When President Obama claimed that the U.S. could “out-compete” any country around the globe, he also emphasized that Americans needed to up the ante in terms of innovation . America has always been viewed as land of opportunities, a place where dreams could be turned into realities. This view was held not only by U.S. citizens, but also by the vast body of immigrants who resided in the nation as well as millions of people around the world who hoped to one day make the American Dream their own.
America was also the land of innovation and invention. Generation after generation of Americans have given the world unique, life changing inventions including the telephone, television, automobiles and airplanes. While these inventions made life easier, recent American inventions we more focused on developing trade and having a major economic impact. Technology has been the field where the most significant developments have taken place, with the advent of personal computers, mobile and cell phone communications, and the internet. It can be said that these inventions and their efficient marketing across the world may have been one of the major influencers of globalization.
However, where America once remained far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of patents being filed, it is facing stiff competition from other nations today. One may wonder as to the cause of this turn. Why is America’s rate of invention slowing down? How are other countries managing to catch up? Is innovation being downplayed by the modern American generation? Hardly so, I would say. To begin with, the gap between American and foreign patents being filed is not narrowing because Americans have become less creative. It can be attributed to people in other countries, having acquired knowledge and skills, have found the opportunity to channel their creativity.
This especially holds true in the case of Asian countries such as India and China, whose economies have grown substantially over the past two decades, owning much to a technological boom in the last 10 years. Several of these countries attained independence from colonial powers less than a century ago and, hence, their populations were more accustomed to servitude than innovation. However, as generations became educated and industrialization found its way into the heart of the economy, scientific and technological development intensified. As a result, these countries have been able to bridge the gap between them and the U.S. in terms of patents filed.
America, on the other hand, had shifted its focus from invention to innovation, specifically in the areas of business and trade. While other countries were able to develop new products, they neither had the expertise nor the reach to market and distribute them at a global level. The U.S. , on the other hand, has a fully developed industry now, to the point where it is outsourcing millions of jobs to developing countries such as BRIC in order to cope with competition on an international level while maximizing profits. It is due to this focused development that the U.S. has remained the global leader in trade and commerce despite the emergence of new competitors.
It should be noted that none of these facts reveal or prove that the current generation of American’s not creative or does not understand the importance of innovation. In reality, some of the biggest innovations and inventions in recent years have been made by young Americans. The greatest of these leaps has been made in the realm of social media with the gargantuan growth of Facebook, Google, as well as developments in other fields such as communications technologies (smart-phones and tablets). Further, it should be noted that we live in times where international collaboration in terms of sharing knowledge and coordinating resources has become the norm. One of the greatest discoveries of the century – the Higgs Boson particle – and the invention of the Large Hadron Collider or LHC at CERN involved the combined efforts of over ten thousand scientists from around the world . To conclude, America does not lack creativity, it only requires revised focus.
CERN, n.d. The search for the Higgs Boson. [Online] Available at: http://home.web.cern.ch/about/physics/search-higgs-boson[Accessed 20 April 2013].
Stolberg, S. G., 2011. Obama Urges U.S. Competitiveness Ahead of Speech. [Online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/us/politics/23radio.html?src=twrhp&_r=0[Accessed 20 April 2013].
The Telegraph, 2008. Large Hadron Collider: Thirteen ways to change the world. [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/large-hadron-collider/3351899/Large-Hadron-Collider-thirteen-ways-to-change-the-world.html[Accessed 20 April 2013].