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US Report Sees Perils To America's Tech Future

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the cutting-into-our-tv-time dept.

Government 373

dcblogs sends this excerpt from ComputerWorld: "The ability of the U.S. to compete globally is eroding, according to an Obama administration report released Friday. It described itself as a 'call to arms.' Titled 'The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States (PDF),' it points out a number of 'alarms,' including: the U.S. ran a trade surplus in 'advanced technology products,' which includes biotechnology products, computers, semiconductors and robotics, until 2002. In 2010, however, the U.S. 'ran an $81 billion trade deficit in this critically important sector.' In terms of federal research, in 1980 the federal government provided about 70% of all dollars spent on basic research, but since then the government's share of basic research funding given to all entities has fallen to 57%. It also says real median household income has stalled, and argues for policies that foster innovation."

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Fine. Kill software patents. (5, Insightful)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612592)

You want to foster innovation? Make it so a company doesn't have to spend zillions on lawyers to deal with trolls.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612628)

Not just software. Biotechnology patents appear headed for the same sort of train wreck from what little I know of them.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612646)

Why limit it to software patents? Our country did so well at the beginning (in part) because we completely ignored the old world's patents. Patents exist to hinder competitors, and are slowing down our progress.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612932)

We should bring back slavery too. We were much richer when we completely ignored the human-rights of an entire segment of the population.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (-1, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613268)

Hell yes, and while we're at it stop women voting. They may get dumb ideas like running for president if we don't nip all this political correctness in the bud.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (4, Insightful)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613056)

Why limit it to software patents? Our country did so well at the beginning (in part) because we completely ignored the old world's patents. Patents exist to hinder competitors, and are slowing down our progress.

Yes, we did better because we were able to ignore the "old world patents". Meaning, patents were bad when we weren't the ones that held them. I'm not sure that's really a good argument for getting rid of patents as it doesn't really speak to whether patents help or hinder innovation; it only shows that any nation not at the top of the patent pyramid has a vested interest in ignoring them.

Not saying I disagree with the premise that patents can actually hinder innovation, I just don't think your example provides any support for your claim. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613378)

I'm going to nit-pick your language a little bit: The patent-system exists because legislators and their constituents believe that it promotes innovation (limited monopolies provide an incentive to invent/patent/license). You might believe the results are the opposite, but that does not change the intent of the legislators. You are certainly right that some independent innovation is hindered because of the risk of patent-infringement liability. But you also needs to accept that we have trouble measuring the costs and benefits to all the economic actors in the system.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613426)

"Why limit it to software patents? Our country did so well at the beginning (in part) because we completely ignored the old world's patents. Patents exist to hinder competitors, and are slowing down our progress."

Completely irrelevant. A patent in one country still isn't valid in another. Try again.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612744)

Why not all patents?

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (4, Insightful)

Feyshtey (1523799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612882)

Instead they can spend a ton of money on research and development, produce a product, and a month later find themselves competing with a dozen competitors who invested nothing in research and developement and can therefor sell the product for a fraction of the cost and still make a profit. The innovators find themselves in a situation in which they made all the investment but cannot recoup the costs, while others are enriched without taking on the risk.

Explain to me how that fosters innovation.

There's a shade of grey in there to be discovered somewhere between everything and nothing.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (4, Insightful)

myurr (468709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613038)

Anything that is trivial to reverse engineer and steal in such a manner probably didn't require that much R&D and isn't worth a patent, certainly for the length of time current patents grant a monopoly.

The current situation is that companies with lots of money can hold smaller competitors to ransom by abusing the patent system. The worst case of abolishing patents is that companies with lots of money can spend more on marketing than smaller competitors and therefore dominate the market. At least with the latter we have a system where more people can build upon those products and try to do something novel, rather than the absurd situation we end up with at the moment where you HAVE to have a valuable patent portfolio that you're willing to use in legal action on other companies in order to compete.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (4, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613184)

Most things, software and mechanical, are trivial to reverse engineer.

A slight tweak on a screw can mean all the difference in a number of applications, leaving many engineers shaking their heads; this tweak, however, can easily be copied in a week's time.

Ease of replication is not a measure of effort, novelty, or invention.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (2)

Feyshtey (1523799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613322)

Alright, reverse your thinking then:
Some of the best inventions are simple and elegant solutions to historically cumbersome problems. You might one day have a eureka moment in which you realize that a very easily implemented bit of code can increase computations exponentially or work around some issue.

In today's world you can spend $1000 and wait a few weeks to get a patent that will allow you to retire in style. Whereas with no patents, that big evil corporation can sick 10 coders(or engineers, or whatever, pick your industry) on your design and have the idea unraveled in a day or two and implemented in their code within a month. Your retirement is canceled. THAT is the worst case scenario if you abolish patents.

The possibilities for anyone EXCEPT the massive corporations really coming out well with no protections on invention are miniscule. With the funding available to those corporations they can take your idea and have it produced at 1000x the rate and quantity, strongarm distributors and retailers, and saturate the market with a cheaper product. Do you think a bank is going to give you a loan to roll that product out knowing full well that there will be mimics on the market within weeks of your release that are cheaper and probably better? Do you think you can sell your idea to a corporation? Why would they buy it knowing their competitors will steal it?

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613132)

FYI, the situation you describe is a good thing. The first company needs to keep innovating once competitors come out, not stop as you seem to think they should. Look to the fashion industry to see how it's done. There are TONS of copycats out there but good designers have no problem making products people will pay good $$$ for... why? Because they never stop innovating, and that's the key you are missing.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (2)

Feyshtey (1523799) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613412)

You assume that the inventor is a corporation that can continue a trend of innovation, and not instead you or me in a garage somewhere.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613142)

0) Most ideas are a dime a dozen, the difficult bit is actually doing it well and successfully. Despite all their efforts on copying China isn't going to get a man on the moon by next month. Why should someone who just happened to patent some obvious idea be able to stop others who could be better able at implementing the idea?
1) The patent system does not scale. It's too hard for the patent office to determine "nonobvious". It's much easier for them to just issue a patent and let the courts deal with it. The cost/punishment for filing obvious patents is not high enough to discourage a typical corporation - so they can just try different variations till they get what they want.
2) From what I see patents reward trolls and "one clicks" more than genuine innovators, and they slow down innovation more than encourage it. Can't be bothered finding that "shade of grey", as far as I'm concerned the "baby" is long dead and might as well be thrown out with the bathwater.
3) Much stuff is bought because of marketing, branding and distribution, not because there was lots of R&D on it.

Copyright on the other hand is fine, but for a much shorter time.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (2)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613196)

> Instead they can spend a ton of money on research and development, produce a product, and a month later
> find themselves competing with a dozen competitors who invested nothing in research and developement ...

This isn't an either/or -- regardless of what some comments here would imply. :) It's not a binary solution set: either we do away with all patents, or continue with the present system.

As originally envisioned, patents were to protect novel and unique ideas and inventions. The problem, of course, is that nowadays, virtually anything can be patented, regardless of prior art or lack of novelty.

So to answer your (implied) question: if you spend a ton of money on research and produce a product, it depends. If it's something truly new and unique, yes, you should have patent protection. But if it's just a slight rework of an older idea, no, I DON'T think taht should be patentable. In that case, yes, you WILL get killed by competition, but I would argue that if it took you "tons of research and development" to come up with something like that, your R&D department is incompetent and maybe economic darwinism ought to put YOU in its sights. :)

My own humble proposals are actually simple. This isn't rocket science.

1. Eliminate so-called "design" and "method" patents.

2. If it can be demonstrated that a person of similar intelligence could have developed the same idea in a "clean room" environment (i.e., without reverse engineering), the idea isn't patentable.

We could argue about this one, but here goes anyway:

3. No device that uses, as a primary component, a patented device, can itself then be patented. Example: I patent a new type of widget. You develop a way to use that widget in an airplane wing and try to patent that use. My patent is approved, but yours should be denied.

Finally, for the nth time: LOSER PAY LEGISLATION. The US is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn't have this OBVIOUS protection. If the loser of a spurious lawsuit had to pay the costs, this would take care of the remaining litigation surrounding scurrilous, stupid patents.

Just my opinion, and worth exactly what you paid for it. :)

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613310)

There's a shade of grey in there to be discovered somewhere between everything and nothing.

You must be new here.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613434)

OK, how about protecting patents only until the cost of investment has been earned, then you have to compete fairly. Real costs, no bullshit hollywood accounting.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612968)

You want to foster innovation? Make it so a company doesn't have to spend zillions on lawyers to deal with trolls.

Yeah, just create a karma system and let your users identify and mute the trolls.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613036)

You want to foster innovation? Make it so a company doesn't have to spend zillions on lawyers to deal with trolls.

Might also want to see there are fewer tax breaks available to companies who shift work out of the country.

I spent a portion of my life in Michigan, where tax incentives were all over the place, trying to keep GM, Ford, Chrysler in the towns they were in, but even after all the tax breaks and assistance the companies still moved a lot of manufacturing to Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Japan, etc. Now almost everyone is moving manufacturing to Thailand, China or Vietnam - with reform efforts in Burma expect investment (read: moving manufacturing and research there as well.)

Discouraging the outright offshoring of everything isn't necessarily protectionist and certainly is in line when confronting countries like China, where they've pegged their currency artificially low to draw in research, manufacturing, etc. It's how they are growing their economy, not entirely unlike how the Japan government subsidised exports for decades, which drew jobs and wealth into Japan, by way of research, manufacturing, etc.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (4, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613114)

You want to foster innovation? Make it so a company doesn't have to spend zillions on lawyers to deal with trolls.

You're overstating the problem. For 100 gold I can hire a fighter and a cleric. Problem solved.

Re:Fine. Kill software patents. (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613456)

Make it so that websites can't be taken offline at the drop of a hat (or a suspected case of copyright infringement).

You can't have a thriving economy and strong "IP" protections, because the very purpose of said protections is to allow "temporary" monopolies. Monopolies do not create a thriving economy. Monopolies lead to stagnation and regression.

The purpose of the temporary monopoly is to give the creater or inventor incentive to create and invent. It is not to give the creater or inventor lifetime exclusivity to the creation or invention.

But none of your "advisors" is going to tell you that.

Easy way to fix. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612630)

Kill the patent system, it protects big companies against smaller ones. Big companies produce status quo, smaller ones have to innovate to survive
Make it illegal to outsource, every time I get hired to fixed outsourced code, I usually end up totally scrapping it and starting over.

Re:Easy way to fix. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612734)

Make it illegal to outsource, every time I get hired to fixed outsourced code, I usually end up totally scrapping it and starting over.

Should go farther than that. It should be illegal to hire someone at less than $50.00 an hour. Oh, and they must be over 30 years old and have been in America for at least 25 years. Yup, that will fix the problems.

Re:Easy way to fix. (4, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612844)

But it also does the opposite. Imagine spending years to bring a product to market only to see it reverse engineered and copied (and sold cheaper, to a wider audience) by a company with the resources to do it -- you're out of business before you even get started. You essentially just did their R&D for them.

The patent system has much room for improvement, but it does serve a useful purpose.

Re:Easy way to fix. (5, Insightful)

myurr (468709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613160)

If it's that trivial to reverse engineer is it really worth the patent? For discussions sake let's take James Dyson's vacuum cleaners. They are of a novel design, likely took a fair bit of R&D, and by most standards are probably worth a patent (despite copying the basic principles from elsewhere and simply applying them to a vacuum cleaner).

How long a monopoly should he have been granted for that design? Ten years? Twenty? If the answer is one to two years then that is probably the lead time on designing a good product in that sector even when you are reverse engineering the design. That time would still be enough for Dyson to establish themselves in the market, make a good return on their R&D, and then compete against the established players in a free market. Dyson would have been forced to compete on quality, value, and other traditional differentiators rather than being able to just benefit from the patent granted monopoly.

That introduction of competition soon after the initial release is actually likely to spur more innovation from many more companies and will ultimately benefit the consumer far more than granting any single entity a monopoly.

Perhaps a high quality patent system with a shorter time limit on patents is a lot better than the current system; but I would argue we are unlikely to ever get that, and that having no patent system at all is at worst the next best option.

Re:Easy way to fix. (1)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613118)

Why make it illegal then? It seems like you're getting extra jobs just because of it.

2002 - the year of the outsource (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612652)

Anyone remember the turn of the century when you could speak with a technical support individual and actually understand eachother?

Way to go outsourcing to the lowest bidder.

Re:2002 - the year of casual racism (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612910)

Ah, casual racism, alive and well in today's America.

Re:2002 - the year of casual racism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613158)

Nothing racist about that. GP was commenting on language, not race.

Old News (5, Insightful)

Moof123 (1292134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612656)

Folks have been shouting these warnings from the rooftops for quite a while. First we sent the factory, now we are sending the associated engineering/science jobs over too. Other countries are investing more in education, while we have been busy making mocking of smart people an art form.

Re:Old News (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612940)

And reality tv don't forget that.

Re:Old News (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613084)

And reality tv don't forget that.

He wasn't. >_<;

Re:Old News (2)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612978)

What you have is a shortage of healthy, able bodied young people. Everything else flows from this. If you start now, you should see improvement in 20 years time. Good luck; I think you will need it.

Re:Old News (0)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613398)

Look at employment numbers. There's a lot of unemployed young people. That tells us the contrary, that for the circumstances, the US has too many young people.

Re:Old News (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612992)

The threaqds above this are bashing patents, but this is the real problem. America needs to culturally value the geek. It's better culturally than when I was in school, but we don't seem to have nearly the strength in our engineering programs these days - not that the schools are necessarily worse, but the number of American-born students in the progams isn't where it should be, and the tuition bubble really isn't helping!

Even though it's pretty obvious these days that only a MESH degree will give you any chance of earning your way out of your tuition debt, there is still no cultural bias towards these programs the way there is elsewhere in the world. If the smart people are here, the design jobs will be here too. Top-notch companies hire where the talent is, and if we lose that we're pretty much doomed.

Re:Old News (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613026)

That's true, but this time it is coming from the government, which is actually a bit new.

Re:Old News (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613318)

And, given the new idea for a Pacific Free Trade Agreement, quite a bit hypocritical.

Propaganda? (2, Informative)

Troyusrex (2446430) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612664)

I always become concerned about the objectivity of something when I see statistics like this: "In terms of federal research, in 1980 the federal government provided about 70% of all dollars spent on basic research, but since then the government's share of basic research funding given to all entities has fallen to 57%." That's pretty meaningless. the government could be giving 300% more than before but private entities are giving so much more it erodes the government's percent share. I'd take this report with a HUGE grain of salt.

Re:Propaganda? (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612822)

If you read it, the theme is, "The government needs to spend a lot of money directly on research in order for research to happen". I don't believe that. I think the out-of-control patent system is what's messed up our research. The place where I work does things in specific ways in order to be within the realm of our patents and (as far as I can tell) outside others' patents. That's stupid. We should all be able to use the best system possible that we can think of, without getting sued by competitors who think of the same ideas.

Re:Propaganda? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613002)

The problem is, "best system possible that we can think of" is very vague. It may NOT be obvious until someone else finds it obvious. I bet a lot of the old respected patents are full of this. The problem for your system becomes... YOU DIDN'T THINK OF THIS because you just copied me/us/them. And letting that slide pretty much renders ALL patents useless and demotivates inventors. Minus the "business model" patents... and "software/logic" patents, I think the system works pretty well.

Re:Propaganda? (4, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613096)

If you read it, the theme is, "The government needs to spend a lot of money directly on research in order for research to happen". I don't believe that. I think the out-of-control patent system is what's messed up our research. The place where I work does things in specific ways in order to be within the realm of our patents and (as far as I can tell) outside others' patents.

If you are doing that, you are probably doing commercialization research, which, while it is research, isn't the basic research for which the report is discussing the role of federal funding.

While basic research sometimes results in patents, it at least as often is producing results which advance knowledge without providing immediately useful and patentable applications, which is then picked up by firms that do commercialization for further work on which patentable applications are based.

Basic research for the most part is very high risk, very long time to payoff, and very little certainty as to what market anything of value that is discovered will end up finding application in, all of which are factors which make it unattractive for private, profit-seeking investors. The benefits are diffuse and often go to people other than those spending the money to the work initially (you could change that by making facts patentable, rather than invention, but that's, I think most would agree, an even bigger source of problems than anything in the current patent regime.)

We should all be able to use the best system possible that we can think of, without getting sued by competitors who think of the same ideas.

Are you arguing for eliminating patents, or are you arguing for some kind of mandatory licensing regime? Either would serve the goal you describe, though the impacts on investment currently done where the expectation of patentable results would seem likely to be different.

Re:Propaganda? (0)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613300)

If you read it, the theme is, "The government needs to spend a lot of money directly on research in order for research to happen".

I read it as "The government wants to pick the winners and losers again."

I do believe that.

Re:Propaganda? (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612966)

It sounds to me more like "my term in office is coming to a close, I have pretty much not accomplished anything, this is getting released to say we need to do something without me actually having to do something about it."

Re:Propaganda? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613170)

You hit the nail on the head. My thought was, "Unless we know how much the federal government is spending today on basic research versus how much it spent on basic research in 1980 (adjusted for inflation), percentages don't tell us anything." Additionally, the fact that they chose to present it as percentage of total spending on basic research suggests that in fact federal spending on basic research has increased at well above the inflation rate (just like most of the federal budget). Actually, I just read the summary of the report where it states that government funding of basic research has increased, but not by as much as the authors think it should have.

What did you expect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612666)

What do you expect when you canned Nasa's human space flights.

Re:What did you expect (2)

nomadic (141991) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612926)

NASA was doing small science on a big science budget, and was notoriously risk adverse, avoiding innovation in order to run the same tired old experiments.

the numbers are wrong (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612680)

1995 - Intel/MS and a few other US companies sold dell some parts, dell made a computer in texas and exported it
2011 - intel/ms and others ship the parts to china and the computer comes back to the US

the numbers only look at the cost of products coming in. it's been well established that apple and every other US company keeps most of the value of tech products and the manufacturing cost the chinese get is tiny. that's why acer and asus have net margins like food companies

Re:the numbers are wrong (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613228)

Not quite. Once China started doing some stuff and did a good job, we sent more. And now it's gotten to where we simply don't have the process engineering expertise to fabricate a lot of really high-tech stuff, and it will take years to regain that expertise. You can't learn that kind of stuff from a book, you only really learn it from experience, and since we no longer have any factories doing some of those things, there's nowhere to get experience. So China makes parts we have no capability of making even if we wanted to. At least not for a decade would we be competitive.

Re:the numbers are wrong (2)

NeumannCons (798322) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613256)

2015 - intel/ms produce all goods in China - the computer sent to the US
2020 - intel/ms declare bankruptcy. Chinese companies produce all parts and software, computer sent to the US

The problem is not just the assembly cost, which is in fact marginal. The problem is the costs all down the supply chain. All the components inside, say, an Ipod are made in China. All the profits made producing and selling those items stay in China. I don't think you could even produce a computer in the US today. You'd have to get and ship all your parts from Asia. Hard drives, memory, displays, discrete components - all made overseas. The huge support base for producing all electronics have moved overseas. If a $200 Ipod costs Apple $150 in parts, $10 assembly/packaging/shipping and $40 profit, that's still $150 that flowed into Chinese economy - not the US economy.

Prototyping and design used to be done here. It's now easier to get the engineering talent overseas where engineers have access and contact with the people producing the actual parts they need to use in their own products. We've lost the production capability, we're about to lose knowledge about how to even create the devices we invented.

Re:the numbers are wrong (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613372)

2011- Intel/MS create the parts in Bangalore, stamp them out in Taiwan, sell them to China, who assembles them into computers which come back to the US.

Fixed that for you. Implication- the only exportable commodity the United States has any more is MBAs and capital investment.

Irony follows (5, Funny)

Leolo (568145) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612710)

What we need is to extend copyright, broader and stronger patents and generaly to beef up all IP laws. How about automatic injunctions for all accusations of patent infringement, like SOPA and PIPA gives copyright holders? That should spur on innovation!

Oh, and cut taxes and gov't spending!

Re:Irony follows (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613106)

Chapter 4, "Moving Forward," does mention patents but in language so brief and vague it could mean anything: "[ensure] that the intellectual property system continues to function in a way that encourages growth."

It's the word "continues" in the preceding statement that suggest the government actually does have its head up its ass.

Re:Irony follows (1)

Lexx Greatrex (1160847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613282)

What we need is to extend copyright, broader and stronger patents and generaly to beef up all IP laws. How about automatic injunctions for all accusations of patent infringement, like SOPA and PIPA gives copyright holders? That should spur on innovation!

Oh, and cut taxes and gov't spending!

The only unfortunate thing about your statement is that its brilliant irony will be lost on the masses. So I will frame it in a way even the politicians can understand... Once upon a time there was a boy who cried wolf. One evening the villagers heard a commotion over the Internet. They assembled in the town square around the body of a slain child. It was only then they realized there was no boy, it was the wolf all along.

Bad press (4, Insightful)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612742)

Yeah, well maybe if large chunks of our congress and populace didn't spend time spouting how scientists and technical people are biased and corrupt and don't know any better than plain folks, and we didn't pass laws that strangled technical innovation in a fashion obvious to anyone with a technical background, more kids would be interested in those fields

horse left barn long ago (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612748)

Slick Willie gave our horses to the Chinese in the name of "free trade" and they are now raising and breeding their own horses. Shrub was also in Beijing's pocket since it was the only way he could keep the dollars flowing for his pet projects like Iraq and other things his neo-con handlers wanted. How can one be surprised that a country of motivated citizens would want to innovate themselves out of grunt assembly labor and into design?

Free trade is a levelling agent. It will pull up the lowest and pull down the highest. The anomaly of cheap Chinese imports at WalMart only exists as long as the American worker makes more than that world average. Once the wages are re-balanced the American worker will be no further ahead than he/she was before the flood gates to China opened. Also, trickle down economics works just fine -- money flows from the rich to the poor via the steepest slope. That path does not pass through the middle class American pocket book -- that's what the neo-cons and the corporate mouth pieces don't want you to realize. Put in a more geeky way, bad things happen when you dead short a battery -- free trade policies and speed trading eliminate the impedence and are going to lead to further economic problems -- maybe explosion and maybe just regression to the global mean (if we are lucky).

Re:horse left barn long ago (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613108)

thats all fine and dandy but it went into full force in the mid 1980's, place blame where it belongs

Re:horse left barn long ago (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613270)

thats all fine and dandy but it went into full force in the mid 1980's, place blame where it belongs

I think it's pretty reasonable to say Nixon's administration presided over the beginning of all this.

Surprised? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612772)

Surprised? You shouldn't be. When the patent system is such that innovators are punished by large corporations with bull**** patents and the gov't is run by the MPAA and RIAA, what did you expect? The system downright halts innovations, not encourages them. The system needs to be removed and re-thought, not added-to like the Nazi-style SOPA bill. That will make things 100x worse, I guarantee it.

you cant spend (5, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612796)

30+ years chiseling away at workers rights, outsourcing skilled trade to other countries, and eviscerating education funding
only to reflect upon your work and remark, "gosh, people arent that smart and we dont do much with technology but consume it"

you chose it as a model of hypercapitalism. when we agreed to shuffle the working class, the middle class, into early retirement, fast food dead end jobs, and bankrupted private pensions it was a choice. when we caved the stock market and drained dry the last cent from the 401k of the middle class, we did so knowing it could only make the rich richer, and the poor poorer. as we danced in our lemon socialism and hapilly bailed out the wealthiest conglomerates and banks, we were instructed that the hardship would be socialized and the profit would be privatized. "americans," the ones that do most of the living and working in our society, dont do much because they cant do much; this has been assured by the government of the people, for the people, and it has no right to question its work.

we are reaping the benefit of generations of obscene wealth, fueled by trickle down reagonomics and stoked by politicians who consider market capitalism a golden calf that does no evil. Our society is driven by profit, and so long as the goal is profit, the outcome and returns will be consolidated to a plutocracy that doesnt care if little johnny learns to read or write, so long as he works enough hours at the walmart to consume the products at the walmart.

Re:you cant spend (1)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612846)

Wow. You can write. Well.

Re:you cant spend (1)

LeanSystems (2513566) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612952)

If only his keyboard had a shift key.

Re:you cant spend (5, Funny)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613336)

If only his keyboard had a shift key.

His decision not to use the Shift key is a protestation against the lack of upward mobility in today's society. Those of us in the lower cases have no hope of joining the capitals; the capitalist Shift key merely offers the hollow promise that we may someday rise to the top.

So, yeah; the Shift key is clearly a capitalist conspiracy.

Re:you cant spend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613082)

The OP is not a good writer. The point they are making is burred under layers of badly formatted sentences, hyperbole and multi-syllabic words. Good writing is clear and to the point. Good writing is easily read and easily understood. It conveys meaning. Good writing does not show off unneeded vocabulary nor twist sentences into knots. You have confused good writing with trying to sound intelligent.

Re:you cant spend (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613262)

What hyper-capitalism? Not a single administration in the past 20 years saw a reduction in regulation. That's a direct reduction in degree of control over business by business owners. Oddly enough, the only administration which tried to fix the education system was Republican and its efforts were met with largest resistance from the teachers. The world is exactly opposite of what you proclaim it to be.

What innovation? (3, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612800)

This [slashdot.org] one?

Make me remember Discworld's gods, that were pretty dumb in general because there is no evolutionary pressure when you are omnipotent. Why try to innovate if you can simply patent common sense and copyright culture forever, push your patent/copyright laws in all the world and take money from that?

Re:What innovation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612982)

Haaa refreshing point of view. But that would only be a patch. Inovation and creativeness only come in its true form when someone can dedicate its whole tough process to imagination and thinking. No one can in our society.. well actually 1% of the world can, they posses 99% of the rest of the world. But those are way too preocupied in making it 99.1% instead of using what they have to chage things... thy are happy the way they are. When no one has to worry about the rent about the food about shelter can we really be creative.

Re:What innovation? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613420)

1% of the world is a couple of DINKS earning a combined household income of $68,000/year. I used to work in a very liberal environment that was full of 'em.

Rome syndrome anyone? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612834)

An empire that is starting to buckle under its own weight of ridiculous spending and incessant world conquest. Sound familiar?

Easy (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612838)

JUST FUCKING STOP WAGING SENSLESS $3 TRILLION+ WARS
#mother of all facepalms#

On a serious note (non-US citizen): It is a shame seeing this once great country going to ruins. Unfortunately I can't see Obama being able to do much about this as long as the GOP/the Teabaggers are going apeshit on sanity.

so (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612886)

So we're saying that an increase in privately funded r&d is a *bad* thing?

Re:so (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613052)

Moreso that there is not enough privately funded research , especially "basic" or "theoretical" research. Theoretical research does not pay off quickly enough for those that privately finance research. Most modern tech was based on theoretical discoveries from 25-50 years ago.

Re:so (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613368)

Is the change in the R&D percentage because of an increase in privately funded R&D, or a decrease in government funded R&D?

Or, more to the point: Has R&D funding increased or decreased?

We need to compete globally (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612892)

But only with approved companies and countries. Doesn't that sound like a wonderful industry to be in - consulting who to trade aggressively with and who you shouldn't trade with (unless there's slim odds you'll get caught)?

In terms of household income, adjusted for inflation, the US has been going backwards for decades - not simply as wealth left he country, but as the means of generating GDP were pushed off shore.

Consider this: Workers at Company A buy goods from Companies B and C, while workers at Companies B and C buy from the companies other than their employers. Now, Company A lays off all but sales and marketing, putting manufacturing and packaging into offshore hands. Companies B and C have smaller pool to sell goods to. So... Company B lays off all but a few front office, outsourcing the remaining sales and marketing outside the region. The pool of those who can buy from Company A and Company B are mostly Company C. When Company C follows suit, who's left to buy from A, B and C?

Granted, that's rather simplified, but it is the exodus which has been ongoing since the first Transistor radios arrived from Japan, decades ago. A presence in the US isn't even necessary as almost every function but Board of Directors and CEO can be done elsewhere.

A grim prospect. But ... this should make US a fertile ground for moving back into, in theory.

nanny state (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38612916)

How can you legislate innovation? How 'bout the govt get the hell out of the way so people are free to innovate on their own?

Re:nanny state (1)

captbob2002 (411323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613006)

So long as what you do doesn't look remotely like some else's patents....that they are just sitting on? Gov't out of the way? Out of the way OF WHAT? Private enterprise does not fund basic research anymore, they barely fund development of their own products. The rich making sure they get richer...and that NO ONE ELSE DOES is the problem, not the so-called 'nanny state.'

It's like a sad joke. (4, Informative)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612922)

Nobody can figure out why fewer Americans want to study for STEM careers, but everybody agrees that the solution is bring in more visa workers to take the jobs of US STEM workers.

In regard to STEM training, the report makes an argument for immigration reform that enables foreign students to remain in the U.S. It doesn't offer specifics on an approach for accomplishing this, or look at the debate around this issue. In 2010, there were 7.6 million STEM workers in the U.S., representing about one in 18 workers. Computer and math occupations account for close to half the STEM employment.

The U.S., the report said, produces fewer STEM graduates relative to other developed countries. Citing data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED), the report said that in 2009, nearly 13% of U.S. graduates with bachelor's degrees were in STEM fields, near the bottom of OCED countries.

"Significant economic competitors -- such as South Korea (26.3%), Germany (24.5%), Canada (19.2%), and the United Kingdom (18.1%) -- are on the long list of countries producing a much higher percentage of STEM graduates," the report said.

One in five STEM workers is foreign born, with 63% coming from Asia, the report said. The foreign-born share of STEM workers with graduate degrees is 44%.

Re:It's like a sad joke. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613198)

...Because there's too much glitz and glam and they're conned into believing they, too, can be an American Idol.

Re:It's like a sad joke. (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613260)

If you actually think about how much effort it would take to fix the American education system to produce better students, versus the effort it would take to increase immigration for knowledge workers, it totally makes sense to argue for immigration. So really, America is still the land of opportunity -- for people who went to school somewhere else and got a decent education.

Average math scores (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612942)

The report on page 1-8 has a nice graph of average math scores. However it occurs to me that what matters most for innovation is not average scores but the number of students above a certain level of ability. Basically, if a country has enough high-scoring math students to fill the pipeline of scientists and engineers, it doesn't matter how many low-performing students are dragging down the mean. One of the reasons large Asian countries (China, India, and I would guess Indonesia) are well poised for technical progress is that they have a large population and hence a large talent pool. As long as they can efficiently discover and cultivate their talent they should be fine.

I have never seen anyone talk about the number of high-performing students a country really needs to fill its pipeline. But if you want to talk about being competitive, especially in the next decade where pressure on public budgets at all levels will go from bad to worse, doesn't it make more sense to concentrate on finding the good students and giving them opportunities (scholarships, etc.), and on bumping the above-average ones over that threshold into excellence, than to continue vain attempts to improve the average?

Re:Average math scores (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613174)

... doesn't it make more sense to concentrate on finding the good students and giving them opportunities (scholarships, etc.), and on bumping the above-average ones over that threshold into excellence, than to continue vain attempts to improve the average?

What you're saying is anathema to the majority of liberals in the U.S.

Re:Average math scores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613274)

What you're saying is anathema to every single educator in the entire world.

Re:Average math scores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613244)

This is the US of A, everybody is equal in front of the laws, unless you are politicians, who 99.99% is a jerk, but everyone still love you.

Wow, I needed a report to tell me that (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38612958)

In other breaking news, U.S. manufacturing has mostly been outsourced overseas, government regulation has been largely thrown out the window since the 80's, the deficit is too high, and we spend too much on our military.

New economy - post industrial age (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613004)

The world is facing a major economic turmoil.

Basic manufacturing labor is in 2 forms
1) local construction this is non-portable and while modernization gains have happened. It is still taking many man hours to make a house.
2) assembly (this is gadgets or cars) the finished good is portable modernization has applied the Ford factor and there is incredible pressure to reduce the man/hour cost.
          a) finished goods are globally transportable, means manpower is used where manpower is lowest cost
          b) mechanization is reducting the needed manpower for assembly, every year there is less for someone to do to assemble 100 of something
          c) this somewhat applies to farming

The great industrial revolution provided jobs for lots of people to move from farming to manufacturing. We are now facing the reverse prospect where the mechinical revolution is displacing manufacturing jobs. There really are no replacement jobs, "tech" jobs require education and there are not really enough demand.

The post-industrial age is upon us. There really are not places for most of the people to work.

Re:New economy - post industrial age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613072)

But what will we do of the excess people then ?

Re:New economy - post industrial age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613162)

Soylent Green!

Re:New economy - post industrial age (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613266)

>> But what will we do of the excess people then ?

sarcasm -> solyent green

Very Real !!
There will be war/revolution.

A very large mostly idle population always leads to unrest. The eventual victors apply their population against others in war. The losers suffer internal revolution. The question is which governments move to the optimal solution first. The idle population problem is solved in two manners by the solution. However the solution is not permanent unless you can prevent the population from recovering.

The proper solution is we live the life of leisure we should have with modern efficiencies working 10 hours a week each. That will not happen.
So we get one of the other solutions.

Re:New economy - post industrial age (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613452)

In the past those large idle populations have had problems getting food on the table - we can now provide for people who don't work (whether or not that happens depends on where you are). If people are well-fed and can find shelter without having a job will we see the same levels of discontent?

The real problem (5, Insightful)

cjcela (1539859) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613100)

I think that the larger issue with America these days is connected to our cultural tendency about measuring success in terms of money and power. In the newer generations, this is displacing the very values that made the nation great, and resulting in short term and immediate results kind of thinking. We are teaching our youth to think like a 5-year old with a tantrum, with an insane sense of entitlement and no responsibility. And the older generations are not much better. Add to this the fact that there are no visionaries among the people with power to make changes in the nation, be it the heads of large corporations, the congress, or elected officers. Long term is thought as "5 years down the road". That does not scale for the size and complexity of America today. We need a 100-year plan, not a "will do whatever necessary to get re-elected next year" plan. And this long term plan should not be based on controlling the rest of the world or waging wars when other countries do not submit to our might; we should use our resources wisely to take care of our own people instead, and shift to a sustainable economic model so we do not need resources from other countries. The only reason we have not collapsed onto ourselves is that the rest of the world is messed up too. But we can do so much better than that. My impression is that unless we start thinking long term and incorporate healthier values into education, to slowly revert this tendency, the decline of America will not only continue but accelerate in all areas, including technology, quality of life for the average citizen, and the position of our country in the world. At this rate, we will be a part of the 3rd world in 50 years. We can do better for our children.

Re:The real problem (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613446)

What's even more of a problem: a lot of the business leaders are looking at the mess and thinking "Well, at least I have the money to make sure that I don't go down the drain like the rest of the people."

We can do better, but a lot of people disagree on what the better is and how to achieve it. The drawbacks of a democracy: if the majority thinks that a certain set of goals is the way to go, we will slowly move towards it.

fortunately for Obama administration (0)

superwiz (655733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613194)

It's not their problem anymore.

Competition (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613236)

"The ability of the U.S. to compete globally is eroding."

That's fine with me. It's not a race.

Anyone remember... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613250)

...the 1984 David Report on the sorry state of mathematics in the US, and it's followup (Renewing U.S. Mathematics: A Plan for the 1990s)?

Like last year's budget committee we assemble a team of experts in their field, have them analyze the problem and propose solutions. We then ignore everything they say and carry on with the behavior that got us into the current mess.

Accounting Loopholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38613316)

Do you think this might have something to do with the Irish Tax Loop holes that companies use (among others)?

Re:Accounting Loopholes (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613410)

Actually, it might have something to do with the lack of NEED to use those loopholes. When the tax burden was higher, corporations had the choice of growing enterprise by investing in R&D or losing fraction of that money by paying taxes on it. This was a tax loop hole. Now that the tax burden is lower, they make more money by leveraging their lower borrowing cost to buy out smaller players. The theory is that the money which get spent on buying out smaller players gets reinvested in more new enterprises. So this makes the R&D cycle more agile (no connection to Agile(TM) intended).

Idiocracy (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613402)

So, Idiocracy [imdb.com] was a prophetic documentary ;)

"Government share??" (2)

Hasai (131313) | more than 2 years ago | (#38613418)

"In terms of federal research, in 1980 the federal government provided about 70% of all dollars spent on basic research, but since then the government's share of basic research funding given to all entities has fallen to 57%."

You mean to tell me that this is part of the beef? That Great God Government (beat head three times on the floor in the direction of Washington) now has less control over what people can research?

Can someone explain to me why this is a bad thing?

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