How Much Should We Thank the Government for Tech Innovation?

Happy Independence Day 2016, the 240th birthday of the United States of America.

Pardon us for not spending too much time dwelling on the 7CTOs blog today, but we’ve got burgers to barbecue and fireworks to find. Still, there was an article that caught our eye in Buzzfeed this morning, worth a read not only for what it says but what it doesn’t.

Called “We Owe Most Of Our Greatest Tech To The Government; Here’s What It Should Do Next,” the overt central points made are very good -- the federal government (most usually the military, though the article largely fails to mention that) has been at the root of many of the greatest innovations in recent American history -- rocketry, GPS, the Internet.

Buzzfeed makes the viable case that the government now should be turning its attention to universal 5G broadband, and building a national infrastructure for it that will help level the digital playing field for all Americans.

But in its cheerleading for government investment, the article also ignores the potential for government-driven tech innovation and fed-financed companies to evolve an uncomfortable symbiotic relationship that can be used to socially manage the populace as much as elevate it, as an FCC member recently warned and as this huge recent article in The New York Times magazine about President Obama’s “foreign policy guru” displayed at length.

Don't get us wrong. We’re not saying by any means this 4th of July should be a lamentation of lost freedom. Far from it, in fact. We think technology has brought more freedom to Americans and the world than ever, which is why the people who have the greatest ability to harness it for profit and control seem to be getting increasingly nervous about it.

Like any paradigm-changing invention -- from the wheel to the gun to the discovery of electricity to the splitting of the atom -- once the creation gets out of the hands of the creator, the human race and spirit takes the innovation into ways undreamed of by the inventor.

That goes for the United States of America as well. For better and worse, it is unlikely that the forefathers of this nation would recognize their creation, were we to transport them here via a technology that does not yet exist (presumably). Our country is history’s greatest invention to date, unsurpassed in its freedom and global power and influence, and our citizens continue to write and evolve our story ever day.

Right now, it seems we are in a particularly intriguing and thrilling chapter, with several unexpected plot twists and almost certainly more to come. We’re hoping all 7CTO members work to get a few of their own words on the page during this important time.

Best wishes to you. Enjoy the day. Then, tomorrow, get back at it. For yourself, for your business and for America and its citizens. Thanks for reading.