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. Ramstein Geneshahashashana

    It's not just the Indians.

    January 4, 2015 at 11:03 am |
  2. Ramstein Geneshahashashana

    Jesus never lived. Your entire life is based on a lie. Only Jews are God's children. The rest of you are gentile dogs according to our Holy books and Traditions. But thanks for donating money to us. And, thank you preachers for telling people to give us money too. Thank you.

    January 4, 2015 at 11:07 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      You said Jesus never lived but I don't buy into that. Are you a Tea Partying atheist like so many other right-wing fanatics? I sincerely hope not.

      January 4, 2015 at 11:17 am |
      • Philip

        No. That's the official teaching of the Jewish religion. The rest of us are gentile dogs to them. And that Jesus never lived but is somewhere in the loins of a jew diamond broker or IDF general.

        January 4, 2015 at 11:26 am |
      • bobscat3poR2D2

        Q: Why were gentiles invented?
        A: Somebody has to pay retail.

        January 4, 2015 at 11:30 am |
  3. bobscat3poR2D2

    Q: Why do Jewish men like to watch por no movies backward?
    A: They like the part where the hook er gives the money back.

    January 4, 2015 at 11:24 am |
  4. bobscat3poR2D2

    Q: What's the difference between a Catholic wife and a Jewish wife?
    A: A Catholic wife has real orgasms and fake jewelry.

    January 4, 2015 at 11:27 am |
  5. bobscatR2D2threepy0

    Q: Why do Jewish men have to be circ umcised?
    A: Because a Jewish women wont touch anything unless it's 20% off

    January 4, 2015 at 11:34 am |
  6. bobscatR2D2threepy0

    Q: Did you hear about the new tires, Firestein?
    A: They not only stop on a dime, they also pick it up!

    January 4, 2015 at 11:37 am |
    • Philip

      Firestein tires. LMAO. Like Gutjahr tires that can stop on a Jew or workshy German.

      January 4, 2015 at 11:42 am |
      • Firestein Tires

        Dr. Silverstein. Your dime. Well. Your dime now.

        January 4, 2015 at 11:45 am |
  7. Timmy

    And then they ask why we need more money for mental health.

    January 4, 2015 at 11:49 am |
    • South Park Timmy


      January 4, 2015 at 11:52 am |
    • South Park Timmy

      Timmay? Americans have thrown trillions of dollars at mental health care. Money has only made it grow.

      January 4, 2015 at 11:53 am |
  8. Davvy

    We need more money for mental health

    January 4, 2015 at 11:54 am |
    • South Park Timmy

      We ain't got no more money. We are already nearly 20 trillion in debt. Besides, they only use the money to make tons of mind altering drugs out of crude oil and over drug US anyway. For profit. Not for health.

      January 4, 2015 at 11:56 am |
      • South Park Timmy

        We already spend over a trillion dollars per year on doctor drugs. That's about 50% more than is spent on national defense. And look. The problem is only getting worse. We have walking zombie boys and men pumped full of pharmacy products going around shooting-up schools and theaters and universities and Navy yards, etc. And it's only going to get worse: Zombie Apocalypse Now!

        January 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm |
  9. Davvy

    If I was a guraffe i could s ukc my d ik. Now I need chrussty to do that for me.

    January 4, 2015 at 11:58 am |
  10. Davvy

    Where is Blue Saffron? I bet he is f ukkin those jewish brides while the husbands are out cutting diamonds.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm |
  11. Candice

    You people are shamelessly i diotic.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:06 pm |
    • South Park Timmy

      Be more specific. You are as bad as banutsi throwing broad generalisations around, scared out of her panties to single-out one thing and discuss it to the full. Some old lady who would rather chit-chat and gossip than actually discuss anything important.

      January 4, 2015 at 12:14 pm |
      • Candice

        Give it a rest, Timmy.

        January 4, 2015 at 12:17 pm |
      • banasy©

        Your topics of "importance" differs from mine. I truly couldn't care less if BC got a hummer in office, or you don't believe in the Trinity, yet still hide behind Jesus's robe to continuously break the 9th Commandment.

        You do not get to decide what I discuss. The sooner you realize that, the better off you will be.

        January 4, 2015 at 12:20 pm |
      • Philip

        Butt out, Donna. I was talking to Candice. Go trash someone else's thread for once. Holy crap, woman.

        January 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm |
      • banasy©

        But, Philip, you specifically brought me up via your bastardization of my name.

        You are not as clever as you believe you are.

        Holy crap, child.

        January 4, 2015 at 12:47 pm |
    • Philip

      Say something significant, Candice.

      January 4, 2015 at 12:19 pm |
  12. South Park Timmy

    Throwing more money into mental healthcare services will NOT solve the problem. Why? Because most money invested in ouir healthcare system is used to make tons of drugs out of crude oil. And doctors push those drugs to become very rich, not to become famous for healing people.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:16 pm |
  13. South Park Timmy

    I would estimate that at least 1/2 of the "news bloggers" here frequent the pharmacy.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:17 pm |
  14. Mohammed Tahseen Al Jazrawi

    US army advisors must leave Iraq together with the 3000 dumb US embassy staff. The Iraqi PM should throw them out sooner rather than later.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm |
    • Philip

      The PM is a puppet of theirs, dummy.

      January 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm |
  15. rupert

    Who wants ice cream

    January 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm |
    • Dr. Phil

      Ice cream to soothe fang scratches?

      January 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm |
  16. Jose' Phildo

    Who wants a shot of tequila?

    January 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm |
  17. rupert

    Hate it when ice cream gets so hard that my fangs bend

    January 4, 2015 at 12:44 pm |
    • Dr. Phil

      Was talking about Hindu goddess fangs and if your mom had very bad teeth when you were a boy. And Hindu goddess with many arms, and yours when you were a boy asking your mom where your little jar of vasoline was.

      January 4, 2015 at 12:46 pm |
  18. Jose Phildo 1800

    uh. Who there wants a shot of ma Jose 18 hunnert? It's uh pretty good stuff and ails my rheumatism.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:45 pm |
  19. rupert

    Who's buying

    January 4, 2015 at 12:45 pm |
  20. Jose Phildo

    You are. You owe it to me.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:47 pm |
    • Jose Phildo

      Well. To Dr. Phil, anyway.

      January 4, 2015 at 12:47 pm |
  21. rupert

    Bartender, cancel those drinks.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:54 pm |
  22. rupert

    Once in a while I put on my short shorts and long white socks and pretend that I am a gorgeous young woman. I wonder if that's normal. Do all men do this? Or just me

    January 4, 2015 at 1:46 pm |
  23. Blue Saffroń

    Who wants to go to the Chapel when you can find religion on this forum. But seriously, we don't need affirmative action in R&D. Let the market forces determine the demand supply curve and point of equilibrium.

    January 4, 2015 at 1:50 pm |
  24. rupert

    @blue saffron. I know u have fantasies about being a woman.
    Want to share?

    January 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm |
  25. Blue Saffron

    Yes Rupert. I wear pink pant.ies and pretend I am a girl

    January 4, 2015 at 2:05 pm |
  26. Blue Saffroń

    I am here to debate issues. Have a meaningful conversation. An intelligent discussion. Are you up to it? Can you write beyond a sentence? I be waiting. Show me what you got besides hallucinatory digressions.

    Now git back in line before I kick you so hard you'll be wearin your @ss for a hat.

    January 4, 2015 at 2:19 pm |
  27. American Patriot

    @Blue Saffron gotta love your carrot and stick approach to dealing with riff raffs.

    January 4, 2015 at 2:23 pm |
  28. Cantor

    Hey you muther f rikkin hindoo b@st@rdz out from India. Go raipe your b eetchy goddesses aka Lakshmi Maa, Durga Maa, Kaali Maa and all the other muther f okking Maa(s). We call them s luts in America.

    January 4, 2015 at 2:29 pm |
  29. Blue Saffron

    I Look good in pink garments and black pan.ties.

    January 4, 2015 at 2:31 pm |
  30. Cantor

    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 4, 2015 at 2:34 pm |
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