Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Government: The Mother Of (Much) Invention

The New York Times obituary for Douglas C. Englebart, identified as the “Computer Visionary Who Invented the Mouse,” is fascinating reading, in part because Englebart, an Oregon farm boy, was in many ways the father of modern networked computing. Beginning in the early 1960s, he put together a team of engineers and computer scientists, funded by the federal government, that developed a prototype for most of the computer tools we all take for granted today...

Mariana Mazzucato, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex, has been making the point very effectively in lectures and a new book, The Entrepreneurial State, that the real innovation engine in the global economy is not business, nor the market, but the government. A recent story about Mazzucato in Forbes cites her view that long-term, patient capital–provided by government–is the absolute prerequisite for breakthrough innovation.
“Her case study for myth-debunking is the iPhone, that icon of American corporate innovation. Each of its core technologies–capacitive sensors, solid-state memory, the click wheel, GPS, internet, cellular communications, Siri, microchips, touchscreen—came from research efforts and funding support of the U.S. government and military."

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