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Is American Innovation Losing Its Shine? 625

Posted by samzenpus
from the everything-used-to-be-better dept.
kenekaplan writes "American ingenuity and innovation, the twin engine of the country's economy since World War II, is in danger of losing steam and job growth potential if federal legislators allow 'automatic' spending cuts to kick in next year rather than earmarking federal funds to advance education, research and manufacturing, according Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Susan Hockfield."
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Is American Innovation Losing Its Shine?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:45PM (#38041530)

    Let's not forget that if you come up with a new idea, you'll almost certainly be sued.

    If you really want to make money, you're better off getting into financial arbitrage (like high-frequency trading) then you are innovating or making something of value.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:47PM (#38041926)

      Patents have very little to do with America losing its edge. It has partly to do with outsourcing of tech jobs overseas. In essence, American companies have trained foreigners how to build a tech industry in their own country. Now we must compete against them.

      It also has to do with US government policies that end up incentivizing the best and brightest going into finance and law, jobs that advance society very little. It is no coincidence that most politicians are lawyers and financiers.

      The American people can fix it by voting in politicians who have the guts to make the necessary changes. But instead, people are more concerned about sex scandals, abortion, and gay marriage than making the changes needed to make the country great again.

      • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:51PM (#38042722)

        But instead, people are more concerned about sex scandals, abortion, and gay marriage than making the changes needed to make the country great again

        Indeed. The Chinese and Indians laugh at us for spending so much time on such frivolous things and for even discussing these things in politics. Your abortion and gay marriage "rights" won't mean jack squat if in the meantime we stand by and watch as this once great nation circles the toilet bowl on its way down the tubes. In fact, I wish that people would just STFU about such things when discussing what sort of policies are best for the long term survival of our nation. People who make these things into voting issues are pissing away their futures while Rome burns.

        • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @07:20PM (#38043814)

          But instead, people are more concerned about sex scandals, abortion, and gay marriage than making the changes needed to make the country great again

          Indeed. The Chinese and Indians laugh at us for spending so much time on such frivolous things and for even discussing these things in politics. Your abortion and gay marriage "rights" won't mean jack squat if in the meantime we stand by and watch as this once great nation circles the toilet bowl on its way down the tubes. In fact, I wish that people would just STFU about such things when discussing what sort of policies are best for the long term survival of our nation. People who make these things into voting issues are pissing away their futures while Rome burns.

          Did you know one of the single biggest development indicators is women's rights?

          For whatever reason, if you enforce gender equality and women's education, your country will be dramatically better then it's neighbors in the long term. Standards of living go up, crime goes, productivity booms.

          Now, this doesn't really make immediate sense: without women's rights you've got an entire labor force who you don't have to pay. Surely, with all that free labor or low-cost labor, you'd expect an easy win over people who actually have to pay fair wages.

          The reasons are complex, but the big one is this: cultural discrimination doesn't just effect the discriminated against group. It narrows the mindset and "acceptable" standard of behavior of the favored group as well. It leaks into science, business and the arts and closes up avenues of exploration because it effectively bans "types" of thinking. If you're a man, you're only favored provided you stay away from "feminine" things - which are implicitly not worthy of consideration. Your behavior must conform to whatever the expected norm is, lest you become a de facto member of the oppressed group.

          Abortion is very much a women's rights issue in most respects, but it also has follow on consequences: if access to abortion services is easy for the poor (it's never a problem for the rich) then crime rates drop about 18 years after that happens [wikipedia.org]. Gay marriage means you're not only removing yet another disenfranchised class (and thus promoting tolerance and general consideration and empathy within your population - you know, attacking a whole bunch of harmful social issues at once) but you're also ultimately addressing wider issues such as the social acceptance of people in unusual living situations (i.e. those with divorced parents, unmarried parents, single-parents etc.).

          I assume you don't actually oppose either of these measures, but it's straight up non-sensical to think social policy has nothing to do with economic policy. There's a reason socioeconomic status is how we judge an area and not just "economic" status.

          • by syousef (465911)

            Now, this doesn't really make immediate sense: without women's rights you've got an entire labor force who you don't have to pay. Surely, with all that free labor or low-cost labor, you'd expect an easy win over people who actually have to pay fair wages.

            The reasons are complex, but the big one is this: cultural discrimination doesn't just effect the discriminated against group.

            You're wrong. The Women's got equal rights completely wrong. We still don't value good parents. If you're a good parent you're seen as doing something for yourself and your family rather than giving anything to society. When's the last time you heard of a housewife being paid for properly raising her children or looking after a home? They still do the majority of the unpaid work. As for a man being paid for these things, if you bring it up you'll be laughed out of the room. Mr Mom is still a TV sitcom or fi

      • by jcoy42 (412359) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @07:32PM (#38043860) Homepage Journal

        Bullshit. Let's place blame where blame is due. What screwed America is the unions. It quickly became cheaper to order from Canada than buy local, and that just opened the gateways. It became obvious it was non-profitable to work with Americans, because we're greedy and vindictive.

        And don't even get me started on the BS they pulled w.r.t. time spent on the job vs. actual contribution. They advanced people for time served, and punished up and comers.

        Not this isn't to say there aren't other issues involved, but the core problem is we let a mafia-like set of players step in and control our strongest companies, and the folks with the money got sick of it. The unions trained businesses to avoid local production by pricing our workforce right out of the market.

        You can sit and bitch all you want, but that is what killed it for American jobs. Everyone wanted the best health care, they wanted automatic advancement, and just made themselves unappealing to the businessmen. There is a breaking point. And one look over the history of Detroit (which is just a more obvious example than most) shows exactly what happens when you let the unions take over. If that doesn't explain it, look at GE.

        Once you stop building the stuff, you stifle engineering and improvement, and at this point, I don't see America pulling it out of their ass for anything. We were on top, and we blew it. Case closed.

        • by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @10:08PM (#38044706)

          Bullshit. Let's place blame where blame is due. What screwed America is the unions.

          Oh please. If you want to build stuff in America without paying union wages, it's easy: you build your factory in Alabama or Mississippi or Tennessee. That's exactly what a bunch of foreign automakers have done, while American automakers have been building factories in Mexico. There's nothing forcing you to use union labor; this has only been a major factor in northeast states. There's a LOT more to the country than just the northeast.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Monday November 14, 2011 @09:07AM (#38047332) Homepage

          Bullshit. Let's place blame where blame is due. What screwed America is the unions.

          Low wages and fewer benefits are not the only way to make manufacturing work. Look at Germany and Japan - much stronger labour laws, more welfare and higher pensions, yet they are still able to manufacture and compete with the likes of China and India. In fact Germany exports more than China does.

          All you have to do is stop participating in the race to the bottom. It turns out people will pay for quality and innovation, so even if your production costs are higher your good still sell. Germany in particular has performed an economic miracle - they just gave everyone a tax break worth â5 million because they are on target to take â14m more in tax revenue this year, and unemployment is at the lowest level for 20 years. In other words since the West and East merged they have brought half their country up to the level of the other and become the world's biggest exporters, and the global downturn that has decimated manufacturing in some countries hasn't affected them nearly as badly.

          Making everyone suffer low pay and poor conditions is not necessary for an economy to prosper, and if you have good employment laws unions don't need to force the issues so much. Everybody wins, except perhaps for the executives who lose a million or two off their bonus to cover the higher costs.

      • by quenda (644621) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @09:54PM (#38044626)

        It also has to do with US government policies that end up incentivizing

        How much US creativity is squandered on making up new jargon words like that, when perfectly cromulent words (e.g. motivate) exist already?

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @02:25PM (#38042156) Homepage

      As opposed to a system without patents, where your idea is quickly copied by anyone who already has the production facilities to do so [wikipedia.org] and you have no legal recourse.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        If your idea can quickly be copied then it's clearly not innovative enough to deserve a patent.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Not all industries are as broken as the software industry.

          However, suppose for the sake of argument somebody really did come up with a TRULY innovative software concept - one that everybody could actually agree should receive patent protection for a year or two (I think that patent terms should be industry-specific reflecting the pace of development). No matter how clever or innovative or complex the idea is, copying something implemented in software is just a matter of copying bytes. Doing the same in ha

          • What's broken is the business model, not the software or drug industries. You can't own ideas. You can't control what others make of an idea. You can't peddle individual copies as if they were scarce. You can't even draw clear boundaries. Our whole treatment has been twisted towards the presumption that these things can be done, that we can treat an idea like a piece of land.

            Do you think Einstein should have patented e=mc^2? If you think yes, you think wrong. That is a mathematical formula, and is

      • by JonySuede (1908576) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:34PM (#38042636) Journal

        Ask yourself what is more productive for the economy:
        Case1: The inventor is sued out of existence and the invention never see the light of the day since it is disruptive to the current economic actors revenue steams.
        Case2: The invention gets copied, however, if the inventor and his investors use reasonable marketing, they still have the first mover advantage.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by del_diablo (1747634)

          >Ask yourself what is more productive for the economy:
          >Case1: The inventor is sued out of existence and the invention never see the light of the day since it is disruptive to the current economic actors revenue steams.
          >Case2: The invention gets copied, however, if the inventor and his investors use reasonable marketing, they still have the first mover advantage.
          You forget case 3:
          The investors keep their work a tradesecret, and takes it with them to the grave
          Case 3 is the entire reason the patent sy

      • by Alan Shutko (5101) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @04:28PM (#38042942) Homepage

        Right now, we've got the worst of both worlds.

        If you come up with a good idea, it will be immediately copied by a number of large companies that figure they've got deeper pockets than you. They will complain you are trying to use patents instead of competition to win in the marketplace. And odds are, anything you make will infringe on one or more of THEIR patents, which they will use as a defense to stop you from using your patent against them.

        At the same time, you will be sued by a non-practicing entity with no assets except the patent they're suing you with, and you can't even try to use other patents against them since they're not making anything.

    • by Sleepy (4551) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @09:03PM (#38044332) Homepage

      Yes and no. Patents are a problem -- you can NOT launch a small technology firm and make anything useful without violating patents. This is a barrier to US businesses and Europe, but not China as they will simply ignore patents (for their domestic market).

      I'd say America lost because Wall Street *wanted* America to lose. Maybe not explicitly, but as a result of all those outsourcing tax credits Wall Street wanted.
      Talk to a US based electronics manufacturer... all of them had NO CHOICE but to move their R&D to China, because that's where all the manufacturing is.
      Often times, the latest and greatest micro chip thingy will be documented by a Data Sheet which is written in Chinese. Eventually it will be translated to English, but the part might be depricated by then if it is a short lived market item.

      Linksys, D-Link, Buffalo etc. all of these router manufacturers have almost NO knowledge what is in "their" products. They simply say "I'll take one of those" from the ODM and slap their web GUI on the firmware.

      Apple is the last remaining US manufacturer who -designs- in the US. They pay a high price in terms of cost of operating. And even then, all their manufacturing is outsourced, and they don't really R&D any of the low level stuff.

      Back to my original point... even if you reformed patents, and even un-did the Bush era outsourcing credit, NONE of those R&D jobs would come back. You'd have to convince China and Japan to subsidize their businesses to move operations back to the USA. No other country is dumb enough to kill their manufacturing, deliberately.

        But hey, Wall Street knows what it's doing... killing US manufacturing kills unions, and higher unemployment means workers will accept forced overtime and less safe working conditions. It's all pretty basic stuff, really.

  • by meow27 (1526173) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:46PM (#38041534)
    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/11/mobile-farm-robots/

    this is not even the first step

    blue collar labor in america by and large has no future. The government needs to change the economic model to start developing our children's mind from a young age. and i mean, like making educational material -- like chemistry sets, cheap enough so that it's almost free
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:00PM (#38041590) Homepage

      So, buy giving every little kid a chemistry set (and thereby sending them to Harvard) we will think ourselves out of this mess?

      No. Realize that very, very few people are ever going to be 'innovators' no matter how much government money we toss at the problem. It's not in their DNA, not in the upbringing, not in their heads. We have to come up with society that lets middle of the road people live a reasonable life, not expect everyone on the block to go off to work in a lab.

      Not sure how to do that, but giving more money to the Education Industrial Complex in this country so far has yielded little fruit.

      • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:33PM (#38041814) Journal

        Find a way to make Nerds/Geeks Cool.

        Being facetious, pay a kid for every A and B he gets in class (and make it go to the kid, like lunch money, not the parents!).

        Sure then the jocks will be envious, but ... oh wait, I'm sorry, what was that?

        I know, we'll raise a bunch of little tyrants, but wasn't the question on how to make our country really value education?

        The other half is we need some kind of Angel Investor to slow down the corruption circle at the top levels. One of the mega billionaires who is fed up with it all, and just buys entire industries and voting blocs. Like the RIAA.

        Just imagine - 1,000 top properties get an exemption, so Disney gets to keep their Mouse, the Beatles maybe, etc. But then that thundering second pantheon gets released as Creative Commons - Attribution - Share Alike. ("Just don't claim it is yours").

        I hear the voices of 400 lobbyists crying out in anguish!

        • by sgt scrub (869860)

          Find a way to make Nerds/Geeks Cool.

          Federally fund free sex for Nerds/Geeks.

        • by RubberChainsaw (669667) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @06:02PM (#38043406)
          "pay a kid for every A and B he gets in class" No, not this. Don't pay for results, pay for the behaviour that brings the results.

          I recall a study a few year back where schools in several areas did pay students for achievements. One school paid 3rd graders money if they got A's and B's on their tests. Another school paid their 1st graders for every book that they read. The result: The 3rd graders showed no improvement in their scores, but the 1st graders did. Why? Because the 3rd graders didn't know how to get the A's and B's. However, the 1st graders had their education improved by reading the extra books, so they got better grades.

          So the key is to reward the behavior that leads to success, not merely the success itself.
        • Money doesn't work as an incentive for cognitively taxing tasks, it only works for mindless tasks. http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html [ted.com]
    • by Pete Venkman (1659965) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:03PM (#38041614) Journal
      I would agree with you, but American government probably wouldn't want chemistry sets to wind up into more people's hands. Think of how many potential terrorists we would have! Joking aside, I am an industrial chemist and I truly support more science education. But as we have all seen in the aftermath of Fukushima, politicos do not understand science. They think it is something that is democratically worked on, but science isn't democratic...nature is nature. Now vetting of scientific theories is somewhat scientific in terms of peer review and replication, but understanding that would require actual work and research on the part of our representatives. I wouldn't count on public school teachers to understand science enough to be able to teach it well to future generations. I think we, as nerds/scientists, should do more to educate young'uns to become our replacements.
    • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:39PM (#38041866) Journal
      A mass of educated voters would be a huge threat to the existing power base. Good luck with that.
    • by flaming error (1041742) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:42PM (#38041890) Journal

      The government needs to change the economic model

      You've got it backwards, friend. The People need to change their government.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @02:36PM (#38042238) Homepage

        To what?

        A direct democracy, swayed easily by the latest celebrity gossip and completely ignoring the general consensus of the relevant scientific communities?

        An oligarchy, where only well-respected scholars are granted the privilege of participating in government?

        A dictatorship, where one person's guidance would lead the nation to either greatness or despair?

        Or how about a representative democracy, where the decisions are made by people who can judge whether their constituents' recommendations are being made from reason or reaction, and can choose to follow or reject those recommendations appropriately?

        Every form of government is broken by the simple fact that there are humans involved. Humans are easily-corrupted creatures, and the system can only work around our failures.

        Maybe a theocracy would work, where the guidance comes from a particular chosen deity, through the interpretation of its priests...

        • by IANAAC (692242) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:06PM (#38042422)

          Or how about a representative democracy, where the decisions are made by people who can judge whether their constituents' recommendations are being made from reason or reaction, and can choose to follow or reject those recommendations appropriately?

          A representative democracy is something I really believe would work, if that is what we had. But we don't. We have representatives on both sides of the isle that take their orders from lobbying groups and turn deaf and dumb to their constituents. Corporate puppets, all of them.

          Get rid of special interests and maybe we can get to what this country was supposed to be. Notice I didn't say "get back to...". I have no idea what the beginnings of this country were like, but in my50 years, it's always been about the special interests.

    • by ChatHuant (801522) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:00PM (#38042398)

      blue collar labor in america by and large has no future. The government needs to change the economic model to start developing our children's mind from a young age

      The problem goes deeper than that: it's not only blue collar workers that have no future (and not only in America). White collar workers are also being replaced by machines; the process has just started, but I believe will accelerate. Assuming scientific progress continues at more or less the current pace, I can't think of any existing job humans do now that couldn't in the future be done cheaper by a machine (at least theoretically).

      There are two typical answers: one is that new technologies will replace some jobs, but create enough other jobs to compensate. However, that is not proven, and may not be the case; when a factory is automated, thousands of workers are replaced with a few dozen highly qualified engineers that command and maintain the machines. And when the machine maintenance is itself automated, the few dozen may be replaced by just a few people that can manage the whole thing. What happens to the thousands of workers that got replaced?

      The second usual answer is that people can study and qualify for more technical jobs, which can not be automated. This is the solution governments usually try to push, by creating job training programs, providing student loans, and so on. While this works on the short term, I don't think it will forever: first, some people simply don't have the time/resources/innate capability to qualify for too complex jobs; as technology and science advances, more and more people will not be able to keep pace. The other issue is that even highly technical jobs will probably be automated sooner or later, as technology advances. Where then will everybody work? I think this process will sooner or later clash with the current basic society structure (in particular with the ownership and property rules), and cause radical changes. Should be interesting!

    • by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:17PM (#38042502) Homepage

      If you could educate people in that way it would be really nice. This is similar to the idea of sitting down and saying "I will think brilliant thoughts today". It doesn't work.

      There are some people with the brain construction to manipulate abstract symbols and the rest can't. Somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of the population can do it. This means they can do higher math, things like computer programming and pretty much anything where you are manipulating symbols instead of real objects.

      The remainder of the population, which could be as high as 60%, can't do it and they cannot be trained to do it. No amount of education is going to make them be able to do it. It is like trying to get a colorblind person to recognize the color green. Their brain isn't wired that way.

      What does that mean? Well, it means these people can be perfectly successful in doing plenty of things that need doing, such as most of the trades. They can work in a factory doing just about anything on the factory floor. But they cannot push figures around in a spreadsheet when the figures represent something else. As long as what they are manipulating is a concrete object or at least something they can see in front of them they can do it. Abstract symbols? Nope. If it involves moving an icon around which represents something else, they are going to have lots of trouble with it. It doesn't have anything to do with "intelligence" either, so you can't just say these people are stupid and pass them by that way.

      Most educators have known this for maybe 60-70 years or so. Some of them have come out and said it but it is a dangerous thing to say in current educational circles.

      What we are doing is attempting to remake society in a way that will exclude the portion of the population that can't manipulate abstract symbols. We want to remake the factory floor so it is controlled from a remote station where the user pushes around little icons. We want to have airplanes that are flown by moving little icons around from a remote location. We want everyone to be a "knowledge worker" and uses fancy 3D displays to control things in the real world. Well, we are setting ourselves up for a huge problem where as much as 60% of the population isn't going to be able to interact with things that way. There is no training, no education and no familiarization that will fix this problem. The only way to do it is to really have people interacting with real physical objects. If we do not have jobs like that, we are going to have a huge segment of the population that someone is just going to have to take care of. For their entire lives.

      • There are some people with the brain construction to manipulate abstract symbols and the rest can't. Somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of the population can do it.

        Every person capable of speaking or understanding human language has “the brain construction to manipulate abstract symbols”.

        What the hell are you talking about?

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        This is similar to the idea of sitting down and saying "I will think brilliant thoughts today". It doesn't work.

        It works for me. The problem is that no one will hire me to "think brilliant thoughts" for them. So how do I get paid for thinking brilliant thoughts?

  • Has Slashdot ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlindRobin (768267) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:47PM (#38041542)

    started asking rhetorical questions just to start a discussion ?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:52PM (#38041550)

    Nothing is very ingenious about US itself - other than that the brightest come here. Most Americans are basically the 99.9% - the non-innovators. The 1% comes from all over the world.

    For the past 50 yrs, US had the money - and the know how to cultivate innovation. Now both of these are well known to a lot of countries - and the US now has less money to spend on Defence & Space (the primary source of innovation).

    Time we got used to making $30K for web development jobs, and time the anthropology, english & history majors.. end up flipping burgers.

    • by kwark (512736) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:05PM (#38041632)

      "Most Americans are basically the 99.9% - the non-innovators. The 1% comes from all over the world."

      Does not compute.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        like the post-war innovation - the stuff the British and Germans invented that the Americans happily took on as their own.

        It's not much different from Kinect, everyone says how wonderful this Microsoft innovation was, yet they just bought it from Primesense, no innovation whatsoever happened at Microsoft.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        "Most Americans are basically the 99.9% - the non-innovators. The 1% comes from all over the world."

        Does not compute.

        This is innovative foreign percentages; they go up to 100.9%.

        It's true in a way, though; America reached the peak of its power because it encouraged the 'best and brightest' from all over the world to move there by providing them with the best environment to bring their ideas to fruition. That's no longer the case, so we shouldn't be surprised that America is in decline now it's become a nation of rent-seekers.

  • Ingenuity != Jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msobkow (48369) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:55PM (#38041564) Homepage Journal

    "Don't just create ideas, also make products here," she [Hockfield] said. "Buying back technologies that we invented changed our surplus into deficit. We need to have a substantial fraction of technologies that are made in America."

    Right now the US and Canadian economies are not focused on producing anything with the new ideas that come out. The startups get bought out by the existing big companies if they have any hope of success, who immediately commoditize technology and ship it overseas for manufacturing.

    If you want to create jobs, do something about the whole concept of outsourcing. The richest nations on the planet will always find it cheaper to outsource and offshore, because they're also the most expensive labour markets. Until the inevitable collapse happens when there isn't the money being earned to pay for the shiny new gadgets.

    • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:36PM (#38041838)

      The richest nations on the planet will always find it cheaper to outsource and offshore, because they're also the most expensive labour markets.

      False. The richest nations on the planet will *sometimes* find it cheaper to outsource and offshore, because they're also the most expensive labour markets. Lack of capital, lack of accessibility, lack of training, combined with the fact that often the labor costs are not a big chunk of the unit cost, can still make the rich nation the cheapest place.

    • by Gorobei (127755) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @02:38PM (#38042260)

      "Don't just create ideas, also make products here," she [Hockfield] said. "Buying back technologies that we invented changed our surplus into deficit. We need to have a substantial fraction of technologies that are made in America."

      Right now the US and Canadian economies are not focused on producing anything with the new ideas that come out. The startups get bought out by the existing big companies if they have any hope of success, who immediately commoditize technology and ship it overseas for manufacturing.

      The US & Canadian economies are intensely focused on producing based on new ideas: 1980 onwards was all about tech innovation. Sleepy companies got killed, we got a new tech startup culture, big companies bought little innovators (and made the little guys rich in a way only dreamed off in 1970.) AT&T would never have produced Google or Facebook.

      In some ways, the massive tax changes of the 1980s were responsible for this (as well as general improvements in tech & manufacturing, of course.) Cutting top tax rates from 70%+ to 40% or so made the startup bet much more attractive. Of course, the downside of giving people a chance to be a billionaire by age 30 is that it makes the career engineer/scientist role (IBM research, AT&T labs, Xerox Parc) rather obsolete and a waste of money. So lots of innovation, but goodbye middle class.

      What's sad is that by 1980 white collar folk realized blue collar jobs could be outsourced. Most of them didn't realize they were next on the chopping block. The early 1990s saw the big research career dead along with the useless middle manager role and the standard secretary role.

      Goodbye middle class, at least you have an iPhone.

      • by caseih (160668)

        If we really are so focused on producing things with the new ideas (tech innovation and such) then where are the things we produce? the iPhone? That's designed here but made in China. Everything I've got on my desk right now is made in Malaysia, China, or Japan. What we are producing here leads to real goods but it sure isn't us making the real goods. Maybe you would argue this doesn't matter, but I think it does. What good are new ideas and innovations if we eventually lose the skills and technologies

    • Do "something" (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kohath (38547) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:33PM (#38042630)

      "Do something about outsourcing."

      Like what? Arrest people for outsourcing? Arrest people for buying non-American manufactured items? Arrest people for importing items? Tax or fine these people (because arresting people is too expensive, and sort-of a buzz kill)?

      My suggestions are the same as the last time ths came up:

      - Remove artificial government-imposed burdens and costs from producers.
      - Radically reform education.
      - Stop giving companies a huge tax incentive to invest outside the US.
      - Stop giving productive individuals a huge incentive to retire or otherwise not work.
      - Remove artificial government-imposed costs on individuals so we can get by on a salary that's a little more competitive with the non-US guy who does a similar job.

      Note how no one gets arrested or taxed or fined in my suggestions.

      Counter arguments were:
      - No! Some company might make a profit
      - No! Someone with money might make more money!
      - No! Artificial costs are sweet when you're the one getting paid.
      - No! That's a red team answer. Go blue team! Status quo! Status quo!
      - No! Someone once said that a similar idea might not work.
      - No! Spending one dollar less anywhere in government will be the end of civilization.
      - No! We owe it to the plants and trees and birds and insects to maintain the status quo or retreat even further.
      - No! Let's change the subject to defense spending or waterboarding or whatever. Those things are bad.

      So that's why we won't be doing "something".

  • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:55PM (#38041566)

    Look, we've spent the last 30 years sending all as many science, technical and engineering jobs overseas that we can and shutting down commercial research labs. Now you're going to argue we're going to lose our science and technology advantage because government is cutting spending? If science and technology suffer in America's future it's because bean counters gave our edge to the rest of the world in exchange for 2% profits and million dollar bonuses.

    This is just MIT selfishly bitching about losing funding. If you really care about barriers to education, how about you lower your goddamn tuition [fundmasteryblog.com], assholes?

  • by Manip (656104) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @12:56PM (#38041572)
    Want to know why small business is impossible in the US, three simple reasons: Patents, lawsuits, healthcare.

    Patents are granted too easily, cover too much, and cover it for far too long. What's worse is that the damages are absolutely insane and companies can literally have your product banned from the entire country simply because you for example used a "menu" to "navigate a complex system" or some nonsense.

    Lawsuits are too easy to bring in the US, too costly to defend, and there is no punishments for bringing frivolous suits. For small businesses one or two of these suits no matter how much merit they have can sink the company. So big businesses just sue for nothing and bankrupt small businesses.

    Healthcare, too expensive, significantly more expensive for small businesses than big, and it discourages the best employees from working at smaller firms because they literally will have to pay 100% more per year for basic healthcare.

    And while I have the soup box let's talk about political corruption allowing monopolies or duopolies to control the market and make it literally impossible via regulation or market manipulation for competitors to form (e.g. Cable, Internet, 3G, Cellular Services, Health Insurance, Health Providers, Drugs Producers, Children Toy Manufacturing, etc).
    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:07PM (#38041636)
      Actually, I think that "IP" is now the number one problem. What's more, as the USA tries to expand its IP empire abroad, a backlash is inevitable.

      The present system means that corporations can attempt to prevent innovation in others while not having to do anything about it themselves. It is, in effect, like the medieval guild system that is hitting the economy of Italy, or indeed like the theocratic regimes in Iran or Sa'udi Arabia. It all went wrong when the USPTO ceased to be a cost center and become a profit center, and a whole new class of "IP lawyer" saw the opportunity. Not to mention the entire economy of parts of Texas.

    • by dbIII (701233)

      Healthcare, too expensive, significantly more expensive for small businesses than big

      Isn't it interesting that the "socialist" approach to healthcare of providing it via taxes is far better for capitalism than the current US approach of getting businesses to pay for it directly?
      Hollywood make movies in places like Australia because they don't have to pay all of those extra employee costs for healthcare etc.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:00PM (#38041592)

    Innovation needs to be rewarded. How many of you have signed contracts that give *any* invention you create to your employer as a condition of having a job? How may of you have the means to quit to pursue making a business out of your invention? (Hint: You ALL signed one, and you can't if you have a family). And if you did manage to start a business, would you have a legal fund to defend yourself from getting "wallet-whipped" form the inevitable lawsuits?

    Patent law, labor law and contract law have all skewed the results of innovation so that corporations profit, while individuals make a few thousand dollars bonus and get a pat on the head from management. This soft corruption is ever so slowly strangling the geese that lay the golden eggs. There are a few Apples and Microsofts and a Facebook. And what would have become of these ideas had Jobs, Gates or Zuckerman been working for IBM at the time they had them?

    If I had a million dollar idea tomorrow (and they're not that tough), I can't think of a reason in the world to bother with it while working for a company in the USA. You'd have to be in college, having never worked for a corporation, or offshore in a country that protects you from patent disputes or confiscatory contract provisions.

  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:04PM (#38041624)

    A few points in no particular order:

    1. Those automatic cuts are hardly automatic. They'll be repealed if legislators can't come up with a plan. These guys would rather preside over the disintegration of the union than cut their constituents' favorite federal programs.

    2. Government does not create innovation. Examples like NASA are always trotted out, but I think if you total those successes with the failures, pork, and corruption, you'll find we could have gotten much more for less. Maybe not NASA and it's indirect benefits specifically, but something else.

    3. What has the federal government ever done for education other than turn principals into truancy officers? Don't get me started on tuition cost increases due to the ease of getting federally backed student loans.

    4. If you want to increase manufacturing: drop the minimum wage.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nickmalthus (972450) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:37PM (#38041850)
      Last week on HDNet Dan Rather Reports did a special on Singapore schools, some of the best in the world. One thing that stuck out in my mind is that culturally the teaching profession is held in the highest esteem there. Here in America teaching has become a job of last resort where only the desperate or truely dedicated put up with the abuse and meager wages. There was a time in America where learning was cherished as a virtuous means of self improvement for both private and public good as the ancient greek philosophers promoted. Now with avarice instead of virtue motivating our country teachers are restricted to simply programming automatons for a standardized test and are held in contempt for being in any way associated with the government. Respect and upraise our teachers; they are directly involved in defining our country's future.
      • by couchslug (175151)

        "There was a time in America where learning was cherished as a virtuous means of self improvement for both private and public good as the ancient greek philosophers promoted. "

        The Good Old Days Fallacy again.

        In what magic time was this so and may we have citations?

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Beelzebud (1361137) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:44PM (#38041900)
      Yes, don't insist on minimum wage laws in our trading partners, just lower the price of labor here, while the CEO's keep raking in huge obscene bonuses. Your solution is just cuts, cuts, cuts, and kiss the middle class goodbye.
    • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xenkar (580240) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:45PM (#38041912)

      On number 4, I don't see how someone earning $7.25 a hour is too much to be paying factory workers, especially when automation is lowering the amount of workers required to keep a factory running.

      Assuming our current minimum wage and maximum part-time hours to avoid paying benefits, each worker will cost about $10000 a year. This worker probably won't have to pay any federal income taxes after deductions. This worker will be eligible for Medicaid. He won't be able to pay off the loans for his house and the car he'll need to drive out to the middle of nowhere where your factory is located because of cheap land prices and interstate access.

      Now republicans and libertarians not only want to lower the amount this worker gets paid, they want to remove the government provided healthcare option that they themselves don't want to offer to workers.

      I just can't see how the average American worker would be better off. I do understand how the top 1% will be better off from these ideas. At least until the bottom 99% decide to eliminate those who do so little yet take so much.

      • by Arker (91948)

        What you dont understand is that the only real affect of the minimum wage is to eliminate low-paying jobs. Well, it also affects the wages of certain union members who have that written into their contracts, of course. But other than that, it does nothing but prevent people (primarily young, unskilled, and minority people) from getting work, period. People whose market wages are higher than the minimum are completely unaffected by it in any direct sense (excepting those few under contracts already mentioned

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Minimum wages says: "If you can't do $7.25 worth of work in an hour, you are prohibited from having a job."

        Sadly, some people can't do $7.25 worth of work. Maybe they could do $6 worth of work in an hour to start, and then learn on the job, and eventually be able to do $8, then $10, then a lot more. But the minimum wage effectively prohibits this.

  • Done on purpose (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:07PM (#38041644) Homepage Journal

    We've done everything possible to stifle innovation over the past 20 years.

    Innovation: Patent trolls, nuclear patent portfolios, submarine patents, generic and inscrutable patents, court district shopping, DMCA, ACTA, losing tech to other countries, H1B visas.

    Infrastructure: Rationed internet(data caps), net neutrality, spotty cell coverage, polluted water supply, inscrutable laws, discretionary enforcement, tax complexity, offshoring

    Growth: Tax breaks to rich companies (if GE pays no taxes, it's hard to make a competing product), regulatory failure (example: deepwater horizon), tax incentives for companies to move from state-to-state, profligate wasteful spending.

    Is it any wonder that American innovation has lost its shine?

  • by qualityassurancedept (2469696) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:13PM (#38041680) Journal
    The idea that you would pay an american to do what lots of people all over the world can do for a fraction of the cost is ludicrous, and that goes for "research" at universities as well... unless of course you are talking about stealth bombers or nuclear weapons research, which it is illegal to export. Now that they have the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, american research in physics, for example, is on its way to becoming second rate and other than Women's Studies and Business School, American universities have less and less to offer. The american university system is more about generating revenue through student loans than it is about actually producing first rate scholars. The student loan debt bubble, that has lasted for 30 years, is probably ending and with it you will see a dramatic decline in the international prestige of american universities. It was always about the money... and it was the money that attracted the foreign nationals to the united states to teach... and the foreign nationals who moved to america are the only reason american universities were ever all that good.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:19PM (#38041710)

    Bill Gates was once quoted as saying he doesn't fear other companies; He fears the guy working out of his garage who's busy producing the next big thing. Naturally, legislation has since been passed so Bill and the other billionaires of the tech world can sleep easy knowing he'll never get through the red tape to bring his product to market. There's patent law, copyright law, tort law, contract law, EULAs, and a plethora of other things making damn sure he'll get bought out or buried in debt and legal proceedings.

    Has America lost it's luster? Yes. Quite awhile ago. You don't have to spend anything on education or science anymore... it's really quite pointless... nobody can benefit from it in this country anymore.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:19PM (#38041716)

    Here's why:

    Take a look around your house and count the items that were manufactured in the USA. In mine, it's the toilet! Imagine, the toilet bowl. Everything else was manufactured in Mexico, Taiwan, Canada or China.

    Now, there will be those who say: "Well, but that stuff was designed in the USA." To them I say, "nonsense."

    Being designed in the USA is almost irrelevant if we spend all our cash abroad, servicing our debt. Banks are able to make profits because they 'enslave" us in debts and fees. That's how they make money. With our spending getting out of hand, foreign powers will only have to sit back and live on the interest we as a nation pay them while servicing our debt. It's insane.

    That's how American academics dismissed the Japanese in the 70s and guess what, in a few years, you could not find an American (100%) made product.

    We were a once proud nation with corporations like Zenith. It was the inventor of subscription TV and the remote control in addition to being one of the first to develop HDTV in USA. Where is it now? History.

    Our car brands are non sellers abroad. Talk of GM and Asians will laugh at you. That's where the market is at the moment.

    The latest frontier in electronics in the OLED with the AMOLED variation. No American patent is relied on in OLED technology. It's all Korean. How did it start? Yes, factories moved abroad...then the cash followed.

    It's bad folks. When it comes to airplanes, an increasing percentage of these are foreign made. The new Boeing 787 Dream-liner has at least 30% [latimes.com] foreign components. These will increase and when they get to more than 48% all manufacturing followed by research will be abroad.

    I am waiting to see where America still shines. Worst of all, we're broke!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CaptainLard (1902452)

      Our car brands are non sellers abroad. Talk of GM and Asians will laugh at you

      Unless you count china. Of all things, BUICK sells almost half a million cars a year there. Then there is the plethora of ford foci, fiestas, mondeos that you'll find all across Europe. Holden is Australian for GM. Just cause chysler made the sebring for so long doesn't mean the US can't make a world class car. Didn't pay much attention to the rest of your rant but that line was flat out wrong.

  • Awww (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:23PM (#38041744)
    Diminishing returns on stolen German WW2 era technology, have to make your own now :(
  • Well no wonder (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anti Cheat (1749344) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:37PM (#38041844)

    With the US business greed focused on making the fastest profit possible still in full swing, and this also true in other western countries. I'm not surprised innovation and ingenuity is faltering. Why would industry focused only as far as the next quarters profit see any benefit on long term investment.

    For sometime now Companies have massively laid off it's historical knowledge held by what it considers costly western labour and researchers. Add to that the offshoring momentum and it set the stage for a 20 year decline in the skilled research and workforce.
    We could make a long list of where all the short sighted decisions that all compile to spell out the US decline

    So just a few examples of a long list that has lead to the US and other western countries slow and steady downfall.
    a) Attraction of cheap offshore manufacturing jobs as 2nd world nation's labour forces gain education/training. Of note is that significant costs of that were paid for by Western companies as cheaper alternative to western training costs..
    b) The rising costs of basic education and there being no desire to spend taxes on it in the west. In some cases a disproportionate shift to who shares in payment.
    c) The secondary level education rising costs of a degree/diploma without the job that could pay it back in reasonable time.
    d) Bleeding out the existing wealth of the middle class over to the so called 1%,Why destroy the middle class? Long term short sighted?
    e) Traditionally in the last 50 years it had become the middle class that supported innovation and ingenuity through support of education as less and less was supported by industry.
    f) Companies will follow the wealth. They have no loyalty to any nation or people. It's only to those people that control those companies. Rarely does a Corp have a sense of morality. Only what the laws allow is it's morality and that is not morality at all..
    g) Corporate influence in making laws that benefit not the country or it's people, but rather only for its profits. Even if its convenient to the detriment of the country and its people.
    etc etc etc. A sad comedy off errors.

    • by bogaboga (793279)

      g) Corporate influence in making laws that benefit not the country or it's people, but rather only for its profits. Even if its convenient to the detriment of the country and its people

      That sad thing is that when a "reformer" tries to do something, the reformer is labeled a socialist/communist...as if we cannot have anything somewhere in between.

  • by Krachmanikov (670121) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @01:57PM (#38041994)
    Cry me a river! America's innovation lost its shine, because of outsourcing every single production bit overseas. Most innovation steps are incremental improvements, not radical. Therefore, feedback from the market (customers) and from the production line is absolutely necessary. By outsourcing production to an external contractor, companies will first loose the feedback from production. Once the outsourcing contractors know the products, they will get to know the sales channels, too. In time companies loose their market, their ability to produce products and finally the ability to improve their products. What we see today is the result of a short-sighted service-oriented economic principle. Wake up! Start "doing" things, again.
  • by bratwiz (635601) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @03:09PM (#38042450)

    "Is American Innovation Losing Its Shine?"

    No, it's just that everything these days is patented, copyrighted, intellectually-protected and DMCA'd with legions of lawyers, patent trolls and marketing leeches, that hardly anybody in their right innovative mind wants to swim in such submarine shark infested waters. If Alexander Graham Bell or Charles Babbage were alive today, they'd both have been eaten by preemptive litigation and opportunistic legislation long before they'd have had a chance to innovate. In fact, about the only person I can think of who might have been stood a chance, even today, would be Nikola Tesla, as nobody could be really certain as to whether or not he was able to retaliate with long-distance death-ray beams...

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "If Alexander Graham Bell or Charles Babbage were alive today, they'd both have been eaten by preemptive litigation and opportunistic legislation long before they'd have had a chance to innovate. "

      Bell had a corporate patent lawyer, Anthony Pollok, even then, provided to him by one of his financial Backers Gardiner Hubbard. So nothing has really changed.

  • What innovation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday November 13, 2011 @05:34PM (#38043274) Journal

    The Americans obtained half of the tech by strangle holding Britain while it funded the nazi's to an extra ordinary degree and obtained the other half by protecting nazi war criminals in exchange for tech. NASA would in any ethical world be covered in more shame then a swiss banker.

    And if this upsets you, then you are doomed to keep wondering what the fact happened to the USA. You can only learn from history if you acknowledge the true history not some nursemaid fantasy designed to keep everyone happy.

    The real history of the USA post WW2 is that due to all kind of less then ethical behavior the USA got their hands on far more tech and scientist then anyone else AND did rather poorly with it. Compare after all what the soviets achieved through simply killing of nazi scientists or improsing them with a bit of torture. They never had von Braun the killer of many American prisoner of wars among his many war crimes AND were the first in space. And the soviets had a huge war to recover from and had started far further back on the tech scale.

    For that matter, Japan recovered far better, bombed out it was soon AHEAD of the USA in almost all fields. Cuba, sanctioned to hell and back, has better health care then the US for all this time.

    What exactly did America once have that it is now supposed to have lost? From many posts on this subject I get the feeling some people claim the US went from fictional history to fictional presence from what we can determine a fictional future. Right, that is about useful as asking who would win in a fictional figure fight. An American thing if I am not mistaken.

    If you still want my personal opinion? Then here it is, it is a bit more complex then most made up theories.

    The USA profited from a post WW2 world in which all other countries had massive rebuilding effort while its own rebuilding has started ahead of the curve for the POST WW2 world. In the same way that the US had been way behind the curve for WW2 itself. When it started US military tech and civilian production capacity was hopelessly behind. But people US citizens forget that the MEANS to this build up were un-american. There was a LOT of government control over private industry. Not the same as in planned economies like the soviet union but far more then fits in the idea of the USA and far more then is now available in the USA. The only comparison is really the tiger economies. Japan, Korea, China. (and a few other asian nations I am to lazy to mention)

    When the war ended, the US had a lot of power in the world and virtually nobody to oppose them. The south Americans were to backwards, so was China. Europe didn't need any more conflict and the soviets had more land then they ever would know what to do with. And its factories were booming who had conveniently switched ahead of the actual end of the war from war production to civilian production. A lot of the brightest people had either escaped the horrors of the nazi regime to the US or were being sheltered by the US from being prosecuted for the same horrors. The US was in a perfect position to make an economic boom and it did.

    And yet, did it? How much of our knowledge of that era is movies and chosen images versus reality? To show how much movies lied, women of that post war era are often shown as helpless needing the hand of a man to guide them and do technical stuff. Really? Were these the same women that had been building bombers and putting war ships together? Did Rosie the Riveter unlearn all her skills in a flash once the boys came back home? Yes, many returned to their kitchens but the skills would have remained. So, you have a husband with no more tech skills then cocking a rifle and a woman who knows the ins and outs of a high performance engine, who would YOU let do the plumbing?

    How much this of economic revival of the US and its position at the top was simply because that was what everyone reported and everybody refused to look at what was happening in the rest of the world. Easy to say you are number one when y

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Sunday November 13, 2011 @08:59PM (#38044314)

    If innovation in the US depends on the Federal Government, we're hosed.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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