Funding the Future
Usually forgotten, government funding has often been crucial to initiating the transformative technological breakthroughs that shaped the modern world. Government funding of science, research, and development is currently woefully inadequate. To ensure our future, it is imperative that governments worldwide step up their investments in science.
Why Innovation Matters
Human achievement is a function of economic expansion, that expansion flows from productivity, or our ability to do more with less. But productivity, over the long term, is driven by technological and organizational advancements. Our well-being as a civilization, therefore, hinges on innovation and its diffusion.
Everything we depend on today, everything we take for granted, is bequeathed by millions of interrelated advancements across thousands of years of human history, each building upon the next. But the low-hanging fruit has been picked; invention is getting harder and is something akin to a Red Queen’s Race, where you must run ever faster to actually get somewhere. For example, today it takes 18 times as many engineers to fulfill a cycle of Moore’s law than it did in the 1970s.
It should come as no surprise that productivity/economic growth is slowing worldwide, especially in “developed” countries. This should be a wake-up call, but the warnings are thus far unheeded. The future of humanity depends on our ability to innovate-out of the challenges that confront us, but instead of running faster, our pace is slowing.
Not Nearly Enough
We needn’t just run, we need to sprint. We need more engineers, more scientists, more particle colliders, more telescopes, more supercomputers…etc. In sum, we need an abundant funding objective to realize our full potential. While we are generally wise to leave markets as free as possible, studies have consistently shown that markets and private industry are not capable of fulfilling this need.
Science is an area market failure reigns. For a variety of reasons, private industry is only able to capture a small portion of the social returns that their innovations produce. The private sector is motivated to…