Monday, January 28, 2008

China is the country of the future?

the image is pretty rough, but the idea is simple: China is passing the US as the source of new technology. in some fields, such as nanotech, they already have a significant lead.

i don't doubt that it is possible for a nation to be more competitive than the US and that it was a well-researched study, but i have difficulty with the idea that China could be more creative than the US for cultural reasons.

most research and development can be accomplished through hard work, but the really tough, important questions can only be overcome through a bit of wildness. and China, based on everything i've heard and read, has a strong culture of obedience. American students would be proud of coming up with a good reason to disagree with their professors and would gladly tell their professors about it. Chinese students: not so much. if i lived in a country where i could be killed for disagreeing with the party line, i might be less likely to be creative too.

additionally, the US currently attracts some of the best creative people from everywhere else in the world because we can offer high pay, prestige, and accepting multicultural social environments. so we have that advantage.

also, we have patent laws that actually mean something, so innovations made here are actually worth something.

but these two factors can change pretty easily. China will start using patent laws as soon as it makes sense to do so and will probably be successful at pulling good people from other countries if it ever runs out of its own.

oh, and we have long term demographic advantages, since China will soon have a declining, aging, and excessively male population, as their small family policy starts to take effect. meanwhile, the US population continues to grow and maintain one of the healthiest age distributions in the world.

we have lots of problems in the short term, but long term it is hard for me to imagine any country being more successful than the US.

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