Sunday May 21, 2017

Has America become anti-innovation?

Listen 8:33

"Pointless"... "Might make you hate humanity"... "Needs To Be Squeezed Out Of Existence"... just a few of the headlines for Juicero, a $400 high- tech juicing machine that uses $8 packs that, it turns out, you can squeeze by hand.

It was the punchline of the tech world last month.

Ben Tarnoff writes about technology for The Guardian. He says, "The fall of Juicero isn't just entertaining tech industry stupidity, it's the sign of a country refusing to break new ground."

Ben argues that the Juicero fiasco is not an anomaly, but an example of how profoundly anti-innovation the U.S. seems to have become. "I really see it as a symptom of an economy that's not investing in itself to grow."

He sees the "whole machine breaking down" due to a lack of investment in basic tech research.

357 ben tarnoff

Ben Tarnoff.

A lack of innovation, or even antipathy towards it, has serious consequences, not least because a great deal of government investment goes into the tech sector, he says. When that investment is used wastefully, it fails to produce economic growth and encourages stagnation, and working people suffer.

Ben believes that the root of the problem lies in the so-called "myth of the entrepreneur."

"The Steve Jobs mold of the rule-breaking visionary who disappears into a garage and emerges with this totally world changing invention… it's just not an accurate story of how innovation works. Every major innovation since WW2 has required a massive push from the public sector."

What will it take to nurture actual innovative breakthroughs? "In the long term we need to increase public funding for research. We also need to claw back the resources that have been essentially surrendered to the private sector," Ben says. "So it's going to take a lot of different simultaneous fights, but ultimately we need a long term real industrial policy that has substantial funding behind it."