The semiconductor industry had few clients in its early years. In the 1950s, few firms could afford the new, high-tech instruments that made computers possible. The federal government, however, is the only organisation that can do this.
Fairchild Semiconductor, one of the founding companies of Silicon Valley, shipped its first cargo to the Air Force for use in the B-70 bomber computers. Eventually, the Minuteman missile, as well as other Cold War weapons systems and NASA equipment, needed semiconductors as well. According to Fred Kaplan’s article in Slate, “it was government that established the massive demand that permitted mass production” of semiconductors.
This is a story that has been repeated throughout the history of technology. Basic scientific research can be prohibitively expensive for most small firms. It’s impossible for any one company to predict which research will be profitable because the results are so unclear. Research that first appears to be aimed at one industry ends up being used by another.
Only the federal government is likely to have the financial means to invest in these kinds of projects. Afterwards, private enterprises can exploit the results of the research to develop new and profitable goods, stimulating economic growth and generating tax revenues sufficient to cover the costs of the original study.
The original internet was established by the military, and it has since been expanded by companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Covid-19 was one of many medications developed from research financed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Similar tales can be found in the energy, automobile, and aviation industries, among others.
However, in recent decades, American investment in R&D has Trailed Behind:
Research and development spending in the United States is presently lower than in many other countries. China’s ambition in this area is notable, even as the U.S. abandons the American model for establishing a robust economy.
“In each of the foundational technologies of the 21st century—artificial intelligence, semiconductors, 5G wireless, quantum information science, biotechnology, and green energy—China could soon be the global leader,” wrote Harvard professor Graham Allison and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in this week’s Wall Street Journal.
Not one at all
The semiconductor business serves as a good example of how this might be applied. Fairchild and Texas Instruments were the first to dominate, followed by Intel in the later decades of the 20th Century. Despite this, the US semiconductor industry has slipped behind (as Thomas Friedman has explained). About 12% of the world’s semiconductors are produced by U.S. businesses, down from 37% in 1990.
A recent statement from U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stated, “Right now, America makes zero percent of the most complex semiconductors.”. “It’s a weakness.” Many of the world’s most advanced chips are manufactured in Taiwan, and a disruption there—which is not out of the question given China’s aggression—could have a global impact.
Raimondo opined that “we need to create more chips in America.”
An effort to make that happen was approved by the Senate in June. Research and development would cost over $250 billion over the next five years, including $52 billion for semiconductor manufacturers. Most importantly, the United States must not slip behind China.
Over the course of the plan, government research and development funding would rise by more than 30 percent. It was approved by a vote of 68 to 32, with the support of Vice President Biden.
It has yet to be passed by the House, which is unlikely to happen by the end of the year’s session. According to Catie Edmondson of the New York Times, Democrats in the House of Representatives have specific issues about the Senate bill. For example, whether it spends enough money on early-stage research and too much money on private enterprises like Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos;
These questions are acceptable to ask. There is still a sense of disappointment that the House and Senate have not been able to settle small differences and extend federal assistance for scientific research. Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, said last week that the bill “should have passed the House a while back.” As a result, “It’s been taking too long.”
‘Semiconductor businesses have been tearing their hair out over this delay,’ my coworker Catie told me. “They thought it was a tremendous victory when it passed the Senate earlier this year, and have been somewhat dismayed at how long it’s taking to actually get the money in their pockets.”
Republicans have been more frequently to blame than Democrats in recent years for the gridlock in Congress. When Republicans controlled Congress, they clashed on significant topics (such as health care, immigration, and Covid), and House Republicans have automatically opposed numerous ideas from Democratic presidents. ”
Infighting within the Democratic Party is to blame for the delays in enacting the research law and its possible defeat. Despite the fact that Democrats hold a majority in the House and the Senate both passed a bill a few months ago, it has yet to reach Vice President Biden’s desk. The disarray in Washington, D.C., is no doubt being applauded by the United States’ international adversaries.
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The Best of Viruses, Condensed
The deluge of year-end best-of lists can be deafening. Think of it as a guide to the guides.
Pitchfork has released their annual selection of the finest songs for the music geeks. It goes well with The Times’s diverse list of the year’s greatest albums. Tyler, the Creator’s “Call Me if You Get Lost” and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” appeared on all of our pop music critics’ lists.
The Book Review’s 10 finest fiction and nonfiction titles include works that explore race relations in the United States and chronicle the lives of multiple generations. Are you in the mood for some visual stimulation? Of the year’s numerous ambitious exhibitions, the African-American South and climate change were two of the most common subjects. Ghost Forest” by Maya Lin juxtaposed the greenery of New York’s Madison Square Park with a forest of dead Atlantic white cedars. The timber is being used by young people to build boats.
As Jesse Green says, “the fall theatrical season was as exhilarating as a child’s first fireworks,” and the ritual of viewing movies on a big screen made even the most mediocre ones spectacular, the return of in-person experiences was another common theme. “Manohla Dargis’s list of the best films,” she writes.
There was also excellent television. Class warfare and pandemics figured prominently in many of our critics’ top picks. Favorite film: Reservation Dogs, which follows four teenagers who are yearning to leave their isolated Oklahoma reservation. In James Poniewozik’s words, it’s full with the kinds of details “that can only emerge from loving the thing you want to leave.”
The best of 2021 lists from The Times may be found right here. — The Morning’s Sanam Yar
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On the previous day’s Spelling Bee, the pangram was “laboratory”. You can either print off today’s puzzle or play it online.