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. Rosey Khambatta

    Innovation or Extradition?
    That is the Million Dollar Question.

    The only way to boot and reboot India and Modi is for them to face charges and trial for the genocide in Gujarat in ICJ Hague.
    Otherwise the world will never accept their legitimacy. And I am yet not talking about Indian Occupied Kashmir.

    January 5, 2015 at 9:40 am |
    • Philip

      Yes. We will get right on that as soon as every Israeli war criminal is tried and convicted for war crimes against citizens. Get in line.

      January 5, 2015 at 10:25 am |
  2. Daddy's Joy

    Kick Modi on his raipist a zz and put him on a donkey to Nepal. There he can face trial for genocide.

    January 5, 2015 at 9:48 am |
    • Philip

      So. What do you think of the Israeli MOSSAD? God's little helpers or...?

      January 5, 2015 at 10:29 am |
  3. Philip

    The ENRON corporation bilked over 100 billion dollars from American citizens and used stolen funds to upgrade India's power grid. And are now charging Indians 3-5 times more for electricity than originally agreed on. Same crap ENRON pulled on California.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:31 am |
  4. Cristobal

    The Hare Krishna terrorists are out here wearing different colored turbans. Hindoo apologists. America this America that. Israel that and Pakistan this.

    We have you on our radar.

    January 5, 2015 at 11:22 am |
  5. Aiden Buford

    For Christ's sake we give these hindoo beggars more money than Israel. Enough. No more. Let India starve.

    January 5, 2015 at 11:32 am |
    • Blue Philip

      No we don't. The US taxpayer is forced to donate about 50 billion dollars per year to Jew beggars and for many years. Get a clue.

      January 5, 2015 at 11:35 am |
  6. palintwit

    Q:: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    A: To get to the other side.

    Q: Why did the teabagger cross the road?
    A: To have incestuous relations with his first cousin.

    Q: Why did Sarah Palin cross the road?
    A: To watch the teabagger do his cousin.

    January 5, 2015 at 11:51 am |
    • Jack Murphy

      FYI Sarah Palin crossed the cow path to make love with Blue Saffron.

      January 5, 2015 at 12:36 pm |
      • bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

        Mmmmmm... cows

        January 5, 2015 at 12:38 pm |
  7. Aiden Buford

    If you look at the knees of India's hinddoous you will notice scabs. Due to constant bending down! Why? Because look at their 2% GDP. Half of that is due to American aid. Source: OECD: Call centers, H1B visas, food donations, technological aid for energy needs, military aid, low or no interest loans ... Highest of any country, outright financial aid, PR aid, job creation aid....... AID AID AID and more AID.

    January 5, 2015 at 12:28 pm |
  8. Jack Murphy

    India is No.1 recipient of J apanese financial aid. Food, money, technological assistance, poverty alleviation handouts etc. are being sent as ODA to prevent further collapse of society.

    We all know that India is the largest recipient of aid from World Bank, IMF, Asian Dev Bank, OECD.

    January 5, 2015 at 12:34 pm |
  9. palintwit

    We arrive in rusty 1964 motorhomes.
    We bring our bibles and loaded assault weapons.
    We wear ridiculous clothing and have teabags dangling from our earlobes.
    We carry misspelled racist signs as we stomp all over the White House lawn.
    We eat Chick-fil-A from Cool Whip bowls and wash it down with Everclear that we keep in mason jars.
    We are Sarah Palin's real Americans.
    We love the baby jesus but we love to boink our first cousins even more.
    We believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that early man walked with the dinosaurs.
    We believe that nascar is a real sport and that Dale Earnhardt was a great American athlete.
    We are the birthers. We are tea party patriots.
    We are bigots and inbreds. We are morons and we are proud.

    January 5, 2015 at 12:55 pm |
    • Bo Burnside

      You must be hindoos from India

      January 5, 2015 at 1:10 pm |
      • palintwit

        No. We are tea party patriots and we are from south of the Mason Dixon line and we only have one tooth.

        January 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm |
      • Bo Burnside

        Betcha you are from Suchindram deep south of India raiping newly born girls.

        January 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bo Burnside

      We have provided direct and indirect aid to India to the tune of US $500 Billion!!!! And still counting. All we got was BO.

      Thankfully, Americans have hindus over a barrel and they are rolling them over. Just like they rolled the J apanese over. All of them are dead in the water. Failed experiments.

      January 5, 2015 at 3:23 pm |
  10. chri§§y

    Totally agree with @ Blue Philip. And it doesnt look like theres an end in sight anytime in the near future! We have been financing Israel FOREVER!

    January 5, 2015 at 1:22 pm |
  11. rupert

    No Chrissy we have not been financing Israel. You sound just like philip.

    January 5, 2015 at 2:24 pm |
  12. chri§§y

    Facts are facts @ rupert! And YES we have! We have financed Israels murdering military for a very long time! Look it up!

    January 5, 2015 at 2:29 pm |
    • Blue Philip

      You tell 'em, Chrissy. Americans think it's their responsibility to protect "god's chosen people" the Israeli MOSSAD. theirs freaking preachers even say so! And so they give to "poor starving Jews" in Israel thinking God will give them a free pass.

      January 5, 2015 at 4:40 pm |
  13. chri§§y

    Since WWII the US has provided $121 billion in financial aid to Israel. And all grants and loans to Israel by the US have been forgiven by Congress. Which means they never have to be repaid. Not to mention any aid that wasnt a grant or loan, but freely given. THATs what our government does with OUR hard earned tax dollars! Did they ever ask for permission to do so from you @ rupert? Because they sure never asked me, nor anyone i know either!

    January 5, 2015 at 2:42 pm |
  14. Bo Burnside

    The Indian Debacle has overshadowed the European crisis. GDP that has dropped off the cliff (-2% est), budget deficits, collapse of Indian rupiah, rampant poverty, unemployment, FDI reversal, companies leaving town are some of the disastrous events that are threatening the Indian state.

    The downward spiralling is so severe that the Indian government has been ulable to control it. Even the Americans have been unable to help and several trips by the treasury secretary were not helpful.

    January 5, 2015 at 3:25 pm |
  15. Boomer Bufalo

    Bo, This also has security repercussions for India and US defense secretary and secretary of state, among others, have flown in to counsel India on how to protect its borders with the help of Israel/IDF. Rumors have it that the breakup of India along the lines of Soviet Union is a very plausible scenario that I am sure intelligence agencies all over the world are factoring in their geopolitical stress tests.

    January 5, 2015 at 3:31 pm |
  16. Black Betsy

    Hey Bo & Booms, no sweat. Those snake charmers in bum f ukk bombay are busy raipin up a storm with our tax dollars.

    January 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm |
  17. Rupert

    This is a circus. 600 comments of mere trash. I see my troll, rupert, continues. These people like Philip, rupert, chrissy, palintwit, and all the countless characters in blue really are a by-product of meaningless gibberish. It is obvious to me that it will never end.

    CNN should either block the off topic remarks, or just shut this joke of a blog down asap.

    January 5, 2015 at 4:01 pm |
    • trigtwit palin...America's favorite tard baby


      January 5, 2015 at 4:06 pm |
  18. chri§§y

    Hasnt that been your mission all along @ rupert? Just as YOU had TJI shut down. One really has to wonder what kinda wierd motivation you have for that action but it is safe to say its strange at best! And it doesnt matter how many times you change your name, whether its your user name or your legal peti tion to change your birthname from Jeffrey to Adam...in the end its always still YOU causing friction and chaos!

    January 5, 2015 at 4:12 pm |
  19. Blue Philip

    American innovation in trouble? Lol. Take away mind altering drugs from Americans and see what happens. Walking freaking Zombie Apocalypse. That goes for crack cocaine as well as Prozac. Take drugs away and it really gets weird(er).

    January 5, 2015 at 4:37 pm |
  20. Rupert

    Pardon me chrissy, I have no such mission. And I am not your little friend "rupert." That little man continues to use my name, and I am tired of it.
    I suggest you read my post again. Hopefully, you will understand it.
    Thank you.

    January 5, 2015 at 4:39 pm |
  21. Blue Saffroń

    Geo Political Innovativeness: A Remedial Expose

    Taj Mahal (purely by connotation, not size) reminds one of the saying of our dear architect friend Mies Van Der Rohe that “Less is More” and its application to India geo-politically. The recent economic bubble burst and minority backlash in India point to the necessity of imploding India in a controlled manner to make it more manageable administratively, before it ruptures chaotically. The Moghals may have left behind a legacy of regality in India but it was Mies that has given Indians a political concept that may give Indian Hindus a chance at survival albeit in a fragmented form.

    January 5, 2015 at 4:42 pm |
  22. Blue Philip

    And there goes Rupert throwing a blanket over everything like an old lady would do.
    Pick one thing you say is "jibberish" and let's have it out.
    Am sick of you naysayers saying nothing but nay. Really ticks me off.

    January 5, 2015 at 4:44 pm |
  23. Rupert

    One final note chrissy. What does the 4:37 obnoxious post have to do with innovation? That was a troll. Trying to get attention or change the topic with an irrelevant comment. This is precisely what I was referring to.

    January 5, 2015 at 4:45 pm |
  24. Blue Philip

    This is not about India you morons. We finally have a news article about US and you idiots still want to out Indians down. Jerks.

    January 5, 2015 at 4:51 pm |
  25. Blue Philip

    Stir the pot Rupert. Worse than "civil rights workers" fanning the flames of racism for job security.

    January 5, 2015 at 5:08 pm |
  26. Dr. Dazzle

    Blue Philip is delusional. I think medications and psychological therapy will help alleviate part or most of his problem.

    January 5, 2015 at 5:10 pm |
  27. Dr. Dazzle

    Notice his passive aggressive behavior as he attacks another blogger because the blogger will not talk about Blue Philip's obsession, India.

    January 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm |
  28. Blue Saffroń

    From my perch the greatest american innovation is peppered beef jerky.

    The french gave us Coq Au Vin

    The Indians pappadums (note that I refrained from the R word).

    January 5, 2015 at 5:19 pm |
    • Blue Philip

      The French, namely the Banc of France, made it possible for the founding fathers to be able to afford a rebellion from England, you ungrateful twit. No. The loans were never paid back.

      January 5, 2015 at 5:34 pm |
  29. Dr. Dazzle

    Blue Saffron is delusional. He feels that India is an evil country. It is all in his mental deficiencies. He really needs to be confined in a padded room.

    January 5, 2015 at 5:28 pm |
    • banasy©

      You need to stop trying to imitate people who are clearly superior to you, Adam

      January 5, 2015 at 6:50 pm |
  30. Dr. Dazzle

    With his other devices, he may post as Hannah, Cantor, Black Betsy, etc. And all in blue of course.

    January 5, 2015 at 5:32 pm |
    • dazzle

      My troll, you must have missed me. I don't use the word doctor before my name Unless you are a patient.

      January 5, 2015 at 7:07 pm |
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