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

    Lol rupert...first of all THAT aint ever gonna happen. NEVER get it? And second...weve already established it AINT all that or you wouldnt be HERE trying to troll for s e x! So i guess youre on your own. Good thing you got two hands huh? Lol gnite now!

    January 6, 2015 at 11:14 pm |
  2. Inus

    To compare India and China one just has to look at the 2012 Olympic Medal Chart !!!

    China = 38 Gold Medals
    India = 0 !!!!!

    Same # of population ... Just different results.

    January 6, 2015 at 11:16 pm |
  3. rupert

    Its ok chrissy. Philip says u bite at bj's anyway.

    Cantor and inus will sukk me.
    Right guys??

    January 6, 2015 at 11:16 pm |
  4. Inus

    Hindus are busy scratching their balls and picking their nose while Chinese conquer their territories. Scratching their balls is second nature to Indian Hindus. They do it while bobbling their head side to side. They feel empowered during the scratching process and is akin to a dog taking a p iss against a lamp post

    January 6, 2015 at 11:18 pm |
  5. rupert

    ..Inus sux my an us..

    January 6, 2015 at 11:24 pm |
  6. Inus

    China’s generals believe in hitting as fast and as hard as possible, a style of warfare they demonstrated in their 1987 blitzkrieg against India. The aim is to wage “battles with swift outcome” (su jue zhan). This laser focus has been a hallmark of the war with India in 1962 and 1987 during which they annihilated Indian Army and destroyed it and captured 10% of India up north in Aksai Chin region.

    January 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm |
  7. rupert



    January 6, 2015 at 11:30 pm |
  8. Inus

    Imma soak in ma jacooz and g'ta bed. So lowng.

    January 6, 2015 at 11:30 pm |
  9. rupert


    January 6, 2015 at 11:36 pm |
  10. rupert

    Camels fu k blue saffron

    January 6, 2015 at 11:39 pm |
  11. pupert

    @rupert aka chrissy aka many others.... Seems like you are seyxx offenders hiding on these forums.

    January 6, 2015 at 11:56 pm |
  12. rupert

    Blue Saffron jerks . Me . I com

    January 7, 2015 at 12:05 am |
  13. rupert

    Blue Saffron eats camel poop

    January 7, 2015 at 12:08 am |
  14. Jarvis Fiore

    USA and rest of World support a separate state for the people of Sikh religion who have been living under occupation of the Indian Army. It shall be called Khalistan.

    January 7, 2015 at 6:05 am |
    • Hisstoryan

      And Khalistan will rise up and rule the world and enslave Jews and make pets out of fat people from the USA.

      January 7, 2015 at 11:57 am |
  15. Market Researcher


    ::: RAIPES

    This is what the readers are interested in.
    If you don't BBC or FOX will...

    January 7, 2015 at 6:09 am |
  16. Blue Saffroń

    @Cristobal you are right on re: privatizing innovation. Federalism belongs to the developing world in this day snd age.

    How was your safari? Now you are back to the real one! LOL

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

      I gotta tell ya those animals in Tanzania are more intelligent than some of us mortals. Great trip and much recommended.

      January 7, 2015 at 9:49 am |
  17. Blue Saffroń

    Thanks for concurring @Hannah. Your encouragement is appreciated. What did you think of my article? Someone had to speak up. Enjoy the conference.

    January 7, 2015 at 7:00 am |
  18. banasy@

    Blue Saffron, right you are on privatizing innovation.

    January 7, 2015 at 8:34 am |
  19. Black Saffron

    @Blue Saffron. Man. U no safara be like coo den. Got's me a water buffala name of Shirley.

    January 7, 2015 at 10:13 am |
  20. chri§§y

    No @ Market Researcher...the readers are NOT interested in that! Weve been hearing that SAME song and dance for weeks now and its quite old!

    January 7, 2015 at 10:15 am |
  21. Cristobal

    Right on @Market Researcher. That is exactly what we want to hear. Monotone trash and petty talk dies not interest us and has been going on too long. We must put a stop to it.

    January 7, 2015 at 10:22 am |
  22. Ianus

    Hi rupert. R u coming over again tonight after your mom passes out?

    January 7, 2015 at 11:10 am |
    • Ianus

      I anus gets lonely at night, my little poopert.

      January 7, 2015 at 11:14 am |
  23. Markit Resurch

    Deer cNN. CaN i hAve MOre sToryS abOut indiuns? NOt thE onEs frOm chINa thaT walKeD tO thE AmeriCas acroSt tHE laNd BriDge. ThE oneS weaRinG towELs oN three heADs.

    January 7, 2015 at 11:28 am |
  24. palintwit

    Bristol Palin wants to be on DWTS again but the producers told her she would have to leave her buttplug at home this time. Last time it popped out when she was on stage and the janitor took it home thinking it was a chew toy.

    January 7, 2015 at 11:29 am |
    • bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

      Mmmmmmmm... chewy buttplug

      January 7, 2015 at 11:33 am |
      • Ianus

        What flavor was it?

        January 7, 2015 at 11:51 am |
      • Hisstoryan

        Don't tell me it was brown flavored. That's my personal fav.

        January 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm |
      • palintwit

        Ianus... you'll have to ask bristoltwit

        January 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm |
  25. chri§§y

    @ Cristobal...create your very own hindu hating blogsite then. Problem solved! WE would like to hear CURRENT news here! And NOT the s m u t you all post!

    January 7, 2015 at 12:45 pm |
  26. Cristobal

    I understand the frustration of SOME as they can't write beyond a sentence and therefore unable to express themselves. We want intelligent discussion here not the bigoted and garbage you post here under various names @chrissy. In future reply to me under my post. I will give you a befitting response.

    January 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm |
    • banasy©

      Please do not accuse others of that; your hands are not clean, and precisely zero people are fooled by your behavior.

      Those that are the guiltiest are the first to point their skied finger at someone else.

      And, btw, why didn't you reply under her post?

      January 7, 2015 at 1:40 pm |
      • banasy©

        Filthy finger; DYAC.

        January 7, 2015 at 1:47 pm |
  27. chri§§y

    I posted AT you Cristobal because as IVE explained several times i do NOT have the reply feature on my mobile device! Or are you too dumb to comprehend the written language?? And i NEVER post under ANYONE elses name!!!

    January 7, 2015 at 1:56 pm |
  28. Cristobal

    If you have problems then fix them. Don't make it others. And stop using abusive language. Get it, chameleon.

    January 7, 2015 at 2:12 pm |
  29. Cristobal

    India is out of control. Rudderless. Aimless. Its people lost. Just look at the comments herein as a reflection. I am of the belief you can mazimize value of India Inc by dicing into pieces. Nothing personal just business.
    The sum of parts of India is greater than the whole.

    January 7, 2015 at 2:23 pm |
  30. chri§§y

    Obviously YOU have problems...get it MORON!!

    January 7, 2015 at 2:26 pm |
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