Monday, January 24, 2011

Another place America is declining: Innovation

My brother-in-law posted this link on Facebook over the weekend.

Eric Savitz wrote a column for Forbes with the warning: Danger: America Is Losing Its Edge In Innovation. Mr. Savitz starts with:

I’ve visited more than 100 countries in the past several years, meeting people from all walks of life, from impoverished children in India to heads of state. Almost every adult I’ve talked with in these countries shares a belief that the path to success is paved with science and engineering.

In fact, scientists and engineers are celebrities in most countries. They’re not seen as geeks or misfits, as they too often are in the U.S., but rather as society’s leaders and innovators. In China, eight of the top nine political posts are held by engineers. In the U.S., almost no engineers or scientists are engaged in high-level politics, and there is a virtual absence of engineers in our public policy debates.

Why does this matter? Because if American students have a negative impression – or no impression at all – of science and engineering, then they’re hardly likely to choose them as professions. Already, 70% of engineers with PhD’s who graduate from U.S. universities are foreign-born. Increasingly, these talented individuals are not staying in the U.S – instead, they’re returning home, where they find greater opportunities.

I agree with many of his points about the importance of technology and innovation. He focuses on the amount of money the US government is spending on innovation compared to other countries. I would like to know what our overall investment is, including universities and businesses. I don't believe his solution of more government investment would automatically improve things. I've seen too many instances of government misuse of our taxes.

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