Huffington Post – When It Comes to Innovation, Is America Becoming a Third World Country?

Sat, Apr 3, 2010

Commentary, DIY, News

Huffington Post – When It Comes to Innovation, Is America Becoming a Third World Country?

Here’s a bit of an extremely important question recently raised at the Huffington Post.

Is America turning into a third world country? That was the provocative topic of a panel I took part in last week at a conference sponsored by The Economist entitled “Innovation: Fresh Thinking For The Ideas Economy.”

Once upon a time, the United States was the world’s dominant innovator — partly because we didn’t have much competition. As a result of the destruction wreaked by WWII, the massive migration of brainpower to the U.S. caused by the war, and huge amounts of government spending, America had the innovation playing field largely to itself. None of these factors exist as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.

America now has plenty of countries it’s competing with — many of which are much more serious about innovation than we are. Just look at the numbers:

A report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation looked at the progress made over the last decade in the area of innovation. Out of the 40 countries and regions it examined, the U.S. ranked dead last.

If you get a chance please take the time to read the whole story. This is of critical importance! We’re a bunch of innovative people here; let’s SHOW IT! Support the Maker movement, the DIY movement, the garage inventors and local Fab Labs, the artisans and grease monkeys. The consumption era is over! Let the second industrial revolution BEGIN!

6 Responses to “Huffington Post – When It Comes to Innovation, Is America Becoming a Third World Country?”

  1. Tim Says:

    I think we are already seeing this. Just look at all the blogs that are related to creating and innovating – make, instructables, etsy, etc. I think we are going to see a resurgence of garage-based companies in the near future.


  2. RickRussellTX Says:

    Indeed, it’s become a truism that the manufacturing sector is failing. Or more accurately, an un-truism. After growing slowly in the early 2000s, manufacturing value-added started to grow dramatically.

    Employment in manufacturing has gone down, of course. But it’s cheaper to maintain a factory floor full of these ( than to pay for a line of employees doing less precise work.

    The challenge is to think of interesting, wealth-creating things to make with this technology.


  3. VTScoot Says:

    Not to be Devil’s advocate (well maybe a little), but “innovation,” when discussed in terms like this, generally directly aids and abets “consumerism.” Without consumerism, there is little call for innovation, because innovation often is just code for “inventing new stuff for us to buy.”

    Not in all cases, of course, but frequently enough. It’s an interesting paradox.


  4. Steve Guzman Says:

    Tim! I think you’re right. I’d love to see it grow even more! I remember the first time I read about the FabLab project (small, prototyping center with tools and equipment for use by “ordinary people”) from The Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT and I fell in love with the idea.

    Rick! I don’t mind if robots take over the tedium of accurate manufacturing, I’m just hoping the army of people it replaces now get to spend their time thinking up new and improved innovations to feed those robots. I’ve been day dreaming, over the last couple of years, about kicking off an open-source scooter design and inviting people from around the world to build and improve on the idea. Talk about design EVOLUTION! After a couple of decades it could evolve into the best vehicle on the road!

    VTScoot! You are so correct, but I think the idea breaks when the focus for an end result is “profit margin”. If the focus is on things like “quality”, “pride”, “utility”, “necessity”, “challenge” then it works on SO many levels. You end up with little works of art and heirloom pieces… things that retain value and things you are proud to hand down and people are happy to receive. Raw consumerism that focuses on QUANTITY over quality is $#!+.

    A family member once gave me an antique bottle cap opener and I LOVE that thing… and my son or daughter will love it when I’m done with it… and if they don’t want it, someone else will. What will happen to all those “high profit margin”, made-in-China bottle openers I’ve got? They will be worthless and find their end rusting in a pile some day.


  5. ripleyradio2.0 Says:

    ITIF I never heard of this group?


    • Steve Norton Says:

      FYI, ITIF is a DC think tank that focuses on the role innovaton and information technology play in the econony. Congressional leaders and Administration officials regularly seek out and take our counsel. We have only been around four years but are making an impact on changing the debate on innovation and economic competitiveness. I encourage you to explore our website.

      Steve Norton


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