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Time Magazine on Twitter

How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live


This observation about American tech occurs on the fourth page of the article:

The speed with which users have extended Twitter's platform points to a larger truth about modern innovation. When we talk about innovation and global competitiveness, we tend to fall back on the easy metric of patents and Ph.D.s. It turns out the U.S. share of both has been in steady decline since peaking in the early '70s. (In 1970, more than 50% of the world's graduate degrees in science and engineering were issued by U.S. universities.) Since the mid-'80s, a long progression of doomsayers have warned that our declining market share in the patents-and-Ph.D.s business augurs dark times for American innovation. The specific threats have changed. It was the Japanese who would destroy us in the '80s; now it's China and India.

But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. Sure, we didn't build the Prius or the Wii, but if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.


Sure, it's true, but given the mention of the Prius, I can't help thinking of the ways in which our car manufacturers weren't innovating during that same period. I don't see the glass as half-empty, but it does sort of make me look at the situation from a perspective I never considered before. In a way that reminds me a bit of how the best and brightest from small towns often seem to leave and never return, it seems that our most inventive minds aren't very evenly distributed across American industry.

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