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How America Can Get Its Tech Mojo Back 380

Posted by Soulskill
from the did-anyone-ask-dr.-evil dept.
jfruhlinger writes "The American tech industry is hobbled by a poor education system, misguided spending priorities, and a byzantine patent system. But America can still come out on top, not least because of its longstanding tradition of individuality and private R&D investment. 'Open, distributed projects have the potential to outperform the traditional closed, controlled research model by reducing costs and duplication of effort, making it easy to collect and analyze masses of data from diverse sources, and allowing the best brains to participate no matter where they live.'"
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How America Can Get Its Tech Mojo Back

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  • ...That's all fine and dandy, but I'm pretty sure open distributed projects won't help America's poor education system. It's a start, and it might give way to some progress, but collaborative researching doesn't help Billy Bob Joel learn how to advance technology if they don't know shit about it.

    • by WorBlux (1751716)
      That's true, and there's nothing stopping the Chinese from leveraging open source.
    • Re:Well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @12:40AM (#36668972) Homepage Journal

      but I'm pretty sure open distributed projects won't help America's poor education system.

      We're not going to take our education system seriously until we see ourselves as being in a rivalry with other developed countries. With all the bad shit that came out of the Cold War, we knew that the Soviets and Chinese were serious about education so we had to be serious about education.

      Today, our leaders have encouraged us to see ourselves in a rivalry with Islam, and they believe the only way to combat the religious fervor of Islam is with religious fervor of our own. That requires us to be anti-intellectual.

      Since I was a kid in the late 60's, there has never been a period of such anti-intellectualism in the 'States like there is today. Just in the past two weeks I've heard "conservative" voices in the media talking about how "college isn't for everyone" on one hand, and how we need to be govern by "Christian precepts" on the other.

      Even a real conservative like James Madison, a Founder, wanted a national, government-run university. In 1815 he called for such a university before Congress, saying that it would be "a nursery of enlightened preceptors."

      Anti-science, anti-commons, anti-intellect, anti-education, anti-information. Those are the loudest messages from today's "leaders". When a presidential candidate (with a degree from a diploma mill) mangles the language and uses a non-existent word, supporters use the same word ("refudiate") in a sense of sympathetic ignorance, as if to say, "Hey, she may be stupid, but she's just like us". Children are schooled at home because the curriculum is seen as insufficiently ignorant. "Professorial" is used as a curse to condemn an educated president. A classical education is seen as an inferior background to having inherited money and made more. Teachers who have middle-class pay and pensions are said to "have it too good". Scientific facts are put on the same level as ideological nonsense, because "there are two sides to every issue". The right to be misinformed is jealously protected. When it is demonstrated that the leading "news" outlet is purposely misinforming their audience, it is worn as a badge of honor, by both the unreliable narrators and the misinformed themselves. People are told it's raining as they're being pissed on, and the sodden say "we needed the rain".

      We've got a very bad half-century ahead of us unless the trend changes. And as our best days get further behind us, the collective chip on our shoulder will get bigger and bigger. That means a lot of the rest of the world is in for a very bad half-century, too.

      It would be foolish for anyone over the age of majority to expect any "tech resurgence" in the US in their lifetime. We'll be burning witches before that happens.

      • Re:Well (Score:4, Interesting)

        by kikito (971480) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @03:06AM (#36669466) Homepage

        I don't agree.

        Politicians in the US are encouraging religion for two reasons:

        • * First and foremost, they believe that not doing so is a political suicide; in other words, that the majority of the population (or at least, the voting ones) are religious.
        • * Second, a religious population is easier to manipulate - they are better prepared to accept statements as true without demanding evidence, for one thing. This is something the islamists figured out long ago but it the US politics has been historically moderate, but very used in the recent history, initially by republicans alone, and now by both main parties.

        So, yes, religious beliefs are part of the political agenda. But this is being done because of selfish political reasons, not to "counter" the islamists.

        At least for now, the only ones that believe that the best way to combat extremist islam with its own weapons are the rednecks taking their kids to a Jesus camp [youtube.com]

  • Take it back from the guy who steals action figures^W^Wdisplay statuettes from other people's cubicles. I had my X-Men all arranged with a battle against Mojo, Magneto, and Apocolypse, and Mojo is clearly missing. He doesn't seem to belong with Neo, Emperor Palpatine, and Winnie the Pooh. %*&$ing Clepto, stealing bees' honey.
  • The education system has been bad for tech for a long time. China is the other side MASS Cheating.

    The theory over loaded parts need to go and we need to cut down on filler classes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151)

      We need the OPTION of "pure technology" programs with no filler and no other goals than giving the student customer as much information and training in the field of their choice.

      • by perpenso (1613749) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @09:22PM (#36667754)

        We need the OPTION of "pure technology" programs with no filler and no other goals than giving the student customer as much information and training in the field of their choice.

        We have that, see trade schools, even community colleges to a degree. Expand these areas, but do not lower the bar on the university system. The point of the university is to produce a more well rounded person who also has those technical skills(*). Believe it or not, some geeks will need to be able to effectively communicate with people in business, the humanities, medicine, science, etc in order to fulfill the computer needs of these groups. They might even need to lead a group of people with diverse backgrounds representing those various fields.

        (*) Whether universities are accomplishing this goal is a different conversation.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        That is, you want interchangeable cogs as employees, hire them for their knowledge of current skills then fire them when the project is over since they know nothing else because their education sucks.

        Why do you think so many foreigners come to university in the US? Because you get a great education here. I don't see any of them spending the time and money to come here only to go to DeVry or ITT tech though. And those tech-only schools are what you imply you want.

    • Yeah, Facebook might not require any theory, aside from it's ad placement toolkit, but they aren't a good example. Google requires theory, cryptography requires theory, chip design requires theory, all those nice advancements in materials, batteries, etc. require MAJOR theory, etc.

      We need more schools that provide the European education model, i.e. most people get in, school costs almost nothing, but they slam your ass with theory until half fail out or quit. You'll have all the time in the world for lear

  • Mojo back? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stewbacca (1033764) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:16PM (#36667300)

    Get our tech mojo back? Errmm, what? Last I checked, tech giants like Apple, IBM, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Google, and Facebook --to name a few-- are all American companies staffed mostly with American citizens.

    • and Pfizer, Merck, Abbott, Boston Scientific, General Electric, Boeing, Lockheed, United Technologies, etc.

    • Re:Mojo back? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:32PM (#36667430)
      As an employee of one of the companies you listed I would counter that most, if not all, of those companies are all multinationals with R&D centers all around the world.
    • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:46PM (#36667540) Journal

      and they all have massive portions of their corporate bodies lying outside the jurisdiction of the united states.

      • Wonderful. Where are they based, where is the majority of their R&D based?

        Youre not going to convince me that Intel doesnt count as a US tech giant.

        • I listed Intel. Most of their employees are on the west coast of the US...Bay area and Portland, OR come to mind.

          Apple is 95% in the Bay Area and Austin TX, with some folks in Ireland. Microsoft is almost entirely in the Seattle area.

          Google is predominantly in the Bay Area. IBM is mostly everywhere, but even then, mostly within the US.

          This is such a tired and stupid argument. Even if the "tech" people aren't in the US (even though they are), what good is tech without good business and management? Why do al

          • by strangluv2 (1050350) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @10:39PM (#36668296)
            Intel is 30% contract labor and looking to Beijing to outsource that also. It is shell of a company that has lost its way, and it is currently managed by a finance guy (Paul Otelini) as opposed to a technology guy (Gordon More, Andy Grove). If Intel had mojo, it would invest in its American workforce, instead of the current practice of using 'green badge' contractors and recycling that flesh on a yearly basis.
          • by ultranova (717540)

            This is such a tired and stupid argument. Even if the "tech" people aren't in the US (even though they are), what good is tech without good business and management?

            Bankrupt. You know, how US companies have been going for the past few decades. Which rises a question: why would anyone look for business experts or managers from the US, when all the former knows is how to raid the company into an empty shell and walk away just before it collapses, and the latter gives inspiration for Dilbert?

            Maybe US can get i

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        But the majority of their tech mojo is in the US.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gweihir (88907)

      If you look a little closer, these are _global_ companies, that were historically founded in the US, mostly employ non-US citizens and often do not even have the major mart of their operations in the US. But I guess that is a bit too much for you.

      • Re:Mojo back? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LordLimecat (1103839) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @09:35PM (#36667832)

        You telling me that most of Google's research takes place outside the US?

        What about microsoft, mostly based in India? Or would one say that Redmond is their center of operations?

        What about Intel, can you cite sources showing the majority of their ops outside the US? Everything I could find showed the majority of their operations occuring in the US (or at least more operations in the US than in any other country).

        Some sources would be nice.

        • Worse yet for the made-up-stats guy above is that the three companies you just mentioned are not only mostly within the US, they are mostly entirely within three US States (California, Oregon and Washington). Throw some Austin, TX companies in there and this conversation just gets easier.

      • Care to cite some specifics? Most of those companies have most of their employees in the United States, and most of those employees are US citizens. My citation is that I work for one of them and have worked for two others. Apple, and Microsoft (two I haven't worked for, but have lived in the same town as their HQs) have more employees in their corporate HQ than the rest of their worldwide sites...combined.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      tech giants like Apple, IBM, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Google, and Facebook --to name a few-- are all American companies staffed mostly with American citizens.

      And all have their hardware, or use hardware, manufactured in China...

      • Where are the intel chips DESIGNED? Where is the R&D taking place?

        Just because the fab is in southeast asia doesnt mean that southeast asia contributed to the design.

        • Hillsboro, Oregon? Chandler, Arizona? Folsom and Santa Clara, California? Those are the "Major" locations listed by Intel. Yeah, Intel doesn't list any overseas locations, so I'm just going to guess that the argument they outsource everything and have major global headquarters elsewhere and we need to be afraid we are losing our mojo is just a bunch of b.s.

        • Re:Mojo back? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @11:31PM (#36668592)

          in the US. by asians and indians. mostly NOT by americans.

          bay area == cheap labor from overseas. I'm watching it before my eyes, as a resident here almost 20 years, now.

          if you are in software and a 'white guy', forget about it. take up some other vocation. you will not get paid competitively and you will be let go once your project is over and/or you trained your replacement. use and dispose: that's what americans are good for.

          this country has no future in engineering. we are all forced to become managers. god help us..

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Manufacturing is not the same as R&D. When someone talks about getting tech mojo back to the US I assume they're not just talking about assembly jobs. Instead they mean technical jobs not cheap labor. Manufacturing is in China because of cheap labor not for their technical superiority.

  • It is thinking such as that exhibited here -- at least judging by how it is
    expressed -- which is more the problem than the solution.

  • Uhh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kagetsuki (1620613) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:20PM (#36667338)

    Open and Distributed just opened up the project to the whole world. That helps America specifically how?

  • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:22PM (#36667358) Journal

    then people won't be afraid to invent again.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:23PM (#36667360)

    There is so much that can't be learned in a class room yet for stuff like help desk level 1 they want 4 years or more.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Skilled manual trades have intensive, multi-year paid apprenticeships, often assisted by their unions.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Right, I guess the majority of people who take apprenticeships are doing it wrong. Your average apprentice for the first 3 years makes under the min. wage just about everywhere in north america. When I was working on my mechanics license, I was making $2.25/hr when the min wage was $6.85. My 'base rate of pay' would have been at min. wage after 3 years.

        Yeah nothing quite like having to spend 60% of your wages just on tools.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:24PM (#36667378)

    One of the biggest reason - the US is paying price for blind obsession with capitalism.

    Money does not count for everything. Some of the cool technologies were group effort, incubated in universities around the country and not by corporates. By branding all altruistic efforts with Communism/socialism, the country has alienated a lot of creative types.

    Start by counting Steve Jobs a salesman and not an innovator and that would be a good start.

  • 'Open, distributed projects have the potential to outperform the traditional closed, controlled research model by reducing costs and duplication of effort, making it easy to collect and analyze masses of data from diverse sources, and allowing the best brains to participate no matter where they live.'"

    Open and distributed also means 'share this research with everybody outside of the USA'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:26PM (#36667386)

    The only advantage the US has is liquid capital. Unfortunately it doesn't like spending it in the US, so I say add that to the list of things to fix.

  • by rueger (210566) * on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:28PM (#36667406) Homepage
    But America can still come out on top, not least because of its longstanding tradition of individuality and private R&D investment

    I was kind of hoping that the over the top "Team America" proselytizing would all get done on the Fourth....

    FUCK YEAH! [youtu.be]
  • by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:29PM (#36667416)

    How does the tradition of individuality and private R&D investment" = open access and sharing? America was built on people being shameless opportunists who found a niche and quickly exploited it. Everyone for themselves, the defining characteristic of "individualist".

    • And furthermore, how does "open access and sharing" give you millions of dollars to do research into advanced rare materials property research, or construct testing facilities? At some point, you need a good amount of money to actually progress past the current cutting edge. Sure, there are some simple ingenious ideas from somebody in their garage, but those are milestone events, not the majority of continual tech progress.

  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:31PM (#36667426) Journal

    1. Stop being xenophobic gits and get back to the melting-pot culture that made this the best fucking country on Earth in the first place.
    2. ???
    3. Tech!

    • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aekafan (1690920) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @09:07PM (#36667638)
      Could could you remind me exactly when this country, or for that matter, any other were not xenophobic gits? Hell when was that great fairy tale melting pot supposed to have occurred? Immigrants would come to this country, settle in an immigrant enclave, and then move to other areas of the country with similar immigrants. Welcome to Human Nature 101:Tribalism. There is no melting pot.
      • by astar (203020)

        Maybe the idea of melting pot had to do with ideas, rather than geography. The colonies and the early United States had some ideas that simply were not allowed to be even talked about elsewhere. In the 1820's, maybe 20 million came in, and in a generation, the kids had bought in to these ideas and were willing to die for them. Now consider last century's european history with immigrants. There *is* a difference. Let us label the difference "melting pot". Alas, it is then one of those words, like "gene

      • "Hell when was that great fairy tale melting pot supposed to have occurred? Immigrants would come to this country, settle in an immigrant enclave, and then move to other areas of the country with similar immigrants."

        That would be the last couple hundred ears or so. My ancestors emigrated roughly late 1700's to roughly 1850. They came from Sweden, Bohemia (part of modern Czech Republic), and Hesse (and other parts of what is now Germany). Germans used to be an underclass in America. Later the Slavic
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by gweihir (88907)

      "Best fucking country" about sums it up. Who in their right mind would like to go to to a country with this type of supremacy complex? Almost like joining the 3rd Reich, they also thought they were the Herrenrasse.

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Who in their right mind would like to go to to a country with this type of supremacy complex?

        Someone who wants to be the best?

        Maybe you wanted to post about how a third-rate country could somehow narrowly avoid becoming fourth-rate. That's not really what this topic is about.

  • by FoolishOwl (1698506) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:40PM (#36667496) Journal

    I'm sure I'm not the only one tired of the reflexive nationalism. The benefits of science and open-source technology can be shared by everyone, everywhere, and the more wide these things are shared, the more they grow.

    Sure, I'd like to see better technical education in the US, and an environment more friendly to innovation, but I'd like to see that everywhere.

  • reducing costs and duplication of effort

    For one, if results can't be duplicated, they're questionable.

    Then there's the "accidental discoveries" when people are pursuing the same goal, using mostly the same methods ...

    Having one official project is so "Soviet Russia". Like having one OS, one browser, one type of car, one political party, one employer ...

  • Easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Digital Vomit (891734) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @08:51PM (#36667568) Homepage Journal

    Easy. Abolish patent law and copyright law. [mises.org] (PDF here [ucla.edu])

    Historically, those two concepts have probably been the biggest impediments to the advancement of human civilization.

  • The article is not part of the solution, it rather illustrates the Problem. And no, the US cannot come out of this if foreign talent stops coming. Not enough US citizens have what it takes.

  • by Kohath (38547)

    It doesn't seem like we want to get it back. I hear people want things like:

    - More pay for less work. Less work is going to lead to progress?
    - Green tech. Because regular tech never got anyone anywhere.
    - Coding for a cause. Feel good about going through the motions. Produce nothing of any particular value.
    - Hacking. I made this cool bot that does XYZ-super-geeky thing. For hacker cred. What does "productivity" mean?
    - Envy. I want that thing the other guy has, but I don't want to earn it. Can't we j

    • More pay for less work. Less work is going to lead to progress?

      Where do you think progress comes from? It certainly isn't from huge multinational corporations with entrenched market positions who shoot down any idea that might skewer existing cash cows. It comes from people having enough free time and available capital to develop an idea on their own time that they can start a new company without worrying about the fiscal impact on their previous employer's existing revenue streams or whether they'll still be able to eat in eighteen months if they quit their job to go

  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @09:09PM (#36667670) Journal
    I mean, sure, maybe in the OLD days of Slashdot. But the comments are a lot different now than they were then. We've grown. Evolved! I thought we now all agreed that individuality was a bad thing, and that top-down central planning was the way of the future.

        - aj
  • 1.) Pay American workers as much as the Chinese
    2.) Arrest anyone who protests
    3.) Price fix
    4.) Think Differently!
    • by Kohath (38547)

      So your alternate strategy to achieve greatness is to whine about Foxxconn?

  • When the high tech companies realize that if they keep shipping jobs overseas, or rather "we'll hire three Indian engineers for every one US based engineer", kids entering college will nolonger choose CompSci/Engineering. We saw this after the dotcom bubble, millions of students went into computer related fields (web dev even...) because the jobs were there.

    Now that the jobs are being sent somewhere else, the competition is too great. Eventually it'll be too late.

    If I tell my management I don't want to hi

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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