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. Blue Saffroń

    India is the @rse of South Asia while Hinduism represents the worst of what a medieval cult can offer. Indian culture is a conglomeration of bizarre rituals based on inc*st.

    Hindu deities are repulsive representation of horrific characters that incite b@stiality and pedophilic practices and violent and extremist acts on humans such as sacrificial rituals.

    Just imagine a deity that represents a demonic image with blood dripping mouth that makes dracula look like George Clooney ! Just look at another deity that
    resembles a reptile, a cobra, a rat, a distorted human face with an elephant's snout and numerous claws as arms/hands that will send a chill down your spine.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:00 pm |
  2. banasy©

    I know Blue Saffron is a structured troll, but he sickens us all. I dislike him immensely. I don't read his trash beyond three or four lines, but give us a break. If he really cared he would go over there and fight for his beliefs instead of hiding behind a computer and being an annoying obnoxious easy to hate troll.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:01 pm |
  3. banasy©

    Basically he hides behind a computer screen and lets his fellow country men die in Kashmir because this coward prefers to be where it's safe.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:05 pm |
  4. Dr. Dazzle

    I think poor Blue Saffron is a delusional and frightened young man. Of course he would never fight on the field. Can you blame him? He has this fantasy that somehow he is a hero. Don't dislike him, but pity him.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:09 pm |
  5. Blue Saffroń

    Just another day in the life of jobless ex call center hinddoous from India for whom there is no other way to pass time. Just read the comments... No substance .... No class ....just pure boredom, despair, jealousy.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:13 pm |
  6. Philip


    January 5, 2015 at 10:13 pm |
    • banasy©

      The only boredom and lack of class comes from your daily writing which is nothing short of non-physical assults.

      January 5, 2015 at 10:19 pm |
  7. banasy©

    I guess so Dr. Dazzle.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:13 pm |
  8. Blue Philip

    Hep me? Lol Zzzzzzz

    January 5, 2015 at 10:21 pm |
  9. Blue Saffroń

    it is pathetic that jobless call center low calibre hindus are making these forums their means of recreation and passing time, We are aware that other means of entertainment are non existent in India Besides gang raiping. It would not be so bad if their comments were intelligent. The problem is that the one liners they write smell worse than their body odor. Plus it is indicative of low IQ and high illiteracy in India

    January 5, 2015 at 10:24 pm |
    • Blue Philip

      Jobless call center lazy fat fu*k.Americans, you dumd ass Indian hater.

      January 5, 2015 at 10:26 pm |
      • Capo Pablo

        You muther f rokher

        January 5, 2015 at 10:55 pm |
  10. Blue Philip

    Assults. That's enuff for one evening. Good night Donna & all

    January 5, 2015 at 10:24 pm |
  11. Dr. Dazzle

    As one can see, this poor mentally deficient man cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy. He thinks he is talking to people from India. Pity him.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:27 pm |
  12. Fat Fu*k Amwrican

    I'm fat. So it's OK if I'm lazy. Right? Or WRONG.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:28 pm |
  13. Dr. Dazzle

    Go to bed Philip.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:32 pm |
  14. Fat Ass man

    Are you fat? Then it's ALL your fault.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:34 pm |
  15. Fat Ass man

    Fat people have destroyed US. A fact.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:35 pm |
  16. Fat Ass man

    From fat "Christian" slave owners down to the fat lady with 2 shopping carts full of food for herself today. Lazy fat asses are the blight of America. Duh

    January 5, 2015 at 10:37 pm |
  17. banasy©

    Go to bed Philip. Alone as always, you mean ugly excuse for a man.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:38 pm |
    • Capo Pablo

      F ukk off ya s hithole

      January 5, 2015 at 10:57 pm |
  18. Fat Ass man

    R u fat? Then it's all your fault. What? Type 2 fatness? Only in your medicated mind.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:39 pm |
  19. Fat Ass man

    Fat people suck. Any questions?

    January 5, 2015 at 10:40 pm |
  20. Fat Ass man

    Go to bed, the fat ladies sing in unison. And so Zzzzzzzzz

    January 5, 2015 at 10:42 pm |
  21. Fat Ass man

    Assults. You r going to have to live with that one. You librarian helper cow.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:51 pm |
  22. Fat Ass man


    January 5, 2015 at 10:52 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      The pseudonym "Fat Ass man" is catchy.
      Why would a man, or another kind of person, have a fat ass?
      I don't really know, because for almost all human beings, the elimination one's fat is not a mystery as complicated as faith or the natures of deities.

      January 6, 2015 at 6:25 am |
  23. Capo Pablo

    Mentally handicapped people who should be in treatment.

    January 5, 2015 at 10:53 pm |
  24. rupert

    Wow. I missed the action. Oh well.
    Good night yallllll.

    January 5, 2015 at 11:54 pm |
    • Dr. Dazzle

      Always nice to see you rupert. Good night sweetie.

      January 6, 2015 at 12:07 am |
    • banasy©

      So true, so true dazzle. Rupert, nice to see you around these blogs. Good night handsome.

      January 6, 2015 at 12:21 am |
    • rupert

      @banasy & dazzle. Thanks ladies. Feels good to be appreciated. I want you to remember that you two along with chrissy, will always be my girls 🙂

      January 6, 2015 at 12:33 am |
  25. Blue Saffroń

    To those who have read "Who moved my cheese" by Spencer Johnson, it is clearly evident that I have ruffled some feathers, disturbed the status quo and challenged the mediocrity of comments being posted. Indeed I have. Not only that but I have challenged the authors as well. That is my prerogative and that is what I plan to continue doing. You have my word on that.

    This is not your mother's kitchen nor your father's garage. This is a public forum. Follow ettiquettes and decorum. Debate issues. Question premises. Offer insights. That is what is expected of you. Not petty pillow talk or trashy innuendos or needless outright abusive personal attacks. No can do.

    January 6, 2015 at 12:00 am |
    • Blue Saffroń

      I will continue to challenge your comfort zones and move your cheese till you shed your skin and lose your fat. All this to make you all more productive human beings. Don't fight. Just do it.

      January 6, 2015 at 12:05 am |
    • hannah

      We need some REAL men around here like yourself. So far we have had p ansies.

      January 6, 2015 at 12:38 am |
  26. Cristobal

    You tell 'em @Blue Saffron. We set the rules around heyre...Good night.

    January 6, 2015 at 12:41 am |
  27. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    Two more New York City policemen have been shot.
    My, my, how this city has changed since I moved here in 1961!
    It's progress, you know.

    January 6, 2015 at 6:02 am |
  28. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    It is not wise to hinder social progress.
    You might be shot dead.

    January 6, 2015 at 6:05 am |
  29. Philip

    Good morning @Joey. Am thinking police were shot back in 1961. I was just a little boy then, so am not a good eye witness. "Was JFK a copper, dad?", for example.
    And we need police officers to be shot dead to keep public sympathy on their side rather than on the side it tends to lean to: sympathy for the crooked American. (Same reason firemen are sent to die trying to save some wood)

    January 6, 2015 at 6:47 am |
  30. Philip

    Police only shoot about 400 of US dead each year. That's not too bad considering who we are. We shoot a lot more people dead than that, we "citizens".

    January 6, 2015 at 6:50 am |
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