For five technological revolutions the system has functioned to a degree -
steam and railways,
steel, electricity and heavy engineering,
oil, automobile and mass production and
information processing and telecommunications. The leading country of the day, British, German or American, gets by with a modest R&D investment, US currently 0.3 to 0.4 percent GDP, that is mass produced by capitalists with very cheap and large loans. Over time the new technology is developed to a fuller extent and by then the modest investment in research and development has made the gains necessary to be harvested in a next technological / cheap loans revolution.
In all of this science is always willing to play the handmaiden; loyally turning its inventions over for the profit and credit of others. Never demanding science based policies, science education (c'mon you don't even know who invented the microprocessor do you?) or funding equivalent to finance or war.
Science, great as it is, remains always the servant and the handmaiden of freedom. And a free science will ever be one of the most effective tools through which man will eventually bring to realization his age-old aspiration for an abundant life, with peace and justice for all.A "free" science stays free by taking only the most limited share of the government and private enterprise pie. It is "free" in the sense that a stray cat or any partially domesticated animal is free.
America now finds itself in a position where the basic relationship between science and society must be reevaluated. Our VC funds have not made a profit in fifteen years. Our manufacturing base is decimated and our financial and war industries are well past employment saturation. Our environment is dangerously polluted. Soup kitchens are as popular as ever. Even if you don't believe MAJOR investment in science will discover anything worthwhile short term, for now simply making available wider employment options outside of finance and war could be the payoff.
In any case the sixth technological revolution is not going to be achieved by the current system. Our fiscal cliff solution failed even to maintain the traditional underpaid servant's scientific funding, much less take the steps necessary for the next level
Read below the implications for America.
The assumptions here are very simple:
* A technological revolution requires basic research
* Basic research is rarely if ever accomplished in private industry
* The US leads the world in basic research, funded from federal funds, to a degree that other countries are unlikely to make discoveries on their own
* There is no ground work of basic research currently ready to be taken to the next level. The 80 / 20 rule makes getting to the next level require a lot more investment.
* American middle class has been under attack for too long to expect recovery without a different economic plan or another technological revolution
Ergo unless our underfunded research is lucky enough to pan out, we as a nation are either stuck or must make radical changes to our economy.
Like so many civilizations America will pay for snubbing science with a dark ages that future generations, given our wealth and power, will find mystifying. We will suffer prolonged recession but equally debilitatingly we will find ourselves mostly occupied in super stressful meaningless careers. As one immigrant said to me, "Of course it's the technology - why else would anyone come to America?"
But no instead we will spend a generation or generations pretending that America is about the financial world or entertainment or real estate or retail or war. Nothing wrong with most of those occupations but they will all be raised to ridiculous heights while inequality and malaise reach even greater lows.