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For five technological revolutions the system has functioned to a degree -
industrial revolution,
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.

This has been the precarious balance reached by American oligarchy and US government. Here President Eisenhower comments on the compromise

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
Science Funding
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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  God will take care of us. Just pray harder. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid, Chi, blueoasis, Roadbed Guy

    And make absolutely sure it is to the right god.

  •  Not sure I agree at all w/ this assertion: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rogneid, Gooserock, Chi, disrael
    A "free" science stays free by taking only the most limited share of the government and private enterprise pie.
    It may just be anecdotal, but as friends still involved in basic research have complained over the past 20 years about decreases in federal R&D funding, more and more universities have made unholy alliances with private corporations. If this is indeed the trend, seems more likely to me that "free" science stays free by taking far more gov pie than private enterprise pie.

    I am all for the significant expansion of federally funded R&D. But my assessment (and I could well be wrong) is that our economic woes have far less to do with R&D investment than with trade and tax laws that incentivize the use of cheap overseas labor; patent laws that are preventing small startups from competing with Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc.; and Reagan-era no-holds-barred monopolization that has compounded the problem of gigantic multinational corporations with zero loyalty to U.S. workers, the U.S. environment, etc. -- just to name a few sources of said woes.  


    by raincrow on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 05:56:42 PM PST

    •  I tend to agree with you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I hear the same anecdotal evidence from people I know in biochemical and biologic sciences. The pharmaceutical industry isn't too popular with them.

      "I have spent many years of my life in opposition and I rather like the role." - Eleanor Roosevelt. I would like to add that I am a happy atheist!

      by Rogneid on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:10:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I Worked Support Staff in Research Grant Admin. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Either the money must come from gov't, or gov't must require that results belong to humanity.

      Absent that, the alliances as you say are indeed unholy.

      Economic laws at their foundation come down to the fact that we let most of what can be gained, taken home, no matter how extreme.

      Given that, every other sociopathic economic policy becomes inevitable.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:13:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But what does this mean? (0+ / 0-)
        Either the money must come from gov't, or gov't must require that results belong to humanity.
        Government funded research - at least in the life sciences - provides seeds that can be grown into useful products that benefit humanity.

        Unfortunately, that process requires a lot of money, WAY more than the government can (/is willing to) provide.  so, if  industry doesn't step in and commercialize discoveries, they are more or less useless.  Actually, totally useless.  

    •  Did you read the sentence after the one you quote? (0+ / 0-)

      I agree with you completely - the choices are technological revolution or radical change to our economy - ie trade and tax laws. But you have to realize that technological revolution has been the middle classes only route to prosperity in America. Historically, tax and trade laws only withstand the assault of the oligarchy temporarily.

      •  Not sure changing trade and tax laws is "radical (0+ / 0-)

        change to our economy" -- the changes I'm talking about more resemble a reversion to 60s and 70s tax and trade laws. Although I suppose considering how far around the bend the GOP and corporatist Dems have gone in the past 30 years, such changes might indeed qualify as "radical."

        And did you read my final paragraph? We can revoloot technologically all we want to, pay taxes out the nose for federally funded research that will give a few thousand grad students, post docs, and profs grant money, etc. But when it comes time for technology transfer to business, if we haven't changed our tax and trade policies a lot of that technological revolootin will come to maturation elsewhere.


        by raincrow on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 08:37:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm thinking more like (0+ / 0-)

          a few million researchers. Orders of magnitude past what we are currently attempting. I mean if financials can keep hiring millions and more millions for work of such negligible utility (and very often negative utility) then why not science?

          The tax and trade policies have to change of course. Just that I think technological revolution and a paradigm change away from financials and real estate is our only way to get there. As it is both voters and politicians are owned by industries of diminishing returns.

  •  Science makes fools of us all sooner or later. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    profewalt, blueoasis

    We can not let science slide but the changes to society by technology will continue to cause dislocation and maladaptive behaviors.  I hope science  takes its place as the leader of modern life, its only real place, if we are to survive as a species on this earth.

  •  The reductionist science that feeds (4+ / 0-)

    technology has already done its job.  The vast majority of the "basic research" we have had for most of my over 50 years as a research scientist has fed into the capitalist system's need for products for the drug industry, electronics, fossil fuel using technologies,  weapons, etc.

    I have seen lots of other good stuff ignored because it did not seem to open the door to new products for profit.

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 07:28:09 PM PST

  •  What, we can't live by American Idol alone? (0+ / 0-)

    That will come as a rude shock to a lot of people, lol.

    What is the number, thousands and thousands of people audition all over the country for a shot at one or two slots for success.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 09:47:50 PM PST

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