Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reverse Brain Drain

The United States and the West in general drained the best and the brightest minds from the rest of the world due to their affluence for the last sixty years. Sixty per cent of the Ph.D. engineering students in the U.S. are foreign nationals and they all used to stay here. That trend is reversing. As an example, an Australian research lab just developed the most efficient photovoltaic solar cell with a 25% efficiency. What is more remarkable is that the research center's graduates are primarily Chinese and they are going back to China and starting solar cell companies. We are seeing the fruits of Western R&D funding going back to the countries of the foreign graduate students whose research and training we taxpayers subsidized. Not only will we see the reverse brain drain accelerate, but we Westerners will see less innovation and industrial startups here in the West because there are better opportunities back home now for Western trained foreign scientists and engineers.

One of the reasons why is because the lawyers have corrupted the patent system to such an extent that business costs due to litigation have skyrocketed. One can't start a business and develop a product without worrying about being sued by the holder of an overly broadly applicable and vague patent in the United States. The other threat is from giant corporations. Microsoft infringed on Burst.com's technology for streaming media. Instead of buying the technology, they stole it (which Microsoft is known for), and they hoped Burst would give up and die. Burst won a settlement, but was unfairly labelled as a patent troll. Microsoft and a predatory legal system made them that way. It is not Burst's fault. These restrictions don't exist in China. Copyright and patent protection are almost unknown.

The U.S. military already relies on foreign electronics. If that isn't an Achilles Heel, I don't know what is. The U.S. military will have other problems besides just a brain drain. They'll have Information Drain if they don't fix their network security. The best quote I heard recently was this one:

"We should have been training real engineers for building things rather than financial engineers who built fantasy financial castles in the sky" Paul Volcker

I doubt that we can wait for another Sputnik to wake us up and invest in our children's educations as well as science and technology to make the West a safer place. By that time, it'll be too late.

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Comments:
Hi John

Are, its good Australia can develop something even if the benefit goes to China - with lower production costs.

Australia has also adopted US style patent and liability battles. Patents even extend to exercises - ie Pilates a type of yoga but now a franchising-pyramid selling racket. When Pilates patent holders told Indian yoga instructors that they were infringing a US held worldwide patent India told the Pilates crowd to get lost. India argued that yoga, encompassing pilates like moves, had been practiced in India for 1,000s of years.

Lawyers agree to generate and contest other peoples business while sucking up their money.

I agree this inhibits growth.

Pete
 
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