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America's Tech Decline: a Reading Guide

CmdrTaco posted about 3 years ago | from the going-down-in-a-ball-of-flames dept.

United States 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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611 comments

is it just me? (5, Interesting)

corbettw (214229) | about 3 years ago | (#35818104)

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? (5, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about 3 years ago | (#35818120)

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? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#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:is it just me? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818228)

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 way that hating ones country and globalism leads to no good ends.

Re:is it just me? (3, Insightful)

macson_g (1551397) | about 3 years ago | (#35818616)

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? (5, Insightful)

royallthefourth (1564389) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818352)

You mean to say, that while Americans and the rest of the free world were rebuilding at leisure, creating that enviable culture of postbelic golden years, in the USSR and the rest of it's companions it was mostly work, work and work, bringing so much pain, that even 20 years after their fall it's signs are still obvious.

Re:is it just me? (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35818368)

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?

Re:is it just me? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818544)

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 own dead.

Win the Future (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about 3 years ago | (#35818268)

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 (5, Insightful)

jd (1658) | about 3 years ago | (#35818718)

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.

Re:is it just me? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818212)

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? (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 years ago | (#35818308)

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.

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

Hatta (162192) | about 3 years ago | (#35818590)

The wealthy have killed off the middle class. A strong middle class is what made America great.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818354)

Hm... but the loudest complaints come from those who want to run the US. Makes for an effective piece of a political platform.

Re:is it just me? (5, Funny)

Duradin (1261418) | about 3 years ago | (#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..

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

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818168)

Long term, raising up your neighbors only helps you.

Not when it comes at the cost of your own children.

Re:is it just me? (0)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 years ago | (#35818330)

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.

Excuse me? Can you please repeat? I didn't quite get the idea of "our goods". What goods? Fast pizza delivery?

Long term, raising up your neighbors only helps you.

Well, I'd be happy to hear how US helped Mexico and Canada.

Re:is it just me? (2)

hoggoth (414195) | about 3 years ago | (#35818384)

"Our goods" refers to the only thing we make anymore, intellectual property: Ideas, music, movies, lawsuits, patents. Why do you think the USA is strong-arming the rest of the world to implement draconian protection for Big Content? It's the only thing we make and the powers-that-be know that.

Re:is it just me? (2)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 years ago | (#35818542)

"Our goods" refers to the only thing we make anymore, intellectual property: Ideas, music, movies, lawsuits, patents.

As I said: fast pizza delivery and thanks for confirming it.

1. Ideas? Cheap. TFA seems to point that technological implementations of these ideas are coming slower lately.
2. music/movies? One can live without Bieber and Lady Gaga, thank you. Besides, China and India (supposedly the neighbors that received help) are somehow tuned a bit different when it comes to music/movies.
3. patents/lawsuits? Tell this to China: if they decide to be polite, they'll pat you on the shoulder for the good joke.

Why do you think the USA is strong-arming the rest of the world to implement draconian protection for Big Content? It's the only thing we make and the powers-that-be know that.

Yes, I understand the desperation for scrapping the bottom of the economic barrel. However, creating dumb content (as opposite to being ahead in the technological race) can't help even on medium term.

Re:is it just me? (2, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 3 years ago | (#35818638)

Ideas are cheap? Sure they are. 'Good' ideas however, and the ability to implement them are decided not cheap or common. If we can't come up with ideas, well then perhaps the article is right, we are in decline. I prefer to believe we have plenty of talented people who will come up with the 'next big thing' that we can sell to the world.

Apple tends to be good at this and they are an American company. Sure the manufacture and such is done overseas, but I'd say they bring in a fair amount of money to the US wouldn't you?

Re:is it just me? (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 3 years ago | (#35818424)

Excuse me? Can you please repeat? I didn't quite get the idea of "our goods". What goods? Fast pizza delivery?

Kinda hard to send pizza to India. But it would be something a franchise could do. That brings money into the US. Our 'goods' are whatever we can produce - Music, art, software, games, Levi's blue jeans, Coca-Cola. Isolationism is the worst thing we could do.

Well, I'd be happy to hear how US helped Mexico and Canada.

Well for starters if Mexico has a thriving economy, we don't have the immigration problem. That sounds like something you would want no? Compare Canada and Mexico. Which is the better trading partner right now? And which is the more 'modern' economy? Lift up Mexico and now you have 2 big trading partners looking to consume your goods. How is that bad?

I did say there might be short term losses associated with it and I don't deny that. But long term this is investment in future demand for our goods and services.

Re:is it just me? (1)

El Torico (732160) | about 3 years ago | (#35818400)

...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?

Re:is it just me? (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 3 years ago | (#35818596)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818734)

the health insurance is anything but reliable in the usa.

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

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#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).

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

cobrausn (1915176) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:is it just me? (2)

internerdj (1319281) | about 3 years ago | (#35818498)

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 can take it back.

Re:is it just me? (4, Informative)

cobrausn (1915176) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

You Are Dead Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818662)

Your feel and sentiments are just no comparison to hard data and facts.

A simple google search will reveal that the US is still the largest manufacturing country in the world by far.

Re:is it just me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818222)

What makes you think the leaders will change when the people won't?

Re:is it just me? (1)

obergfellja (947995) | about 3 years ago | (#35818290)

the age of US v USSR is over..... the age of US Only is over. The age of tits or gtfo super power status has begun.

I think it is a great thing to learn other languages. Know how to understand their language and knowledge base and outdo our competition. So, Clap clap clap clap for those who want to learn how to understand our competition (like you, Corbettw)

Re:is it just me? (4, Insightful)

MagikSlinger (259969) | about 3 years ago | (#35818296)

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? (4, Interesting)

budcub (92165) | about 3 years ago | (#35818422)

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? (3, Interesting)

cobrausn (1915176) | about 3 years ago | (#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 (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | about 3 years ago | (#35818460)

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.

Re:is it just me? (2)

jth4242 (2025482) | about 3 years ago | (#35818468)

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.

Re:is it just me? (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | about 3 years ago | (#35818526)

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 thought, and humility. There are lots and lots of Americans who do, and lots of means for their voices to be heard, but I don't think we're going to hear the subject being broached directly by the political aristocracy.

Barack Obama, to his credit I think, has spoken very thoughtfully and candidly about particular things that are wrong, for example the subprime mortgage debacle and the Wall Street culture which caused it. But it's politically risky for him to make a habot of criticizing the status quo, even if the status quo is in desperate need of being redesigned. The last people to admit it, even to themselves, will be those whose power flows from their position within the status quo.

Yes, that's it! (1)

Benfea (1365845) | about 3 years ago | (#35818640)

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:is it just me? (2)

cavreader (1903280) | about 3 years ago | (#35818666)

If only folks would take an honest look at the history of the US they might be able to put things in better perspective. I have always had a problem with people saying the US is failing as a society and falling from some undefined and imaginary pinnacle of happiness and success leaving no where else to go but down. But looking at history the US has always had major problems throughout it's relatively short history. Starting with the revolutionary war and progressing to the native american wars, civil war, WW1, massive class based inequities (robber barons era), great depression, womens rights struggle, Immigration Act (limited immigration by race), Japanese internent camps, WW2, Korea, Cold War, civil rights and racial descrimination struggle, Vietnam, oil embargo, Iranian hostage crisis, Junk Bond Crisis, Lebanon Marine Barracks attack, Iran/Contra, 9/11, Gulf War 1/2, Afghanistan. When has their ever been a trouble free period in the US where everybody was happy and content? The political infighting and internal frictions today are mild compared to earlier times, when the phrase "politically correct" referred to anything that won the argument. The anti-war crowd before WW2 makes todays anti-war crowd look like roaring war supporters. The religious based encroachments on general society was bad enough in the early 1900's to actually push through prohibition laws.( I still can't wrap my head around that one) Today's problems and issues are nothing new and in a lot of respects no where near as troublesome as some in the past. As other countries continue to solve their internal problems and move into the international arena it is natural that the US will lose some of it's lead in all types of areas. It doesn't mean the US is necessarily failing but the other countries are finally getting their acts together. We just can't judge our societal progress based solely on our technical achievements. Their are still plenty of areas for technical achievement in the alternative energy,bio-technology, and computing fields. The government is sitting on some very advanced technology and usng military secrets law as the justification for classifying the tech. Everyone has been talking about technology like the Kinect and gesture based computer operations while the military have been using heads up virtual displays and eye monocles to provide an eye interface for controlling weapon systems for 10 years. I imagine they are also sitting on advanced satellite technology, exotic material technology, and even solar technology they are using to power their field operations.

Re:is it just me? (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 3 years ago | (#35818698)

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.

Indeed. I wonder how much of it stems from people *wanting* America's glory days to be over. I certainly don't. China may be the workshop for the world, but they aren't the innovators of the world we still are.

We have Intel, Google, Microsoft, (cough) Facebook, Blizzard, and so forth, all of which are pre-eminent in their respective fields. When was the last time you heard about some French MMORPG being released, or new Word Processing software from Germany? While I'm sure they exist - it's all America in first place.

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

I learned Mandarin just for the fun of it. But it's not a bad thing to know, from a future business perspective.

trouble finding radiation gear for our dogs? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818116)

not that it's stuff that matters, butt we note; dogs HAVE to 'go' outside, at least in their civil dog minds. we don't. we note that our dogs will not wear the stainless steel 6 qt. pots on their heads, & DO NOT want to stay out very long anymore. & what about the mailmen, kids (they HAVE to go out too?) etc...? they do not need protection by order of our incestuously inbred senile dementia inpatient, uncle sam.pop.out.another.won? yikes

Next revolutions will be social (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818124)

Look, we've hit limits with what we can do with materials and kerosene. That's why a 747 from 1969 is the same as today's.

We're starting to hit the limits of what we can do with information processing. Once you hit atoms, where do you go from there?

As the world runs out of cheap chemical energy, the social model of continuous growth, suburbanisation, car culture and "jobs" requiring no more than typing away at a computer will have to change.

We'll start seeing innovations in how people will live.

Re:Next revolutions will be social (2)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 3 years ago | (#35818216)

We're starting to hit the limits of what we can do with information processing. Once you hit atoms, where do you go from there?

Quanta? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Next revolutions will be social (1)

v1 (525388) | about 3 years ago | (#35818260)

We're starting to hit the limits of what we can do with information processing. Once you hit atoms, where do you go from there?

Well obviously quarks [wikipedia.org]

Re:Next revolutions will be social (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | about 3 years ago | (#35818280)

That's why a 747 from 1969 is the same as today's.

We had the Concorde for a short time

Re:Next revolutions will be social (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35818532)

We had the Concorde for a short time

And nothing of value was lost. Really. There are limits to what is sane and sustainable. Then there are cartoon fantasies from the 1960's. Certainly the US is going through a period of turmoil and decline. That tends to happen - history is replete with the rise and fall of civilizations and I know of no counter examples. The US (and other western social democracies) picked up an arc of power and influence after WWII whose slope seems to be changing. Perhaps it will be a permanent decline, perhaps only temporary (yeah, right). It's uncomfortable for sure but it's probably inevitable.

Unfortunately, in the larger picture, the rest of the world has appeared to pick up the majority of our bad habits and the human race is busily chomping up the planet faster and faster. Again, history (this time studies of ecology and evolution) show us what happens when an organism pushes the boundary of the environment's carrying capacity for the organism.

Re:Next revolutions will be social (1)

Tim99 (984437) | about 3 years ago | (#35818722)

That's why a 747 from 1969 is the same as today's.

We had the Concorde for a short time

OK, the 747 has been in service for over 40 years and Concorde 'only' managed 27 years; but after having travelled on a return flight on a Concorde from London to Miami in 1988, and as a passenger on 747s and Airbus 3XXs for more than 200,000 miles - I know which I preferred.

The technical problems that the Concorde disaster revealed were solvable, but there was no commercal justification (or political will) to fix them.

Re:Next revolutions will be social (1, Insightful)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about 3 years ago | (#35818284)

As the world runs out of cheap chemical energy, the social model of continuous growth, suburbanisation, car culture and "jobs" requiring no more than typing away at a computer will have to change.

We'll start seeing innovations in how people will live.

I hate to break it to you but I have heard the same tripe for over 30 years. When the cheap gas runs out we will all change the way we live. I hate to break it to you but the way it works is that as gas prices go up, so does inflation. As inflation goes up, so do wages.

As oil prices go up, the incentive to find new and inventive ways to get at the remaining oil, goes up. This means that new methods enter the market and lower the price on the oil. With them comes new lower cost "Chemical energy" sources!

And lets not forget that Titan has whole oceans of "Chemical energy" just waiting for us, if the cost of local energy gets to the right point it will be economical to strip mine titan and ship it here. LOL "Earth first, well strip mine the other planets later"

The social change you are expecting will never happen. At least not in my lifetime or yours and probably never.

Re:Next revolutions will be social (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#35818650)

You don't understand thermodynamics very well do you? Nor the implications of closed systems. If you're planning on keeping Business As Usual going with methane from Titan, you need to brush up on economics as well. Yep, you've heard the 'same tripe' for 30 years. Because there are a whole bunch of people who can think about issues that affect us in time frames more distant than next month or next year. But when your whole world requires you to stare at your feet to keep from falling down, it's sometimes hard to see that rock wall.

The Chinese have a curse - 'may you live in interesting times'. Grab on to your butts.

Re:Next revolutions will be social (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 years ago | (#35818742)

Right, but the problem has been recently that we've been suffering "stag-flation." Things that are important to living: shelter, transit, food, and medical care have had their prices rising above commodity inflation and wage inflation for approaching a decade now. This is unsustainable, and will result in the choking off of a middle class in the united states. The importance of a middle class is not just a consumer base(as we have been told), but the creation of a broad range of educated people capable of understanding the world well enough to make strides in innovation. We're not losing current GDP, we're losing the next generation's GDP.

Re:Next revolutions will be social (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 years ago | (#35818382)

We'll start seeing innovations in how people will live.

... or how they'll die, for the matter. For example, UAV drones spring first into my mind.

Lamentabley so (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818190)

Blue sky projects and huge investment in R&D (admittedly largely due to the Cold War) were the reason we were number 1. The decline is all to do with the respect for stupidity that we see today, from reality shows, to youtube "fail" videos, religious obsession with celebrity, the rise of Anti-science, commercial fanboy-ism in all its forms etc.
 
That's not the way it used to be, even as recently as the 90s. The country is now suspicious of intelligence and academia.

Second Wind (2)

redemtionboy (890616) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Second Wind (1)

hitmark (640295) | about 3 years ago | (#35818288)

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 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818390)

Rome disagrees. When they stopped growing and innovating, they collapsed in on themselves due to social infighting. Sound familiar?

Re:Second Wind (3, Interesting)

redemtionboy (890616) | about 3 years ago | (#35818476)

Rome over expanded and destroyed it's currency. It wasn't that it stopped growing. It's that it grew unsustainably. There was no way that it could possibly control all that it did for too long.

Re:Second Wind (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | about 3 years ago | (#35818730)

Rome was the last of the major superpowers to ever totally collapse, and it was a part of a different world. The rampaging Huns *literally* tore the Roman Empire apart and refused to allow it to recover. It's fall was certainly internal, but its failure to recover was at least largely external. Since then major superpowers don't fall, they just sort of stumble and become less major, but still very important players. Look at the major powers from the last 500 years: Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, Germany, Japan... None of them are horrible places to live (Well, Japan has its downsides at the moment...). Some are in better shape than others, but all of them are still first world counties with fairly significant economies and reasonable power on the world stage. That's the likely fate of the US in the next 50-100 years. We will continue to be a first order power on the world stage, we just won't be *the* power on the world stage.

Re:Second Wind (3, Insightful)

internerdj (1319281) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Second Wind (1)

redemtionboy (890616) | about 3 years ago | (#35818450)

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 business world, we have to prove our ideas work before anything is ever adopted by the rest of the industry, but government doesn't. It's like launching a $500 billion company without ever getting a single customer.

These regulations strangle smaller businesses while the bigger businesses help lobby and write the regulation so that it doesn't effect them, essentially creating a barrier that is most difficult to break through. If you want innovation, if you want to be a world leader, then we need a volatile market where no company is safe. Where only the best ideas survive rather than just the biggest corporations. And the only way that is going to happen is with less regulation, more competition, and no bailouts. These older companies are clinging to date structures to prolong their livelihood while preventing change from happening.

Reading guide? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818244)

Can someone put a video for it up on youtube? OKBYETHNX.

Buy them off (5, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 3 years ago | (#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!

Re:Buy them off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818712)

Maybe they already bribed their way from, say, seventh to fifth?

Cat got my tongue. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 years ago | (#35818266)

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.

Want to see the future - look at education (3, Insightful)

Maclir (33773) | about 3 years ago | (#35818324)

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."

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (2)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about 3 years ago | (#35818472)

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.

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 years ago | (#35818536)

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.

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818516)

Now look at what is happening in the US - a drastic cutback in public education
 
I don't know how you got modded up with this kinda crap. Edcuational spending on a per student basis is at a historical high and we're seeing less of a return on our investment than ever before. While there is cutbacks that are going though today they certainly don't cause today's problems. These students won't see the working world for another 5 years minimum. Education cut backs aren't a problem today and they weren't a problem decades ago when the US was producing a bumper crop of innovators.
 
But I do wonder if the way that public institutes get their funding has changed. I know when I was in high school, 20 years ago, state funding was based on each passing student per day of attendence. This made it easy for a district to maintain funding if they made the enviorment lax and the materials easy. Dumbing down what was expected of the students while letting trouble children run wild was and probably still is profitable for a school district. This kind of thinking needs to come to an end. Let those who won't get with the program by 8th or 9th grade go off and find jobs pushing brooms instead of bringing down those who are willing to put in the effort to better themselves.
 
  Quite a few school districts are actively pushing creationism against evolution, dismissing global climate change, and many "non-essential" curriculum activities.
 
While I do not feel that creationism should be taught as a science I also do not feel that this single point is hurting innovation at all. It's a foolish myth, yes, but has nothing to do with serious innovation. Now if they were flying in the face of Newtonian physics I might be a bit more upset. For today we have bigger battles to fight in education.

and look at china big on copying others and cheati (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818524)

and look at china big on copying others and cheating in classes and colleges.

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818550)

If flat out lying at the podium on the floor of the US House of Representatives gives an accurate indicator of the direction our society is taking, we'll burn 10X faster than Rome did!

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (5, Insightful)

jiteo (964572) | about 3 years ago | (#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:Want to see the future - look at education (3, Insightful)

Richard Dick Head (803293) | about 3 years ago | (#35818592)

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 age, not the relevant information age. The classroom environment is quickly becoming outmoded and irrelevant. Things like Facebook and WoW simply serve to further enforce conformance to a moronic social averages.

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818642)

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."

The ongoing decline of education programs is a symptom of a more fundamental problem: intellectual activity is not respected in our culture, except for where such activity has a direct correlation with personal income. In other words, it's all well and good if you're well off because of your education, but anyone with innate curiosity, who likes to study and learn because of intrinsic motivation, is regarded with a degree of disdain. You are supposed to conform, not question.

If our culture valued intellectual curiosity as much as it valued its military, then the funding situation would be different. It isn't.

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (2)

internerdj (1319281) | about 3 years ago | (#35818658)

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 crap will fall away with study and experimentation. Not saying that accuracy doesn't matter, but there will always be a new topic where the facts are ignored if we don't focus on teaching important skills first.

Re:Want to see the future - look at education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818674)

"Now look at what is happening in the US - a drastic cutback in public education"

You're joking, right? The U.S. spends more per pupil than any other country. The question is: Why aren't we getting what we pay for? Start with Political Correctness and go from there.

college needs to change in US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818676)

college needs to change in US.

We need stop sending all people to college we need more tech / voc / apprentices.

there are smart tech people out there who are not good fit for the old college system.

Cost needs to come down.

Cut down on the number of filler classes.

4 years maybe to long why have more 2-3 year plans?

CS may need be more split up / and or have more then 1 track as the tech feed is so big that you need more just a board CS program and some people who just come out of CS are not that good at some IT jobs out of the gate.

We need better people then the PHB at some work places. Clueless PHB are a tech killer.

Trust someone to bring religion into this (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Why educate when foreigner will take your job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818758)

Why should an American spend all the time, money, and effort, required for a STEM degree, just to train his/her H1B replacement? Don't tell me that doesn't happen, I know that it does. The same thing is happening to other US workers, like teachers, and pharmacists.

And if something can be offshored, you can be sure it will be offshored. Software development, legal research, tech support, network monitoring, medical research, engineering, radiology, and much more; are all in the process of being offshored.

If you have a job that requires a college education, and that job does not require a top-secret clearance, then your job is at risk, and your education will just go to waste.

It seems to me... (1)

BigDaveyL (1548821) | about 3 years ago | (#35818332)

There's no investment in long term growth. It's all about "let's sell our soul for a profitable quarter." There's no long term R&D and employee development. And it doesn't help when the government has hit all time highs as far as debt/deficits.

TFA is way off the mark (3, Interesting)

jet_silver (27654) | about 3 years ago | (#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:TFA is way off the mark (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818636)

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 government/people and the vast money-siphoning corporations.

3) A knowledge-based economy is by necessity only possible atop a manufacturing economy. It cannot replace it in whole or even in part, because no matter how cool Dak'kon made it sound, there is no way to *know* your way to a plate full of food. A progression to a knowledge-based economy is another short-term approach to making the ledger look good for shareholders. You must produce if you wish to consume, and only if wishes were like horses would all beggars ride.

4) A good idea put forward by the government can remain a good idea. Just because you're sick of The Man and have all the answers doesn't mean the behemoth you hate can't cough up a good idea from time to time. Green energy isn't just important - it's non-negotiable. We will run out of cheap consumable energy as we currently know it. Renewables are necessary for us to continue to have modern civilization. Let me tell you a few government initiatives that you probably don't hate much: interstates. Railroads. There are a couple others, too.

Your ideas aren't bad, and you probably have a lot of support in what you offer in the last paragraph, but the first one seemed way off.

Consumerist ranking criteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818392)

Adoption rates of PCs, wi-fi, mobile phones, internet bandwidth and so forth seem to be rather superficial measures of a country's technological prowess or achievement. That's like ranking countries for automotive industry capacity based on the relative number and sizes of cars owned by their populations.

we need to get rid of job based health care in the (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35818410)

we need to get rid of job based health care in the us as OUT side the USA the JOB DOES NOT PAY the costs of heath care.

Andy Grove's comment on offshoring (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Andy Grove's comment on offshoring (2)

PPH (736903) | about 3 years ago | (#35818606)

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.

Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain (1)

OKCfunky (1016860) | about 3 years ago | (#35818436)

Can't say this article is shocking. Perhaps if our society valued intellect, abhorred a gov't that is larger than all manufacturing jobs combined, and made personal responsibility a cornerstone and not a sound-byte.... nah, who am I kidding. We reaped our profits and sowed the seeds of our own destruction. Case in point: ChiCom... give China your IP if you want access to their economy, never mind that they'll create a knock-off the next day and bury you with your own product.

After the arms race- (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | about 3 years ago | (#35818440)

First we had the legs race. Then we had the arms race. Now we're going to have the brain race. And, if we're lucky, the final stage will be the human race. - John Brunner

If you want innovation in America, rather than complaining about it, you need to change something. Science and technology are fundamentally social endeavors as much as technical ones. Take a quarter of the defense budget and instead put it towards public education and basic research.

Also, I think it's a blind alley to consider innovation a zero-sum game. It is helpful rather than harmful that other countries are making serious contributions. Ultimately we are going to discover intelligent life elsewhere, and which-country-scored-fourth-in-high-school-math is going to seem like small potatoes compared to getting humanity prepped for the next phase, whatever that turns out to be.

Of course. (2)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | about 3 years ago | (#35818480)

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.

Short Attention Spans (5, Interesting)

chill (34294) | about 3 years ago | (#35818484)

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 [alcatel-lucent.com] 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 [wikipedia.org] .

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. (3, Interesting)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 3 years ago | (#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! (4, Funny)

dcollins (135727) | about 3 years ago | (#35818582)

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!

The End of Nationalism (1)

Millennium (2451) | about 3 years ago | (#35818614)

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 get the same productivity (in terms of both amount and quality of product) or even better elsewhere at considerably better rates, and in manufacturing the difference is often so large that it even covers the overhead of shipping the finished product "back" to the target market. Why wouldn't a business jump on that? Like anyone else, they have little choice but to maximize the value they get for their money; whether or not it is good, it is what they do to survive.

There are fields where this equation doesn't hold: namely, what I call "location-tied fields" where the work needs to be done at or very near the place where its end products will finally go. Customer service is something of a counterintuitive example here, but it holds: natively speaking the language of one's target market is too huge of an advantage to ignore, as anyone who has had to deal with outsourced call centers can attest. Skilled manual labor (i.e. the trades) almost universally falls into this category as well: you cannot work unless you can work onsite. But with very few exceptions, location-tied fields don't get a lot of respect in the US, and this isn't just a matter of pay: these jobs are never considered even when politicians cry out for adding more "good jobs" to the economy. The only real exceptions to this are the fields of medicine and law, both of which are location-tied (you can't treat a patient unless you are with the patient, and while it is technically possible to practice law in places other than where one lives the complexities of jurisdiction make it quite difficult) yet make so much money as to essentially buy their way past the stigma.

This doesn't bode well for the US, and in particular for "born-Americans" (a group I'm defining as people born into American culture or steeped in it as an insider from an extremely young age, as opposed to immigrants, isolated cultural groups within the US, or non-Americans) in general. The value for the jobs that born-Americans respect just isn't in America anymore, and the jobs with value in America are not thought worth considering by born-Americans. The answers to this include either a greater focus on location-tied work (which in turn will require more respect for such work) or a correction in the cost of non-location-tied work to bring it closer to its value, but nobody really wants to do either of these things. Where, then, will their jobs come from?

20 July, 1969 (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#35818732)

That is the day the decline began. As soon as those guys touched down, the budget ax started swinging and interest just shriveled up. As if they decided there's nothing left to do.

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