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America's Tech Decline: a Reading Guide 611

ErichTheRed writes "Computerworld has put together an interesting collection of links to various sources detailing the decline of US R&D/innovation in technology. The cross section of sources is interesting — everything from government to private industry. It's interesting to see that some people are actually concerned about this...even though all the US does is argue internally while rewarding the behaviour that hastens the decline."
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America's Tech Decline: a Reading Guide

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  • is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:09AM (#35818104) Journal

    Is it just me or is the America-is-over sentiment growing by leaps and bounds lately? Not that I'm judging it, I feel the same way much of the time. But it seems more and more that this attitude is coming to the forefront of our national consciousness and yet none of our leaders have done anything to address it.

    Sad times. Guess I should go check out Mandarin for Dummies from the library.

    • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:10AM (#35818120) Journal

      There's a growing realization that those who run the US have killed the goose that lays the golden eggs.

      • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:17AM (#35818176)

        There is another option.

        Post World War II there were basically two countries that either weren't former colonies or bombed back decades in development. The US and USSR. The Cold War pretty much was the two big boys fighting and keeping everyone else down.

        USSR fell. The wounded are healing, near healed. The former colonies are following the path of the former colonies turned super power.

        The US may not be over, but having to admit the playing field is quickly becoming more "fair".

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It is not fair, we can't compete with cheap labor, that's not fair. I know this is slashdot where kicking America it the thing to do, but when we move everything overseas from meat head jobs to now engineering what do you expect? What we need are patriotic (a dirty word here) business people. But forget it most have been brainwashed into the fair and open market, which in reality does not exist.

          You can keep on hating America and believe in fairness eventually it will catch us all and you'll learn the hard w

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by macson_g ( 1551397 )

            It is not fair, we can't compete with cheap labor

            Oh of course it is fair and of course you can! You just got so used to be so unfairly rich that whenever someone (someone=brutal reality and/or the invisible hand of markets) reminds you about it You all start dragging your feet yelling and screaming.

            • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Antisyzygy ( 1495469 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:22PM (#35818960)
              • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by magarity ( 164372 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:31PM (#35819086)

                Interesting thing about that that refutes your point

                And the even more interesting thing about that chart is they choose when the Great Society programs started to hit full stride as when to notice low income earners stopped improving. No longer do the poor in America see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires but instead as deserving something for nothing. Thanks Kennedy/LBJ/Nixon/Ford!

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  This is the problem, not the other things.

                  Modern western economies have such a high GDP because, on avergae, each worker is more productive than those in developing countries.

                  Yes, the US (or my native UK) workers can't compete with Mexico, India and China when it comes to unskilled work. Basic factory work, low tech manufacturing and industrial work, etc. is most efficiently done by unskilled cheap labour and we should take advantage of this by hiring the most efficient labour we can.

                  US/UK/French/German wor

                • by lennier ( 44736 )

                  No longer do the poor in America see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires but instead as deserving something for nothing. /quote>

                  There's a difference between those two?

                  Or do millionaires literally "deserve" their wealth in some absolute sense?

                  I find it hard to understand that the country that declared "all men are born equal" should also have brought itself to believe - at the same time and while claiming to hold to the same political philosophy - that one person can be thousands to millions of times more valuable than another, and that this temporary disparity of financial standing should be considered a "right" as if it has some kind of absolute moral value. Like, every breath Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey takes somehow has hugely greater intrinsic moral worth than a random guy on the street in New York? Doesn't make sense to me that it should.

                  Yes, it takes hard work to make a million dollars, but it also takes hard work to rob a bank. Why is one way of getting rich considered more "good" than the other? They're both transferring money from many other people to one, consolidating power under one person's control. (When it comes to making millions in finance and banking, the difference between "productive captain of industry" and "white collar fraudster" becomes even harder to work out.)

                  If we're going to evaluate people's worth, shouldn't we do so based on how well they treat their family, how loving and caring they are, what ideas they contributed to the public good, and other absolute measures, rather than a game of figures that in the end, don't mean anything?

            • I think the GP is correct actually; it's not "fair". "Fair" would be if a product cost the same no matter where it was produced.

              The problem is that, fundamentally, workers in some countries simply demand far less in exchange for their labor than in other countries. In the US, people demand food, clothing, a car (or two or three), single-family dwellings, entertainment, health care, and some kind of retirement savings in exchange for their labor. In other countries, workers are happy to exchange all their l

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by sourcerror ( 1718066 )

                " the banks were given all sorts of cash, but they didn't "buy" anything with it (no increase in loans offered)."
                Of course they didn't. It was better investment to buy up small banks that didn't get TARP money.

                " You can't force people to buy more than they want; even if you give them cash they may just sit on it ... Note that this is different from things like slavery which artificially hold prices low (or its complement, forcing prices to be high); this is just the natural willingness to be content with le

          • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:52PM (#35819362)

            if you can't compete then the free market is working.

            you can't be capitalistic and complain about cheap foriegn labor. that's is being a hypocrite

        • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by royallthefourth ( 1564389 ) <> on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:25AM (#35818254)

          You seem to be forgetting that the USSR bore the brunt of Germany's aggression and still managed to rebuild, just as it had rebuilt in the wake of its civil war. The USSR (and the Warsaw Pact, and Yugoslavia, and Albania) rebuilt with a command economy and Europe (and Japan) rebuilt with heavy state investment and trade protectionism (and the USA continued to build with state investment without worrying about destruction back home).

          The real lesson here is that a modern industrial state with some reasonable quality of life doesn't come about by the invisible hand; it takes focused, directed work at the goal to get anything done.

          • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:34AM (#35818368) Homepage

            The real lesson here is that a modern industrial state with some reasonable quality of life doesn't come about by the invisible hand; it takes focused, directed work at the goal to get anything done.

            Why do you hate America?

            • The real lesson here is that a modern industrial state with some reasonable quality of life doesn't come about by the invisible hand; it takes focused, directed work at the goal to get anything done.

              Why do you hate America?

              Glenn Beck, is that you?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The soviet command economy collapsed rather spectacularly, and wasn't that wonderful for the comrades (slave laborers) who had to live and die with it.

            Europe and Japan rebuilt with a hell of a lot of help from the US, not only in the Marshall plan, but our subsidizing their national defense for the last 60+ years.

            The real lesson here is "focused, directed work at the goal to get anything done" either needs to get it paid for by someone else like a welfare queen, or can get it done with the millions of its

        • USSR fell. But that give rise to BRICS. The decline in R&D is not a talent issue ( there is another topic not long ago here in /. about the high unemployment of PhDs), but of a financial issue. $$$ is tight everywhere, and scientific advancement is usually considered as a "vanity" rather than "necessity".

          • Re:Win the Future (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:04PM (#35818718) Homepage Journal

            Maybe. The space program might be a counter-example. When the USSR was in the lead, America pushed hard to keep up and "win the race". These are two very different strategies. The USSR was much more into conquering and exploiting the new frontier and had developed technology with that in mind. Arguably it's a damn good thing they didn't win (from any kind of ethical standpoint) for that very reason. The US got bored silly after "winning" and essentially dismantled all of NASA's projects on getting people to Mars (which they actually could have done by the mid 80s). They won the race, they got the prize, contest over. And when a contest is over, the normal thing is to go home and that is exactly what happened.

            It has been argued that had Russia actually got men on the moon first, both Russia and the US would have active space colonies by now, not just a crudely-assembled and much-reduced space station that's too damn small for the kind of science needed to continue justifying it.

            I would alter the argument a little, as I don't think the Cold War in Space would have been pretty: I think the US is fundamentally incapable of generating momentum in and of itself but is extremely capable of very efficiently tapping into the momentum of others and developing it in new and highly creative ways. In other words, the highly compete-till-you-die aggression of the US is only good if there's a competitor to compete against, that the US has less of a "work ethic" and more of a "win ethic". That other nations have a responsibility, particularly supernations like the EU, to be that competition and not defer a damn thing.

            • by sznupi ( 719324 )
              In the meantime, Russia works for few decades [] on a sustainable (vs. crash projects in the style of Apollo) means of deep space travel. BTW, ISS is a part of that work...

              Heck, they have few decades of experience operating a manned spacecraft essentially capable of beyond-LEO operation (have $100 million? Get yourself a ride around the Moon [] - those are people behind almost all "orbital tourists"), a spacecraft which was the first to carry a macroscopic life beyond LEO (...around the Moon) and back, as Zond
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        When you repeatedly elect people specifically because they hate the government, then why would you expect them to do a good job?

      • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:29AM (#35818308) Homepage Journal
        Are you reffering to the middle class or the wealthy. This opinion exists on both(as if there were only two) sides, but widely strongly disagree about the basis of American strength. The reality is that the U.S. is already in second(or lower) place for every major assessment of power, except military strength.
      • by Duradin ( 1261418 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:48AM (#35818514)

        "There's a growing realization that those who run the US have killed the goose that lays the golden eggs."

        The reviews said that the foie gras was very good, only a brief and slight aftertaste of regret..

      • Not fair to blame it only on the government. When the average people can't keep track of their own lives, the average household debt is huge; how can you expect the government to keep track of itself? Maybe if we had a dictator, but in a democracy, the politicians are only going to do the least amount necessary to keep the populace happy. And that doesn't include running a balanced house.
    • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:14AM (#35818144)
      I think it also comes from the rest of the world simply achieving many of the same gains we already did. When the rest of the world has the same tools and conditions, invariably they will start to come to par with us. From our perspective maybe it looks like we're losing our ability, but perhaps its just that other nations are just catching up rather than completely overtaking us.

      And unlike many other historical world power, we actively encourage people to come here, learn, and go back home and create. There are those that argue that's bad for us. In the short term, perhaps it is, but as more of the world achieves our standard of living, there are more consumers for our goods as well. Long term, raising up your neighbors only helps you.
      • ...When the rest of the world has the same tools and conditions, invariably they will start to come to par with us...

        Which conditions exactly? Do you mean just economic?

        • Reliable health insurance, clean water, trash pickup, electrical service. The things we take for granted that make our economy actually work.
    • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Oxford_Comma_Lover ( 1679530 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:17AM (#35818174)

      > Is it just me or is the America-is-over sentiment growing by leaps and bounds lately?

      That's because unemployment has gone up a lot, almost everyone has less money, we've shifted from having a great industrial base to having a service-based economy, and our last two wars have been expensive asymmetric wars where there are non-state actors on the other side. Also, those wars combined with different economic and social policies have made us politically unpopular.

      But it certainly isn't *over* yet--it's just not the rising star these days. It still has the most effective military on the planet. But those expenses are being curtailed while China's are increasing. I suspect we'll have a pre-WWI England/Germany type race, where the US outspends china for a long time to the great expense of both nations, but the US retains superiority in a number of fields for so long as it can afford to do so.

      China is greatly increasing the number of patents it issues--that will be good for us the day they actually support patents for extraterritorial inventors. They'll do that when they have enough IP and we refuse to honor their patents because they don't honor ours. There will be political games, but long-term it may be good for us. (Although we do need better science and math education--and more importantly, better cultural education on the value of science and math).

      • by slyborg ( 524607 )

        >effective military
        As you note, these 'asymmetric wars' are part of the reason for negative sentiment, because the US is losing them. The people in the areas we are occupying don't want us there, and it is impossible to win a counter-insurgency war without engaging in mass genocide or a decades-long colonization strategy (usually both are needed, actually) if the population does not support you. So the military has been, and will be ineffective and that certainly makes the US look weak.

        Worse, this ineffe

      • China is greatly increasing the number of patents it issues--that will be good for us the day they actually support patents for extraterritorial inventors. They'll do that when they have enough IP and we refuse to honor their patents because they don't honor ours. There will be political games, but long-term it may be good for us. (Although we do need better science and math education--and more importantly, better cultural education on the value of science and math).

        Sorry but unless something fundamenta

    • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cobrausn ( 1915176 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:22AM (#35818218)
      A large portion of my family is machinists. We own a machine shop that makes special order components that require a lot of precision. Parts made from the shop have ended up in all manner of plants and ships, including the recent USS Reagan.

      The general sentiment of my relatives that own the shop is that the US doesn't actually make much anymore - we have become more of a consumer and middleman than a producer. A lot of their competition used to be in the US, and a lot of their customers as well. Now their competition is outside the US, and their customers are more often just a middleman for overseas customers, countries that are going through their own technological / industrial renaissances. Their only real big US customers are GE and the government. They, at least, are convinced this is at least part of the reason for our recent declining relevance in industry.
      • Are you doing poorly because you aren't mining the metal and refining it before machining parts? Aren't you buying someone else's product, performing a service, and passing on extra costs and additional value to your customers? Just because someone produces a soft product, doesn't mean that there is no value to it. Craftsman tools are popular because of the soft product, warrantee. By all accounts they are no better than any other tool, but a generation of men will swear by them because if it breaks I c
        • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Informative)

          by cobrausn ( 1915176 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:53AM (#35818584)
          The shop is not dooing poorly at all - if anything, new technology has made the quality of product go up and revenue with it. The customer base and competition has changed.
          • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:13PM (#35818858)
            Sorry, you misunderstood. Your product is technically a hard product, but you started with a refined product, added what your customers perceive as value, and sold a more refined product. If buy a threaded rod from you, does the removal of metal to form the threads add value? You started with 2 lbs of metal and give me 1.8. Now say I'm making a jet, I need a threaded rod. You sell it to a company that then sells it to me with the addition that it insures it to a certain strength. If it fails then they take some of my risk. The value you added is no different than the value they added. Your product is a phsical change, but other than that a process that makes something more useful to me is worth extra cost and the form of that value does not make either job less important.
    • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MagikSlinger ( 259969 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:28AM (#35818296) Homepage Journal

      Tyler Cowan wrote an interesting hyopthesis called "The Great Stagnation" (available only as an e-book on Amazon). Basically, there were easy pickings for growth: revolutionary technologies like electricity, lots of land, lots of opportunity. Now, there are no low-hanging fruit to get high growth again. Everyone else is simply playing catch-up.

      For America, the problem is that for the last 20 years, being a lawyer or Wall Street-type manager or financial manager was where the money was. Unfortunately, those types don't actually create anything. They are, at best, enablers of the people who do and make things. In most cases, though, they are simply fat parasites on the free market draining our best & brightest into pointless careers making derivatives, etc.

      America's decline isn't from government, or even necessarily the Rich and Powerful, but from her people. They've turned their back on getting rich by working hard (understandable because of above) or inventing & discovering things. They've turned their back on learning and education (See for example, TLC's transformation from a science/learning channel to reality TV channel). They've also begun turning their back on science and logic in favor of "gut feelings" (Thanks, Glen Beck and Fox News!).

      Unless America opens up its borders again, I'd say: get used to it.

      • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:17PM (#35818910)

        I'd probably pin the decline of the US on a number of factors:

        1: The view that engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists are "nerds" and deserve contempt, while someone who might kick around a ball for 5-10 minutes is considered a superhero. China and Russia value their scientists, like how we in the US did in the 1950s-1960s. Now since science is considered "beneath" most Americans, compared to business or law, not sowing out seeds in the field means a crappy harvest. You are right, we had a long while where attorney was the meal ticket. Now, there isn't much they can parasite off of, so those fields are drying up. Until people in the US as a whole start valuing the people that innovate, as opposed to a sports hero, or Justin Beiber, the economy will remain stagnant, and the jobs that don't move overseas will be taken by H-1Bs.

        2: Lack of interest in R&D. Companies here either license new stuff, buy the company that has it, or litigate the company that has something they want out of existence. Actual old school R&D like PARC or Bell Labs isn't done anymore, and it is blamed on "product liability". Even the government isn't that interested in keeping innovation. So, obviously (OB car example), when the gas is turned off to the engine, it stops moving. No seed funding == no cool new things coming from labs.

        3: Espionage. To a PHB, security has no ROI. They really don't give a shit if their corporate trade secrets mysteriously appear in Beijing or Tehran as long as they have good sales numbers for this quarter. So, even with innovation, it is stolen by other nations that actually value security. Until companies actually give a shit about keeping their stuff secure, any research done in the US is a freebie given to BRIC.

        4: Lack of education in the US. Other countries value education, and help fund it for their citizens. For an American to get to a similar education level as an average French or German adult at the age of 25-30, it will take $20,000 to $50,000 worth of tuition. For an average American to get to the level of education of a German cop (not a lawyer, a street policeman) it would take over six digits of tuition spent.

        Until these are addressed, the slide will continue.

        • Re:is it just me? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:34PM (#35819118) Homepage Journal

          5) The sale of key technologies.

          People seem to overlook that the key technologies, from wing design, to making steel, was sold from companies to foreign companies. THAT is what really killed the majority of manufacturing.

        • by Kohath ( 38547 )

          I'd probably pin the decline of the US on a number of factors:

          1: The view that engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists are "nerds" ...

          The right answer is only ever the most comfortable answer by sheer coincidence. So while it may be appealing to jump to that conclusion, it's a poor methodology if you actually want the right answers.

        • One thing I've also noticed is that there is a segment in academia that think it is a good thing that manufacturing is disappearing from the states. They talk about machining being a hard labor intensive job that we don't really want people from a civilized nation like the United States performing. There is no convincing them that there are people who actually prefer physical labor. I've been finding it difficult to sit in the same room with some friends of mine who rail about this all the time.

    • Re:is it just me? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by budcub ( 92165 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:38AM (#35818422) Homepage

      I grew up in the 1970's and had to listen to my parents complain about how great things used to be and how they sucked now (then). Didn't hear it so much in the late 1980's. When the recession hit in the early 1990's it was in all the newspaper editorials that the US was a fading empire like the Greeks, Romans, and British before us. Basically everything we're hearing now. Once we bounced back and had a big economic boom in the late 90's it wasn't the case anymore. Then the recession of the early 2000s hit and it was the same thing all over again. Our empire such as it is may be fading but whenever there is a economic downturn, we hear the same complaints.

      • Re:is it just me? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cobrausn ( 1915176 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:50AM (#35818540)
        Arguably, the 70s is probably when the US decline started. It's just a slow decline, so you're going to keep hearing it. What is interesting to me is despite the obvious loss of US influence and relevance in industry / education / R&D, technology has enabled an (arguably) higher quality of life for most in the US. Of course it is doing the same for other countries as well.
    • I prefer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:43AM (#35818460) Homepage Journal

      to think of all of this as, the world is catching up with the US (and in general, the rest of the world is catching up to Western Civilization). Yeah the US certainly has its problems, but like the article stated, comparing it to four countries who added together don't have half the population of the US, let alone the land area, is no different than having your answer before your facts to support it.

      Saying the China is moving to a digital economy faster than the US is odd, but then again the favorite thing to do among such people is to ignore all those China doesn't count when it wants to look good, who happen to be the same people it counts when it wants to look good in other areas. Let alone, moving from where they were to anywhere would show more progress than most countries can make. After seeing the real estate situation in China I figure it is just a few years before they have similar problems. They are just better at hiding the problems they have, from practice and intimidation.

      The only problem the US faces that is has not tried to fix is Washington DC. Entitlement spending will cripple this country. The discretionary spending (where those mythical 39 billion dollars from recent cuts came out of) is less than a third of the budget. The rest is guaranteed spending. Meaning we could cut everything but Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Defense, and still be spending negatively.

      So, the threat is real, but it is from the leadership of the country, not some foreign bogeyman. As with all power structures that have crumbling support they need external bogeymen. Hence through their sycophants in the media they create them on demand.

    • Statism is coming to an end. The American federal government is collapsing and that is identified with a collapse of America itself, because that statist doctrine is internalised by pretty much everyone.

      China is going well and I'm happy about it, but China won't replace America. The next, big technology scoop will come from America, as usual. For a long time to come.

    • It's a very hard subject for political leaders to name. The United States is permeated with a national identity based on industrialization and empire. And a notable feature of empires is that people within them don't perceive them being empires with the inequity and unsustainability that implies. Look at Britain for a similar example.

      How does a political leader speak to this? It's a very unpalatable, almost sacreligious subject, especially if the prevailing culture doesn't value reflection, critical
    • Instead of trying to figure out why America is in decline and doing something about it, let's just assume that America is not in decline and keep doing all the things that brought us to this point! Then, if that's not enough sticking-your-head-in-the-sand, we can ridicule the people who suggest doing anything about it, perhaps with catchy phrases such as "blame America first" or something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alen ( 225700 )

      i've lived in the US since 1981 and it's always been like this. in the 1980's it was Japan was going to rule us. now it's china. PBS even has the transcript of a 1989 Frontline program about how Japan is going to rule the US and we're going to be just an economic colony.

      yes a lot of stuff is made in china, but if you look closely most of the money stays in the US. we pay the chinese very little for menial assembly work. all the real expensive work is done in the US. the net profit margins of foxconn are som

  • by redemtionboy ( 890616 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:23AM (#35818230)

    My observation is that it's much harder for country to garner it's second wind than it is it's first. We've become complacent as all we've ever known is greatness, and when that starts to slip, we don't really know what it will be like not being number. Of course, there is a lot to be said about whether or not many of these up and coming countries will be able to sustain their growth. There are many that suspect that India will not and will eventually collapse rather than establish itself permanently as a tech leader. China is much more likely to maintain it's growth, but there is a lot of question about whether the government will be able to keep it's oppressive control over the people as the nation becomes more advanced (probably not) and what effect that will have on it's growth. There is also much to note that while America may lose it's dominance as THE key player in everything, that does not mean that it will fall into irrelevance or still not be a force to be reckoned with. I propose the idea that the US will have a brief collapse, mostly due to currency destabilization within the next 20 years. With that collapse it will have the opportunity to do two things, to either continue increasing the same bureaucratic nonsense that got it into the mess in the first place, putting more regulation on things and strangling ideas, or to go back to the same low level of regulation that caused all the great prosperity in the first place.

    • by hitmark ( 640295 )

      I wonder if part of the problem is the focus on growth, what to me appears to be an artifact of the last 200 or so years of human history.

    • Re:Second Wind (Score:4, Insightful)

      by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:29AM (#35818312)
      Despite the negative financial impact regulation in and of itself isn't necessarily bad. I don't want to say drop the heavy metal regulations on toys just so I spend $50 rather than $100 on my child's next birthday. I think in many cases the populations of these growing nations will impose stricter regulations on their industries as they begin to approach our level of wealth. Not that all regulation benefits the consumer but things like public health, enviromental stewardship, and anti-trust protections are handled poorly by the free market.
      • I'm not against all regulation, but we most certainly overly regulate. It seems that rather than working with businesses to accomplish any griefs society may have, governments first reaction is to regulate it. The problem is that government never has to prove that it's regulations or legislation works or doesn't have any other consequential negative impacts, and if it doesn't work or does more damage than it fixes, such things are rarely ever repealed. This is my primary issue with government. In the busine

  • Buy them off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:25AM (#35818246)
    Why not just buy off the World Economic Forum and force them to publish more favorable results? That's right...we're America! That's how we roll!
  • Not so much that the US has really declined as the rest of the world has caught up.

    When I see even North Koreans have cell phones (ok, they're probably reissued japanese discards on a closed network) I'm thinking there's getting to be less difference based upon location.

  • by Maclir ( 33773 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:30AM (#35818324) Journal

    Innovation and discovery comes from people with inquisitive minds - minds that have been nurtured by a well rounded education system; one that encourages critical thinking, experimentation, and a good understanding of what scientific knowledge we have already. Now look at what is happening in the US - a drastic cutback in public education, "teaching to the test", and in many areas, official dismissal of science and scientific discoveries. Quite a few school districts are actively pushing creationism against evolution, dismissing global climate change, and many "non-essential" curriculum activities.

    I was once told "If you think the cost of education is expensive, consider the cost of ignorance."

    • Chinese educational system is similar --- "teaching to the test", "cramming", no extracurricular activities etc. All that differ is they have a much "efficient" government, and they direct all resources towards science and engineering, instead of other stuff such as humanities.

      • The US doesn't support the humanities at the expense of the sciences. Music and art classes in American schools have been cut back over the last couple of decades. At the height of American Cold War innovation, there was a healthy balance of science and the humanities in schools.
    • by jiteo ( 964572 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:51AM (#35818552)

      1960's: "Little Johnny, what do you want to be when you grow up?" "An engineer for NASA, helping build the craft that will take us to Mars!"

      2010's: "Little Johnny, what do you want to be when you grow up?" "A rapper who brags about his bling and his bitches!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I disagree...innovators tend to educate themselves. I think today it is Internet addiction biting us. Although it may seem funny, it is really not...

      I watched many smart people fail out of my alma mater because they stuck their heads in the sand and did raids in WoW instead of going to class and facing that competitive, time-consuming course load.

      A former roommate, who would have other wise easily made it through the engineering curriculum, is now working for Colonel Sanders.

      We're in the information a
    • There is a content issue here and a quality issue here. As a nation we are fighting petty battles over content in school, while ignoring the fact that we have stripped the quality from the courses long before. Without critical thinking and experimentation, it doesn't matter if you can teach a child the state of the universe with perfect accuracy even far beyond our current understanding. With critical thinking and experimentation, it doesn't matter nearly as much what crap gets fed to them because the cr
    • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:03PM (#35818710)

      Quite a few school districts are actively pushing creationism against evolution, dismissing global climate change, and many "non-essential" curriculum activities.

      That's right, blame it on religion instead of harder targets like teacher's unions that have protected terrible and under-performing teachers. I'm a great example of why they should be broken up. My math education was so bad in "good public schools" that I am now staring down the prospects of having to go to a community college to make sure I have all of the foundations plus engineering calculus down pat before I can apply for a M.S. in any respectable subject.

      How about the fact that we throw kids of wildly different abilities into the same class and teach to the lowest common denominator? This means that most classes are incredibly slow for the students who can perform. Heck, this applied even to the AP classes I took in high school.

      But oh yeah, it's teaching creationism that's destroying kids' ability to do Math, Physics, etc. A few minor points of contention between religion and science are to blame for why kids are completely turned off.

    • Innovation and discovery comes from people with inquisitive minds - minds that have been nurtured by a well rounded education system; one that encourages critical thinking, experimentation, and a good understanding of what scientific knowledge we have already. Now look at what is happening in the US - a drastic cutback in public education, "teaching to the test", and in many areas, official dismissal of science and scientific discoveries. Quite a few school districts are actively pushing creationism against

  • by jet_silver ( 27654 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:35AM (#35818376)

    TFA lists as concerns the wrong ones. 1) STEM "education", which is really training. You don't train people to innovate, you train people to push buttons or flip burgers. Education begins with independent, critical thinking and that is less and less fostered by the educational system. 2) Why would a smart student do STEM when the money is in pie-dividing, not pie creation? Besides, B-school is about parties and sex, not cracking books all night and all weekend. 3) The progress toward a knowledge-based economy -should- be slowest for the early adopters, then people can copy it and learn from those mistakes. 4) The benchmark of "green energy" is wrong, it is now viable only because governments mandate it. From TFA: "Clean energy is an industry the government has cited as important to future growth." And the government will piss in your pocket and tell you it's raining. Government initiatives are playgrounds for rent-seekers, perpetual-motion nuts, and con men.

    America's tech decline is fostered by a government in thrall to companies that ship profits to Jersey, Bermuda and Monaco; jobs to China and Vietnam; and toxic waste to Africa. Simplification of the tax code, taxing companies and individuals on parity (after all, companies are people) and letting the bastards walk if they don't like it, and a serious crackdown on malfeasance under color of authority are what the government should be doing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're swinging in anger and missing the mark.

      1) You know what the S in STEM stands for and you say what we need is critical thinking? You know what scientific enquiry is entirely based upon? Critical thinking. Fostering an advance of scientific teaching will give you that critical thinking, and also some really good thoughts for your knowledge-based economy (3)

      2) A good point, but it may be that the big money in parasitic jobs has passed its heyday already. Surely there's plenty of bad blood between the go

    • Your comments are little more than "More government is the problem" BS.

      If you really want to talk about talk about the source of budget deficits you need to look at stock-options, since they allow corporate insiders to pay tax on income at vastly lower rates, especially when coupled with insider leverage from the tax expense the rest of us get to pay for corporate tax deductions of all kinds. It isn't your government that is ripping you off, its corporate insiders who have used stock-options to largely fun

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:38AM (#35818420)

    "Wrote Grove: "You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work -- and much of the profits -- remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work -- and masses of unemployed?""

    Nailed it. Offshoring makes companies and their management richer. It saves a little for consumers of the relevant product, if the savings are passed on to them rather than simply taken as profits ... but those consumers have fewer and fewer jobs from which to get income to buy the products.

    The endgame here is for the local market for consumer goods to dwindle, and then for the company to move it's main office to a tax haven and/or somewhere with a population that still has money to spend. They've basically mined the consumer market until it's depleted, and then they move on. This is what happens when you consistently underpay your regular workers and/or ship their jobs elsewhere: you undermine the entire economy. Apparently modern industries have forgotten basic lessons from way back in the days of Henry Ford: pay your workers reasonably well, and they will ultimately help your community and business thrive.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      I've got a solution to offshoring: Fix the corporate tax system.

      1) Reduce the tax rate dramatically. 10% would be good, less would be better.
      2) Switch to an (almost) no deduction, gross revenue based tax (see #3).
      3) Allow one deduction: W-2 Wages and salaries paid to employees. That would be employees here in the USA. Every other input is a non-deductible cost.

  • Our current school system discredits creativity, and forces everyone into the same mold. Arguably, this mold is 100% useless in the real world, especially in a world that requires any innovation.
  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:45AM (#35818484) Journal

    The problem is short attention spans, and a difficulty in communicating the benefits of long-term, fundamental research combined with a political, financial and popular culture obsessed with a "that was yesterday, what have you done for me lately" mentality.

    A perfect illustration is shortly after the "merger" of France-based Alcatel and U.S.-based Lucent Technologies was the virtual kneecapping of Bell Labs.

    Then CEO Patricia Russo announced that long-term, fundamental research [] would no longer be performed at Bell Labs as that wasn't the culture of Alcatel. If a project couldn't be productized in 7 years, it would be shelved.

    To me that was a "break out the shovels" moment. As in, "It has been a long, hard decline but we can see the bottom. Break out the shovels, we're going to dig this hole deeper."

    The same thing goes on with Congress and funding basic scientific research at placed like NASA, the various National Labs (Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, Fermi, Oak Ridge, etc.). Just look at what happened to the Superconducting Super Collider [].

    The problem is you can't always predict what benefits will come from fundamental research, thus you can't give the bean counters a predicted return on investment number. When is an even harder number.

    The only real time the United States as a government priority has pumped money into research is if that research could be used to blow shit up. Actually, this is probably true of Britain, Germany, Russia, Japan and China as well.

    We need to be able to clearly articulate the benefits to society and the economy as a whole that fundamental research brings. If we want to drive forward into the future imagined by the visionaries, and not end up in the one envisioned by the dystopians (no Mad Max, please), this and education need to be our top priorities as a nation. Which nation? Any and every nation.

  • Pessimism. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:48AM (#35818512)

    My impression has been that those with money and those looking to acquire it are trying to do it the easy way. The challenging ways of building wealth have been abandoned in America. This is why we don't make much of anything. And when we do, it's often crap where someone in some other country is building it for cheap.

    I've also come to the conclusion that the reason there is such an obsession with intellectual property is because people subconsciously know that nobody needs us. We're not much more than middlemen, still resting on the laurels of those who've come before who actually did innovate and build things. It's only a matter of time before the Chinese, like the Japanese, strike out on their own. This defense of IP is desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable.

    Although, admittedly, I'm not convinced that China has the culture and devotion that the Japanese have. From my experience Chinese entrepreneurs are primarily driven the same things as Americans, how to make the most money for the least amount of effort. I predict that eventually China will price itself out of cheap manufacturing and everyone will migrate to South East Asia and South America. I foresee a future where most manufacturing based in Africa; the Chinese interestingly are already moving in that direction.

    Either way, I'm pessimistic on America's future. And while it's fun to blame someone else it's really everybody's fault; starting with the government, management and ending with the worker.

  • Socialists! (Score:5, Funny)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:53AM (#35818582) Homepage

    How dare you assert that any of our resources be directed by the government into research and development for the greater good of the nation? When CEO's could instead have the total freedom to take the money and run? As Reagan's assistant secretary for productivity & technology said in 1984, outlining a plan to restructure all of higher education, "Accountability and expertise must come from the private sector where the user needs are best identified. This is our intent." Thank god that has been so successful!

  • For all the good that tolerance and openness has done, the realization that one group of people is not inherently 'better' than any other does have its not-so-pleasant consequences too, and in particular it tends to not turn out well for those traditionally favored. We're dealing with one such case now. In this case, when one can do things just as well anywhere on the globe as in America, American workers just plain don't provide good value for the labor dollars being spent. In IT and manufacturing, one can

  • by C_Kode ( 102755 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:54AM (#35818622) Journal

    If you want to help it return, kill all patent trolls.

  • by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:13PM (#35818856)
    Here is a very interesting video from 1994.
    To sum up. If you outsource all of your jobs. You'll not have any paying customers left. []
  • My take (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @12:19PM (#35818936)

    I'm the submitter, so I figured I'd reserve my comments for here so this wasn't rejected with the comment "tl; dr". :-)

    Here's how I feel -- I'm not 100% sold on the argument that everything is crashing down, but I do have some serious concerns for the future. Some of them could be easily fixable if people would just get on board, and others will take a long time and tons of investment to fix. Here's my list of issues:

    • Lack of economic diversity -- We still lead the world in manufacturing output last time I checked, but one problem is that this is mainly due to the export of big-ticket items like airplanes. Boeing only has so many jobs available for a massive population. Previous generations had a large, decently-compensated middle class and a good chunk of those people worked in domestic factories. Now, your only hope seems to be to go to college, get a degree even if you don't need one, and hopefully get a white-collar service job. Sounds great, right? What if you can't handle college? Not everyone is brilliant, but a lot of non-brilliant people in the past had a good shot at a decent wage. Bottom line: We need more work for the other half of the population who isn't cut out for knowledge work, and that work needs to pay more than minimum wage like it used to.
    • Lack of R&D spend -- The transistor and UNIX were invented at Bell Labs, AT&T's pure research arm. Larger companies may pay lip service to R&D now, but such spend rarely survives market downturns. Increasingly, even companies with large R&D operations are being pressured to focus on things that will immediately turn a profit or produce patents that the company can license. AT&T might be an outsized example -- for you kiddies, that rinky-dink cell phone provider used to have a monopoly on any kind of phone service, and set the world's telecom stanards. That gave them some serious money to play with. But companies of all sizes are cutting back funding for pure research in pursuit of short term profits.
    • Focus on short term goals and profits -- The nature of the markets and individual compensation forces companies to focus on next quarter's profits instead of the future. Tell the average board that you might possibly produce a 5-fold ROI in 4 years vs. a 2-fold guaranteed ROI next quarter, and you know what wins. This kind of thinking leads to some of the dumber things companies do, like giving up control of proprietary processes to third parties for a one-time cash hit.
    • Always-on stock markets -- Following on the last point, everyone's retirement is tied up in the markets either directly or indirectly through mutual funds. Because of this, investors demand constant rising stock prices and will not tolerate anything that could possibly impact profitability. IMO, if we returned control of the markets to companies and the ultra-rich, and had individuals a little more removed from it through pensions, annuities or other less volatile investments, companies might get slack they need to actually pour money into something that may pay off in the future. Equities markets should be reserved for billionaires to fund business ventures, not be a person's sole source of later-life income.
    • Education -- Put the anti-intellectualism debate aside for a bit; one of the reasons it exists is the poor quality of education. Taxpayers refuse to fund it, only a lucky minority of students are in good schools, and the rest are stuck. Getting students interested in something other than business or the "soft squishy" stuff is difficult when (a) you don't have a good pre-college foundation to work off of, and (b) the payoff for business and soft-squishy stuff is astronomical compared to STEM fields. I know a few science Ph.D's who went into management consulting and crank out spreadsheets and PowerPoints all day because the compensation is so much higher than staying in their field.

    So -- all we need to do is break companies' addiction to short te

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