Once the undisputed leader [in technology development], America is now under assault from countries worldwide. How did this happen, and will the U.S. be able to fight back?
Washington's priorities may be [a] factor making it hard for the U.S. to stay on top... Outside of Defense, research funding has largely been concentrated on the life sciences and info-tech research. While those are worthy fields, such a tight focus has left out key disciplines such as chemistry, materials science, and physics, which may play a vital role in future economic and technology growth. Materials-science breakthroughs helped spur the development of the semiconductor and the computer revolution that followed.
All is not lost, however.
The U.S. still has the lead in the technology business, plus many advantages when it comes to trying to keep it. America's universities continue to attract the best and the brightest students without breaking much of a sweat. Go to China, Europe, or India and the talk isn't of global dominance but of stopping the exodus that has sent top innovators to the U.S., where they generally stayed.
"I see no indications that China or India or anyone else is going to drive the next wave of conceptual thinking," says Greg Papadopoulos, of Sun Microsystems. "So unless we fail to invest properly in education or to exploit the culture we have, I don't see a threat to our ability to shape what the global technology ecosystem will look like."
Presumed threats to the U.S. economy in the past -- most notably, the Japanese challenge in the 1980s -- have yet to deliver on the doomsday scenarios that were painted at those times.
Yet never before have so many countries in the world sought to emulate the U.S. system of innovation. As more brilliant researchers steer clear of the U.S. and more and startups appear in emerging economies, a worldwide technology race is taking shape. And it promises to be a marathon.