Every Friday, I present a topic or question for our merry band of thinkers, leaders, and pirates to discuss in an open thread. Here is this week’s conversation starter:
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers are calling for $100 billion in government spending over five years for basic and advanced technology research and science in an effort to address rising competitive pressure from China. The “Endless Frontiers Act”would also authorize another $10 billion to designate at least 10 regional technology hubs and create a supply chain crisis response program.Question: Do you support passing the Endless Frontiers Act (or a similar bill)? Why or why not?
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers are calling for $100 billion in government spending over five years for basic and advanced technology research and science in an effort to address rising competitive pressure from China. The “Endless Frontiers Act”would also authorize another $10 billion to designate at least 10 regional technology hubs and create a supply chain crisis response program.
Question: Do you support passing the Endless Frontiers Act (or a similar bill)? Why or why not?
Honest Question: Why is government investment in basic R&D often viewed as synonymous with "waste" or "trying to out-Chinese the Chinese?" Government R&D investment literally laid the seedbed for our modern tech industry. We would not have Silicon Valley (and its economic benefits) apart from GOV funding in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
It's one thing to oppose a centrally-managed economy (as I do). But isn't it something else entirely to believe that the government can and should invest public dollars to foster tech and capabilities that will be essential for the common defense and public good?
At first glance, that's a lot of money! I would say allocate about one quarter of that to get started and along the way, our progress will show when or if we need to continue, and if there is benefit to this endeavor. If we take it all at once, we will not be as expedient or as efficient as we should be simply because "there's plenty more where that came from". That's just how we are when we (think we) have unlimited resources.
POTENTIALLY- an excellent idea - though I have a knee-jerk suspicion of anything Sen Schumer advocates. There is little doubt to me that a private industry program supported by government has been the key to our tech leadership in the past. The potential problem today is “globalization” as embraced by US industry. This seems to materialize in the form of manufacturing and supply chains that are out of US control and easily threatened by global politics- mostly to our detriment.
A similar bill makes sense and is likely to pass, given the challenges from China. But as currently configured, it does not properly rationalize the whole of the federal government's research enterprise.
There is always, by definition, a frontier. The question is what to do with it.
In this case I think government is well suited to fund basic research.
Too much of government spending has become paybacks and lubrication for their buddies who rarely have the best interests of the country nor the expertise to properly pick and chose the best companies to advance research in the proper areas... IMHO, they would be better off perhaps identifying and suggesting areas for research without (or with very little) monetary incentives so that the decisions are driven by the ideas and needs not by money...
A couple observations. One is that we do see quite fundamental work being funded in the private sector - Google's quantum campus in Santa Barbara aims to "develop" something, sure, but it's on a very long horizon and attacking pretty fundamental issues. They are essentially racing the PRC state.
Another is what becomes of the information. Private actors have an incentive to conceal what they're developing, while publicly funded research tends to be disclosed broadly. Maybe we need to think about IP rights - how they work at a more basic level, in a world where teaching the PRC how to develop increasingly powerful general-purpose technologies (this distinction between military and civilian tech is, at this point, often silly). Do we want to give private sector U.S. companies the ability to develop and protect tech without disclosing it through the patent system if they follow certain rules (perhaps most critically, though perhaps also doubtfully, limiting who can work on the development)?
Don't know much about it to make a solid call. I will say I see the need to turn inward and invest in America. If that "America first", than so be it. We should have certain industries completely with our borders. We know what future threats exist for at least 20 yes out so get'r done. We need to be prepared for the new axis and not from an arrogant, "whatever we say goes" type of perspective but more a "don't f** with me" attitude.
(apologies in advance for a verbose reaction)
Generally speaking, not a terrible idea:
- SELECT funding of particular innovations by the federal government MIGHT be warranted - each should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for applicability to fulfilling the greater good AND for the ability of existing agencies or private entities to adequately develop.
- Our current federal government is far too political and wasteful to be entrusted to YET ANOTHER blanket issuance of authority and funding to execute it
In PRACTICE, this Act is not selective, it is overarching with very little accountability, coupled with the likelihood of permanency AND the ability to morph into whatever the political entities want it to be (Green New Deal, anyone?).
In did my best to read the Act - at 160 pages, the volume alone is intimidating, albeit small compared to many, and reading any of these sorts of things requires intense concentration. Some thoughts:
- this Act reads like money looking for a purpose, as opposed to an objective and plan looking for funding (although that's arguable)
- it incorporates things that are irrelevant and smack of the usual politics (i.e., requiring a Chief Diversity Officer, while not mandating much else in organizational structure)
- At least 70% of the funding is designated to Higher Education, an institution which I have zero confidence in right now. It's obvious that this is the real target for this funding. Before we start throwing EVEN MORE money at Higher Ed, they are going to have to undergo dramatic reform and transformation. Also, I'm not even sure Higher Ed needs this in order to accomplish the desired objective - they seem to be doing just fine on their own, and may simply need to refocus objectives.
- Budgetarily, this is REQUIRED to grow every year by AT LEAST the rate of inflation - typical, but I reject this idea categorically.
- it provides the ability for the Directorate to independently change its areas of focus every year, which could result in a complete morphing of the focus.
- it has very small components that are specific enough for my liking - i.e., studies and recommendations for Supply Chain Resiliency and for U.S. Challenges in Science and Technology. These are rightly SMALL, in comparison to the overall allocation and focus. They can stay, the rest can go.
In short, I think it's poor execution of a reasonable idea, and despite apparent bipartisan support, I feel that it is the trojan horse typical of most legislation these days.
I think that we can accomplish the goal by simply encouraging areas of innovation across ALL relevant government agencies, and then let each provide their purpose and plan and request funding.
(but then I suppose that demonstrates my root political orientation)
First things first: let’s stop educating the Chinese and allowing them into our labs. They take that knowledge and information back to China and use it against our industries and government, i.e. against Americans.
I'm pretty sure our defense departments are dealing with technology issues and probably getting an infusion from big tech which may explain how we've gotten into this censorship mess. I am still remembering how so many issues relating to supply chain problems were revealed early in the plandemic. Seems that would be a good place to start. Govt should have a seat at the table but not a controlling voice.
Seems the objectives could be accomplished and funded privately, which I always prefer as default first options.
It seems that our current Congress is pulling the names of their “Acts” from “Atlas Shrugged“
Two ways to go on this. Unfetter American potential (reduce taxes, especially on corporations) and let innovation and productivity thrive, or copy our competitor. We're essentially choosing path B with the proposed approach and, regretfully, our government hasn't shown itself particularly good at placing technology bets. I know because I work in a tech company, that companies are already angling to get the proposed funds; no surprise there. The beneficiaries, however, will be the shareholders because the companies have sufficient funds already to do what is needed, but they're not because of margin targets and other corporate metrics. My vote would be on path A.
The funding should come from a motivated private sector with tax advantages from lawmakers. If the government gets involved, it will become a boondoggle and a cash cow for political friends and families.
The U.S. needs to do something like that to replace IP. We spend hundreds of millions every year to try to protect against hackers and nation state penetrators and even the admitted failures (like Solar Winds) show we’re not succeeding.
The democrat party would just toss it down a rathole