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 (1,704 Responses)
  1. chri§§y

    Americas "everything" is in trouble because of the government if you think about it!

    January 1, 2015 at 11:40 pm |
  2. Sylvester

    Everything is relative. About 826 million Indians defecate in the open compared with 14 million in China per the World Health Organization.

    America is way ahead of the hygienic curve.

    January 2, 2015 at 4:55 am |
    • Sylvester

      Modi is great. I su ck his Indian di ck.

      January 2, 2015 at 9:07 am |
  3. Blue Saffroń

    All this technology but we can't find three planes that disappeared with passengers. Yet we can track and drone kill bad guys without trial all over the world.

    Federal funding for basic research and technology leading to weapons of destruction has increased. It has been one of the greatest investments in human history. It has risen to its highest level as a percentage of GDP in four decades.

    January 2, 2015 at 5:09 am |
  4. Blue Saffroń

    We are not in a R&D but an implementation mode pertaining to the issue being discussed.

    Just look at the stealth technology we have evolved to s noop on people and take them out.

    Yet chokehold remains the weapon of choice for some in NYC. "Hands up Don't Shoot."
    "I Can't Breathe."

    Oh how far we have come. Yet miles to go before we sleep. Really? Really.

    January 2, 2015 at 5:25 am |
    • Richard

      "I can't breathe" is a common saying in Pakistan. Since everyone there defecates in the open, well you can just imagine an open public sewer there. Pheeewww!

      January 2, 2015 at 7:51 am |
  5. Blue Saffroń

    Seriously. Generally, private funding is gradually replacing government funding for R&D. Please add that up from income statements of companies and calc as % of GDP.

    As an aside, Clinton Foundation raised $155 million this year for their causes. Just imagine. The boy from Arkansas! Who has now become a man. We hope!

    January 2, 2015 at 5:34 am |
  6. Blue Saffroń

    Four decades ago we had USSR and a space program. The former is all gone. The latter an exercise in futility. And after all Al Gore invented internet. What do we need R&D funding for?

    January 2, 2015 at 5:42 am |
  7. Lou

    India is so much larger and more advanced than Pakistan. Pakistan is a good country to defecate on.

    January 2, 2015 at 7:35 am |
  8. Baldamar

    Oh so true Lou. Pakistan is a great country to defecate on. I was there recently and everywhere I went, it smelled very very bad. So with the shortage of water and toilets there. I took a dump in the open street. In Pakistan it is common practice.

    January 2, 2015 at 7:41 am |
  9. Willis

    My goodness. I defecate all over Pakistan. It is allowed there. The Pakistan government knows that they are dirty Paki people with curry smell. So it is ok.

    January 2, 2015 at 7:45 am |
  10. Sam

    India is so much cleaner than Pakistan. As soon as you enter the border of Pakistan, you begin to cough because the curry poop oder is very overwhelming.

    January 2, 2015 at 7:54 am |
  11. Leslie

    Oh come now. Let's be fair. At least the Paki government provides gas masks for such dirty Paki people poop smell.

    January 2, 2015 at 7:58 am |
  12. rupert

    Oh look today we have an abundance of Paki trolls. Not buying that.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:00 am |
  13. Leslie

    Modi would never allow India to become a sewage like Pakistan. Poor Paki people. They are such dirty dogs.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:01 am |
  14. chri§§y

    Spot on @ Blue Saffrons 5:09 post! Boggles the mind that that plane could just disappear and STILL no sign of it anywhere!

    January 2, 2015 at 8:05 am |
  15. Rameen

    I am from pakistan. Yes it is difficult in my country. It is very overwhelming smell. I shall get a VISA and leave Pakistan. Such a dirty country. I am ashamed.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:08 am |
  16. Salvattore

    Why do hindus from India smell like s hit? Is it the crap they eat or just the DNA? I am told the country is one big cesspool.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:10 am |
    • Hombre

      So true. This one guy from India works in my office and we have moved his cubicle to near the toilet. He smells sooo bad.

      January 2, 2015 at 8:13 am |
  17. Hombre

    Sooo my boss tells me he is walking on a street in India and suddely he sees a person open the window and stuck his a zz out to s hit on the street below. No toilets in buildings.

    A holy man walking by ate it up.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:15 am |
  18. Zuny

    Why do Pakis smell like Blue Saffron's as.as?
    Who knows, but what a rotten curry, Paki, smelly oder. Pheeewww!

    January 2, 2015 at 8:15 am |
  19. Zuny

    In our office all Paki employees are segregated in the basement floor because they smell like camel poop.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:18 am |
  20. Canteena

    As soon as the door of the plane shuts, these Indian passengers take their shoes off. Now, coupled with upper and lower body odor the air becomes unbearable but there is nowhere to escape . Soon the curry in the tiffin box will be opened and the smell will permeate the air also. It is enough to jump out of the airborne plane. But it is too late. They will chew betel nut and start spitting. The hindus will start defecating in the aisles. Gang raipe is next. And the journey has just begun.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:20 am |
  21. Howard

    I went to the movies with my wife and kids to watch "The Interview." We were sitting watching the movie eating popcorn. Then some other family from Pakistan sat in front of us. My kids got sickened from the Paki smell. We had to leave. I complained to the manager. But there was nothing that he could do.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:24 am |
  22. Canteena

    So...if no toilets in India's buildings how do women p ee standing up through an open window with wind blowing in her direction.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:24 am |
  23. Robert

    @Howard. That is a sad story. I am sorry that happened. But Pakis will always stink. It is in their genetic make up. They cannot help it. God help them.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:28 am |
  24. Abby

    India Inc.
    In a wink
    Had a kink
    And no toilet or sink
    And became India sink
    In a blink
    With a nasty stink

    January 2, 2015 at 8:28 am |
  25. Abby

    Hinddoosz in the night
    Raiping each other at first sight
    Looking for babies with delight
    Wondering in the night
    What were the chances
    Of shoving candles in their genitals without exchanging glances
    Hinddoosz in the nighttttttt....
    Doobie Doo Daaa Dooobie Daaa

    January 2, 2015 at 8:29 am |
  26. Capistrano

    Jhinga Bells Jhinga Bells
    Jhinga all the way

    Dashing through the Ganges
    In a one cow open sleigh
    O'er the sewage filled waters we go
    Raiping all the way
    Bells on rat tails ring
    Making spirits shiver with plague
    What fun it is to laugh and sing
    A gang raiping song tonight

    Oh, jingle bells, jhinga bells
    Jhinga all the way
    Oh, what fun it is to ride
    In a one buffalo open sleigh
    Jhinga bells, jingle bells
    Jhinga all the way
    As the Indians gang raipe on the sleigh

    January 2, 2015 at 8:30 am |
  27. Father James O'Brian

    Let us hope and pray that the Pakistani breed with other races to dilute their DNA and lessen their ugly B/O.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:31 am |
  28. Harbinder Singh Bedi

    Modi used to live on a mango tree in India with monkeys. There he met @chri§§y who was eating fleas off ITS skin. Modi forced @chri§§y to give him a B J. in exchange for a banana. Modi reneged. @chri§§y shoved the strapped d ik up Modi's a zz. Bal Thackeray got born as a result. Hindus raipe each other to celebrate.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:33 am |
  29. Father James O'Brian

    Dear God in Heaven,

    Please allow us this day with less dirty Pakis in our mists. Give us strength so that the dirty Pakistani oder will not overwhelm us.

    January 2, 2015 at 8:34 am |
  30. Harbinder Singh Bedi


    :::60% of men or 420 million men in India think that raiping and burning wife alive for dowry by spraying kerosene and lighting her up is acceptable.

    ::::95% of India does not have toilets or plumbing

    ::80% of hinddoous track to rail tracks to defecate in India

    :::30% of raipes in India happen in bushes where women go to defecate and another 25% on rail tracks:

    January 2, 2015 at 8:36 am |
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