Watching American Technical Dominance Slip Away February 16, 2014Posted by geoff in News.
As many bloggers who wish-they-could-get-that-15-minutes-of-their-life-back can attest, I have an unfortunate tendency to spoil the mood at social functions by sharing my belief that the science & technology landscape is shifting away from 60 years of US dominance. In my field I’ve noticed that where 15 years ago foreign authors comprised only 20% of journal articles (and they sucked), now over 50% of articles are written by foreign authors (and they’re quite good).
The National Science Board has noticed the same trend:
Evidence in NSB’s biennial report, Science and Engineering Indicators, which provides the most comprehensive federal information and analysis on the nation’s position in S&T, makes it increasingly clear that the U.S., Japan, and Europe no longer monopolize the global R&D arena. Since 2001, the share of the world’s R&D performed in the U.S. and Europe has decreased, respectively, from 37 percent to 30 percent and from 26 percent to 22 percent. In this same time period, the share of worldwide R&D performed by Asian countries grew from 25 percent to 34 percent. China led the Asian expansion, with its global share growing from just 4 percent to 15 percent during this period.
“The first decade of the 21st century continues a dramatic shift in the global scientific landscape,” said NSB Chairman Dan Arvizu, who is also the director and chief executive of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “Emerging economies understand the role science and innovation play in the global marketplace and in economic competitiveness and have increasingly placed a priority on building their capacity in science and technology.”
Over the past 7 years I’ve been singling out China in particular as a country that’s overtaking the US’s tech advantage. They’re no longer just a source of low priced labor:
The size of China’s high-tech manufacturing industry increased nearly six-fold between 2003 and 2012, raising China’s global share of high-tech manufacturing from eight percent to 24 percent during that decade, closing in on the U.S. share of 27 percent.
I keep hearing people say “but they’re just copying the US” and “they’re not creative.” Yeah, whatever. They said the same thing about Japan in the 60’s.
Recall Japan in that time, when their electronics and automobile industries were just starting to sell products in the US. Detroit dominated car sales, the US still made TVs, and cheap foreign manufacturing was just getting going. “Made in Japan” was the butt of many jokes.
20 years later Japan had huge penetration into the automobile industry, had killed off American TV manufacturing, and was the international model of quality manufacturing and design. They were innovative in both technology and business, and the US started copying them.
Now imagine that same pre-explosion Japan, but with 12X more people. That’s what has me worried.