Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Origins of the Ideas That Positioned America to Launch the Modern World

In light of Jon's request for more posts, and my insane lack of time lately,  I decided to post this from my Real Estate blog where I write about innovation a great deal. My interest in this topic started here at American Creation when I first started posting on the origin of ideas that lead to America that can be seen in my post about Alvin Toffler's Third Wave and Jack Goldstone's posts on what launched modernity. The focus on this post is not modern political squabbles. It is to open up our discussions to the right historical frame. So please no political hand grenades. 

Here is the post:

Those of us who blog about innovation, entrepreneurship, and the power of great ideas have to be encouraged that this was the theme of a large part of The State of the Union speech last night.

Here is an excerpt from the speech with some thoughts of mine below the fold:

"The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.
And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. (Applause.) We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. (Applause.) And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.
The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.

None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do -- what America does better than anyone else -- is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We’re the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living. (Applause.)

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs -- from manufacturing to retail -- that have come from these breakthroughs.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t even there yet. NASA didn’t exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.

Leaving all politics and the debates over the different avenues to bring the picture that President Obama is trying to paint here to fruition, I have to say that I whole heartedly agree with every word stated above. In fact, I am inspired. Nonetheless, I think Umair Haque hit the nail on the head when he tweeted, "'We need to think bigger'". Exactly. WAY bigger than Obama's thinking now. Like reimagining GDP, corps, bottom lines, jobs, etc..."

Again I am not going to delve into the politics and solutions today. My goal with this post is a Socratic one of making sure we are asking the right questions before we start looking for answers. With that said, I think the question we need to ask ourselves as a nation is what magnitude of a moment are we going to need to keep our preeminent place in the world today? Or perhaps more importantly the preeminent place that our ancestors that helped form the Western World handed to us?

I dare to say that challenging us to rise to the task of "Our Sputnik" not only lessens the magnitude of the moment at hand but leaves us sorely lacking a true understanding of what is really needed to forcefully take hold of it. I hate to keep going back to my Columbus analogy but I think it perfectly captures both aspects alluded to in the last sentence. Just like in his time, there is something truly transcendent hanging out there just beyond the horizon that will shape the next 500 years the same way he helped shape the last. I think the President missed his "moment" last night by appealing to generational change at the expense of the larger trends of history before us.

In short, We are not just transitioning from one generation to another but from one era of History to another. It is my contention that Columbus was the catalyst to the 2ndWAVE and it is going to take a generation looking for CHANGE beyond the horizon to catch the 3rdWAVE currently forming to take us there...

1 comment:

Colon Cleansers said...

The Origins of the Ideas That Positioned America to Launch the Modern World. My interest in this topic started here at American Creation when I first started posting on the origin of ideas.