With Help From Silicon Valley, America To Dominate The 21st Century

by Brian S Hall   |   August 12th, 2013

America will dominate the 21st century – economically and culturally – thanks to our dominance in technology.

Mobile technologies, supplemented by social connectivity, integrated with real-time data, enhanced by location-aware services and all supported by infinitely scalable yet highly personalized digital platforms will determine our future. These meta-offerings, delivering growth-spurring anytime, anywhere connectivity to all people and things, are each led by uniquely American businesses.

Apple makes the very best mobile computing devices in the world. Facebook and Twitter connect us all. Google delivers timely, personalized, location-specific data to anyone, for free. The best business software, for companies of all sizes, is developed by Microsoft. There are many other examples, of course, and in virtually every case, an American company and American innovation has the lead. Second-place isn’t even close.

Nearly as important, funding for critical and continuous innovation, everything from Big Banks and crowdfunding, to venture capital, philanthropy and small business loans, are American strengths. America’s universities – public and private – are the best in the world. These centers are the catalysts of innovation.

No nation offers immigrants more opportunity for success. No nation is more secure. Our well runs deep.

Nearly Unlimited Potential

We do not rule all areas of technology, of course. America is just one of several leaders in biotech. That said, American-led businesses and research labs are aggressively targeting rather extraordinary opportunities to extend life, explore the mind, and re-construct severely damaged bodies. Expect America to be the premier leader in biotech very soon.

In the area of green technology, America is lacking. This despite the billions thrown at this potentially vital industry. On the plus side, however, given our massive reserves of oil, coal and natural gas, America’s own energy future is secure. There are extremely few developed economies that can say the same.

America’s strengths are so many and so vast, in fact, that it will be hard to not dominate the 21st century.

Unfortunately, there are two obvious, pressing issues that limit our nation’s future and impede individual joy and prosperity. They are our schools and our safety net, both of which are constructed for an America that no longer exists.

Failing Grades

Our public schools, those K12, government-run institutions nearly all of us attended, are in embarrassingly bad shape. In larger cities, especially, they are a near-invisible tragedy. I offer no magic bullet, merely an admonition: the current model of government-funded, union-led, community-based schools is clearly failing our children.

Given this, we should welcome as much change, innovation and disruption in K12 education as we do in Silicon Valley. Yes, this will likely significantly minimize the power of government-employed unions. If this matters to you, my only suggestion is that you think of the nation and the nation’s children first.

Opportunity Not Inequality

The other national failing is the very real potential of continuous technological change to leave many of our citizens in a semi-permanent economic prison. Understand: I am not speaking of inequality, but misery. Fighting to stop inequality is too often an angry, jealous battle to bring down those at the top. Forget that Larry Ellison owns an island or that Google’s founders have their own private jets to travel in – or that your neighbors are better off than you. Inequality is not the issue. Not providing adequate education, medical care and opportunities to positively contribute to society and achieve prosperity are the real failings we must address.

In retail, for example, America’s Amazon.com and WalMart are global leaders. Their innovations create numerous savings which puts money in our pockets everyday. They also place many out of work and force many more into jobs at barely livable wages. It is a national responsibility to correct this.

Again, I cannot divine any singular path toward resolving this. Therefore, I urge those who fear the power of the government to instead open themselves up to possible innovative solutions which are led partly or even exclusively by government. Yes, funded by taxpayers. This may be the only way to ensure health, education and opportunity for all.

Admittedly, government solutions too often transform into vampires, never dying, feeding off others, caring only about themselves. This is a risk I nonetheless think we should take.

The Silicon Valley – Washington, DC Nexus of Power

America will lead the 21st century, just as we did the 20th. We have the best and the most of the stuff required to retain our current lofty status, and build upon it. Our people and smarts and money and technology – led by Silicon Valley – will usher the world into a new age of abundance, connectivity, innovation and sharing.

Our attention must now focus on ensuring the benefits of each of these flow justly to all our citizens.

It is not surprising that a new nexus of power, linking Silicon Valley and Washington, DC is quickly forming. One has the money, the other has the power.

This new nexus will become as important, as integrated, as accepted and as fruitful as the ties that bound New York and Washington, DC in the prior century. Let us welcome this transformative shift in power and money and values.

Let us also keep vigilant. It’s okay to have more. It’s not okay to leave our fellow Americans behind.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology and change. His work has appeared in Techpinions, ReadWrite, the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn, The Push, CIO and Business Insider. His latest novel, "Love in the Time of Caller ID" is available from Amazon and on iBooks.
  • Shameer Mulji

    If many of your major cities go the way of Detroit (bankrupt), that won’t be happening anytime soon.

  • dr.no

    20th century was about Oil.

    So you are saying SV is going to replace Oil with BullShit.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Ha. Silicon valley loves to talk about nothing more than itself. But, this one region has Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, Cisco, Salesforce and countless others. That is not an accident.

  • old world

    You forgot about out of control, staggering debt. While some tech companies may remain innovative and rich, a nation bankrupt has not the reserves to pay its army, its social services (education etc). Compound interest is a horse unfettered when the principle reaches a certain point. What then?

  • Anders CT

    I think it is pretty much impossible to foresee where the state of the tech-industry will be in 5 years, much less the next hundred years. Five to six years ago Blackberry had a stranglehold on the smartphone-market, and Microsoft had a 95% marketshare on personal computing devices. No one could have foreseen Apples magical invention of the touch-interface, or how an obscure linux-flavour would suddenly run on the majority of computing devices across the world. In five to ten years Microsoft, Google and Apple might be vibrant innovators or lethargic dinosaurs.

    Globalisation has done a lot of good for the poor in poor countries and for consumers, companies and the educated in rich countries. But it has been very hard for working-class people in developed countries. I don’t really see an easy fix for this. I live in a very well run wellfare-state (Denmark), but I don’t think that model could be imported to the US anymore than Silicon Valley could be imported to Denmark. So much of it is based on culture.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Thanks for the comment. It is ironic that on the day of this column, Blackberry has to stop trading as it seeks a buyer. Much can change in 5 years. At least, regarding technology. But, the brainpower, financing, culture of innovation cannot be easily duplicated. As I state above, it will be hard for America to *not* dominate the 21st century. But, we certainly could falter.

  • tz

    This essay clearly treads into politics more than tech, that said . . . . .
    The current widespread (and I think largely unrecognized) political and cultural agenda that is based on parasitism rather than symbiosis needs to change. Our system / government / society needs to move to an everybody wins mode rather than a brutal game of winners and losers.

    • Anders CT

      But how?

  • RMGH

    I beg to differ. I used to be a scientist in biotechnology. This is what I have observed over my 15 years at the bench. Our nation is not making the necessary investments in BASIC research to maintain their edge. Winning the technology and innovation game requires a healthy mix of private and PUBLIC funding. The public funding allows innovation to break new ground in areas that will be left unexplored when a profit motive is an essential component. Look at the human genome project. It created a new industry, new treatments and it tremendously expanded our understanding of the human genome and its complex regulatory mechanisms. It was largely federally funded. Now the NIH budget is in slash and burn mode and an entire generation of scientists are either accepting gentile poverty or looking for other means of employment.

    You don’t invest in the seed corn, there won’t be anything to harvest down the line.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Thanks for the comment. I looked at some of the rather sizable dollars (public and private) pouring into university medical facilities, science institutes and R&D work and came away very impressed – and hopeful. In this case, I definitely hope I am right.

      • RMGH

        You are incorrect. Although I am no longer in the field, I have many friends that are. Many truly brilliant minds are moving out of the field as fast as they can. So many have been locked out because the labs they were in kept closing. They were just about to publish when their lab was shut down due to lack of funding. So they join another lab and the same thing happens. Pretty soon they’ve been three years without a publication. No one cares why, so they are forced out of the field. An entire generation of life scientists is being lost. Its a travesty and a waste.

        I saw the crash coming early. The only thing I get from colleagues who thought I was crazy when I pulled the plug on my career for other opportunities now is – “how did you know it was going to be this awful?” The fact was I didn’t. I knew it was going to bad, and I needed to make a living income so I bailed. But I didn’t think it was going to be the total devastation it has turned into. The sequester has been a complete disaster. In fact, one of the biggest problems is the field is now super glutted because so many labs have closed, there is no place for even post-docs to work.

        From a public heath standpoint one of the biggest concerns is antibiotic resistance. This type of work is not generally profitable so it falls to the public sector. We now have some serious superbugs out there and almost no one is conducting the basic research to boost our antibiotic arsenal. If it continues in this direction, post-operative death due to infection will become far more common.

        Biomedical sciences is a MESS and shows no signs of healing. I am not at all optimistic about the future of research and innovation in this country. We are squandering our exceptionalism.

        • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

          Great comment. Thanks. And good luck v

  • jfutral

    Bit of a conundrum though, isn’t it. One can easily argue that it has been lack of government involvement or oversight that has allowed Silicon Valley to become what it is. Now you propose those bridges be built. Good luck with that. Remember when the NJ government wanted to certify programmers? The problem with governmental systems built for things other than politics is they become institutions more important than what they were built to support.

    Joe

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      I don’t doubt that such a hook-up could get messy nor that it will come with problems, but I see it as inevitable.
      Silicon Valley has the money.
      Washington, DC has the power.
      It’s the perfect marriage.