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. Philip

    Funny. Americans shot-up their own arms more than shoot other people. Now that Afghanistan is secure.

    January 6, 2015 at 6:52 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Is it really, Philip? If that means continued U.S. occupation, hopefully not!

      January 6, 2015 at 8:03 am |
      • Philip

        Not US occupation, Joey. Carlyle Group of men named Bush and Bin Laden occupying Afghanistan's TAPI pipelines used to transport their Caspian Basin oil to China. The US had nothing to do with it. It was ALL the work of the Bush-Bin Laden group of investors/war profiteers.

        January 6, 2015 at 8:17 am |
  2. Philip

    Hey, Joey. I'm on my cell and the page just turned so I can't see if you replied to my earlier snide remarks.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:02 am |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    Conservative opinions are frequently rejected by the Censor here, at lease when I submit them. My longer comments are especially mortal.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:04 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Some of my comments are rejected here too, Joey, and none of them are conservative or should I say, right-wing?

      January 6, 2015 at 8:05 am |
  4. Better Tomorrow

    This forum has become a flop house. Where addicts come to engage in nonsensical discourse and anti american rants. Where social misfits like chrissy change names like a chameleon's color to post garbage. Be it rupert or banasy or philip or joey or hundreds of other dysfunctional names. Are they Al Qaeda or ISIS or Talibans or North Koreans or Hindutvas?

    January 6, 2015 at 7:07 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      So, @ Better Tomorrow, what are you doing here?
      Slum somewhere else.

      January 6, 2015 at 7:11 am |
      • Philip

        Lmao. Good one, Joey. 🙂

        January 6, 2015 at 7:33 am |
    • Philip

      Your mom named you Better Tomorrow? Or did you do that all by yourself. Use your real names, you freaking cowards!

      January 6, 2015 at 7:32 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      None of the above, Better Tomorrow. They are just clowns trying to be funny although they're definitely not!

      January 6, 2015 at 8:08 am |
  5. Chappel H

    @Better Tomorrow you are correct. This is a mentally sick place.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:15 am |
  6. Gotham

    This guy @joey is on some cheap w eed.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:18 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      @ Gotham:
      The last time I tried to smoke anything like that was during the 1970s, floating on the Nile off Luxor, in a privately hired boat, whatever they call them there. I think it was hashish. I cannot smoke: never learned.
      I do not drink alcohol.

      January 6, 2015 at 7:29 am |
    • Philip

      Luxor is in Vegas now, Joey.

      January 6, 2015 at 7:36 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Not really, Philip.

        January 6, 2015 at 7:41 am |
      • Philip

        Uh huh. It even has the Nile River. I rode on a hired boat there just like you did. Only I didn't have to travel halfway around the world to do it. Each room is full of windows, too. So you can see how truly ugly Las Vegas is and not overstay your welcome, I suppose.

        January 6, 2015 at 7:46 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        How much did you lose?

        January 6, 2015 at 7:53 am |
      • Philip

        Lose? Lol. I've been playing Texas Hold 'Em for over 40 years, Joey. I generally win. Especially in Vegas that imports pigeons.

        January 6, 2015 at 8:05 am |
  7. American Patriot

    Anti American comments from @chrissy @ Joey @rupert @Philip et al will not be tolerated.

    CNN you have been put on notice. Either stop it or we will take matters in our hands.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:22 am |
    • Philip

      I speak the truth about what happened to America. You blind flag waving automaton. Get a clue.

      January 6, 2015 at 7:29 am |
      • Philip

        Walking zombies carry flags now?

        January 6, 2015 at 7:30 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        @ Philip,
        if you speak the truth about what happened to the USA, you will be socially unacceptable
        Be careful.

        January 6, 2015 at 7:34 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        I omitted a period after "unacceptable."
        Of course, many highly educated USA citizens today realize that punctuation is unnecessary, and, BTW, Regressive.

        January 6, 2015 at 7:39 am |
      • Proud parents

        I wasn't even socially acceptable to my hedonistic parents, Joey. Have been well groomed to be rejected by the status quo.

        January 6, 2015 at 7:40 am |
  8. Proud parents

    Oh! Triplets. Let's name them American Patriot, Gotham, and banasy. Even though they are three boys.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:38 am |
  9. Ethal

    There is no conflict in Kashmir. It just isn't so.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:44 am |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    Bye, folks.
    Gotta make doughnuts.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:46 am |
    • Philip

      Doughnuts? At this hour? (shrug) ttyl, Joey. Good to see you.

      January 6, 2015 at 7:51 am |
  11. Rameen

    Such rumors. All is good in India, Pakistan, and Kashmir.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:46 am |
  12. Rameen

    Mmm donuts. I like them fresh with the red jelly in the middle.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:48 am |
  13. Philip

    Americans used to be slim and trim, and smart. And hard working too. Now look. I rest my case.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:49 am |
  14. Cow in a Bottle ©

    Ebola-India is a virus that came about since Modi emerged on the national political scene. Researchers believe that the Ebola virus lives in a hindu deity host that is native to the Indian continent. They continue to search for the exact deity but believe it to be Lord Shiva. Meanwhile Modi has been isolated in Nepal following his conversion to Islam with the whacking of his willy wacker.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:49 am |
    • Philip

      Not to mention AIDS that kills 1.7 million per year as Ebola kills 1,700 during a good year.
      We should have quarantined those first few American men that contracted the AIDS virus. That's a no-brainer. But president Ronnie Raygun and a fat Supreme Court justices determined that quarantining them was a violation of their civil liberty to spread AIDS among US.

      January 6, 2015 at 7:56 am |
  15. Cow in a Bottle ©

    Modi was responsible for the massacre of 300,000 people in India.

    He needs to be dragged to ICJ The Hague and face trial just like Milosevic.

    There is nothing more I detest than a vicious murdering genocidalist like Modi. How can reasonable people elect him as a leader. Shame on India. Shame on North Korea.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:52 am |
    • Philip

      Dear Mrs. Cow in a bottle. AIDS kills over 1.7 million each year. Ebola? 1,700. And that's during a peak year.
      We should have quarantined the first American men who contracted AIDS. But president Ronnie Raygun and the SC determined it was their civil right to spread AIDS among US. And so they did.

      January 6, 2015 at 8:00 am |
  16. Cow in a Bottle ©

    Trying to pretend that Nazis did not undertake jewish holocaust inspired by hindus in India and encouragement by Gandhi is like denying the existence of sliced sourdough bread. It is what it is and live with it. You cannot stop people from debating. This is not India where your family is raiped to shut you up and muffle you. Not going to happen. Hindus need to fess up and seek atonement.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:55 am |
  17. Rameen

    Modi the evil man does not exist. This is fiction. However, Modi the PM of India does exist. He is a good man. Sad to see so many trolls posting otherwise.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:56 am |
  18. Rameen

    P.M. Modi is a good leader. Respect him.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:58 am |
  19. Cow in a Bottle ©

    "Namaste, My Fuhrer. I implore you to propagate the Aryan race and remove all semitic impediments in this endeavor. We look forward towards your wisdom and guidance with respect to dealing with British and exterminating Jews. I continue to expound on my hobby of banging my goat and niece Manu. Of course not to mention other tender aged boys and girls and my cow ... Lakshmi. Your Obedient Servant , Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi."

    January 6, 2015 at 7:58 am |
  20. Cow in a Bottle ©

    Raipes are a celebration of hinduism in India. It is the very fabric of Indian hindu culture.
    It has been going on for 5000 years.

    This cancer is now spreading into neighboring countries. It is also being exported to western nations where hindus migrate to.

    Singapore recently arrested and deported thousands of hindus for raipes and terror.

    January 6, 2015 at 7:59 am |
  21. Cow in a Bottle ©

    A 10-year-old tribal girl was raiped by at least 10 members of a hindu kangaroo court in a Birbhum village, India on Monday night as punishment for having an affair with a youth from another community. She is in critical condition after the assault and is clinging to life in spite of the raipists stopping her from reaching a hospital.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:01 am |
  22. Rameen

    Anyway, on with more important issues. Once I ate celery for three days. On the fourth day I figured it was my abundance of celery that gave me diarrhea. So I stopped.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:04 am |
  23. Rameen

    I know one thing. I was cleansed.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:05 am |
  24. Cow in a Bottle©

    Funny how some trolls can so easily steal my name.
    They can put a man in a moon, but they can't figure out how to make A.I.D.S. go away. Go figure. Meantime good peoplev in America and India are dying.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:14 am |
    • Philip

      You obviously know nothing about the complexity of the super virus AIDS. Putting a man on the moon is child's play compared to finding a cure for a virus. Even the simple cold virus baffles men who could easily fly to the moon.

      January 6, 2015 at 8:28 am |
  25. Cow in a Bottle©

    Green healthy American poop. Priceless.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:17 am |
  26. Rameen

    They are closer to finding a remedy for A.I.D.S.
    Blue Saffron caught it with a hook. ER. But he is doing well.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:22 am |
    • Philip

      BS. They can't even cure the simple cold virus and gave-up even trying to many years ago. You watch too much TV.

      January 6, 2015 at 8:33 am |
  27. Rameen

    @Blue Saffron. Be careful where you put your wally wacker. It just may get sick and leave you. Permanently.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:24 am |
  28. Cow in a Bottle©

    It will be ok. Pharmaceuticals to the rescue to save Blue Saffron's we. we. All three inches.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:30 am |
  29. Philip

    FACT: "Cow in a bottle" is a sentence. NOT a name as you claim.
    Use your real name why dontcha.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:43 am |
  30. Philip

    I love Jesus Christ yet I despise Christians. For they do not live as Christ lived.
    – Mohandas Gandhi.

    January 6, 2015 at 8:47 am |
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