to a police state. Getting militiarized.

    January 9, 2015 at 4:06 am | Reply
  13. Public Announcement

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Blue Saffron has cleaned up this forum and driven out the s hit from India back to their caves in Bombay. Vive Le Blue Saffron.

    January 9, 2015 at 4:23 am | Reply
    • Blue Saffroń

      Please don't create a divide. I just post my comments and move on. I have no other agenda nor interfere in other people's business. Freedom of expression with respect for others where due is my motto. However, I do not and will condone human right violations in any form or manner. I abhor suppression of people If you are a party to it then I am your worst nightmare.

      It is not my responsibilty to clean up forums though I encourage meaningful debate.

      This is my credo. This is who I am. This is what I do.

      January 9, 2015 at 7:37 am | Reply
      • Cristobal

        Understood. What has happened in Paris is deplorable and murdering of people is unacceptable.

        Freedom of speech also comes with a responsibility. Not to go about insulting people, cultures and races unnecessarily. That is not what civilized people do and is worst kind of terrorism.

        January 9, 2015 at 10:42 am |
  14. Blue Saffroń

    American Innovation maybe in trouble but "Hands up dont shoot" protests denominates a bigger trouble of sorts. Law enforcement and armed forces has prima facie taken over America. NRA was right.

    January 9, 2015 at 7:28 am | Reply
    • Strong Arm Robber

      Would you rather have big fat men ruling our streets, @Blue Saffron? Than the police? Because those are your only two choices: Police rule or great big ugly fat men do.

      January 9, 2015 at 7:54 am | Reply
      • Blue Saffroń

        Your point is well taken but we need not provide armored vehicles and Sherman Tanks to a police force in Small Town, USA.

        January 9, 2015 at 10:23 am |
      • Cristobal

        "Don't choke, I can't breathe" means just that. Big Ugly Fat Men have rights to. Police Policies are there for police to follow. Police cannot take law in their own hands.
        Choking a person to death for selling a pair of Michael Jordan sneakers on the sidewalk is not acceptable nor proportionate to the act.

        January 9, 2015 at 10:34 am |
  15. Andiamo

    Innovativeness is not my concern. Looking at the sea of cops disrespecting their civilian leader tells me that America is in trouble.

    Evolving culture takes more time than science.

    January 9, 2015 at 11:21 am | Reply
  16. Better Tomorrow

    Blogs such as this is indicative of how out of touch CNN and Fareed are with the world or deliberately trying to divert attention of people away from what the priorites should be.

    Innovation? Hum bug

    January 9, 2015 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  17. Hannah

    I am not trying to stir up trouble but note how most here disappeared since the Paris episode. They must be afraid the intelligence services are monitoring these forums at heightened levels.

    January 9, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  18. Philip MC

    Am actually enjoying my old manhood. Making men with but 20 years experience in my chosen fields look like little boys. And make older women appear to be Planned Parenthood riff raff.

    January 10, 2015 at 12:12 am | Reply
  19. Philip MC

    Paris was an inside job. Yet u r easily confused. Beccause u r stupid is why,

    January 10, 2015 at 12:14 am | Reply
  20. Philip MC

    Lady Di was killed by insiders don't you know. And JFK's sister was in fact lobotomized by them.

    January 10, 2015 at 12:16 am | Reply
  21. Philip MC

    if you do not use your real name but choose to fake it. We know who u are.

    January 10, 2015 at 12:19 am | Reply
  22. Philip MC

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Z zzzz.

    January 10, 2015 at 12:31 am | Reply
  23. Philip MC

    Zzz. Lol

    January 10, 2015 at 12:32 am | Reply
  24. Philip

    Anyway. I really like the hell out of banasy and think she is one of the most intelligent people on earth.
    There. I said it.

    January 10, 2015 at 3:44 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Your opinion will change again tomorrow, but thank you.

      January 10, 2015 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  25. Philip

    It's tomorrow already.

    January 11, 2015 at 6:53 am | Reply
  26. Philip

    It's still tomorrow.

    January 11, 2015 at 9:12 am | Reply
  27. Philip

    Maybe you were talking about the day after tomorrow?

    January 11, 2015 at 9:12 am | Reply
  28. Philip

    Hello?

    January 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  29. Philip

    poopert has trashed the main thread so am here hoping to chat seriously.

    January 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  30. small man with puny little arms

    160. American "men" with puny little arms.

    January 11, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Reply
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