The Rise and Fall of American Technology

By Lynn G. Gref | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10. THE DECLINE

“Facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored.”—Aldous Huxley

How can one think there is a decline of technology in America, when we are bombarded daily with news of new technology? A cell phone is technologically obsolete before the end of the contract with the service provider. A computer may be a technological dinosaur even though it still works perfectly. Even automobiles have become marvels of technology superseding itself. High-tech digital cameras have replaced film cameras. Advertisements hype the latest technological marvels. The financial news is loaded with information on technology and companies. Moreover, the longterm trends on investment in research and development are all reported to be positive. Nearly everyone has heard or read of the quickening pace of technology and the explosion of new products. So, Chicken Little: How is it that the sky is falling?

Before proceeding, a definition of a decline in technology in America is required. As used in this book, a decline is defined as a significant decrease in the number of new products and services originating in the United States per unit of gross domestic product (GDP). In other words, if fewer innovations based on U.S. research and development reach the marketplace per unit of GDP, that would constitute a decline. (This is analogous to the way the finances of the technology cycle were considered in Chapter 5.) Another way to look at it is that a decline is when the U.S. loses its world leadership in innovation.

The above definition does not include any aspect of market share, competitive position, loss of dominance, or rankings with other nations. Numerous publications and organizations including the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have taken up the drumbeat regarding this country’s shrinking position relative to all manner of measures. These measures include publications in scientific journals, number of graduates at various levels in science and engineering, number of workers engaged in science and technology, and

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