Obama Was Right: The Government Invented the Internet

July 27th, 2012 § 0 comments

Farhad Manjoo writing for Slate has so many great quotes it was difficult for me to choose. I went with this one because it tied in so nicely with my last post about the CARD act.

In other words, creating something as grand and untested as the Internet was something that a private company simply couldn’t do. The project was too big, and the payoff too uncertain. That’s true of most technologies in their infancy. The Army created ENIAC, the world’s first general-purpose computer—and only after the military proved the basic idea was sound did IBM jump into the business. Apple began working on a multitouch interface in the 2000s, but that was only after decades of research at other labs, including by many researchers funded by the government. The American military developed and launched the network of satellites that form the Global Positioning System—and only then could tech companies come along to make spectacular use of that system.

In my youth I flirted with Libertarianism1 but have since recanted. I have never heard a reasonable market based solution for environmentalism or large-scale public works projects like the highway system and the Internet.

Having been raised in a family that has a deep respect for NASA has certainly left me with a bias. I grew up believing that NASA had accomplished something that no other private, or for that matter public, entity could. It landed people on the moon and brought them home safely. Projects of this scale can not be measured in year of year growth and are therefore not something we can expect from a private company. I’m very happy to see SpaceX stepping in to make access to low earth orbit dramatically cheaper. But make no mistake; SpaceX would not be here if it were not for advances made in the public sector. While private companies might start mining asteroids don’t expect them to be the first to land humans on Mars.

  1. The American version of libertarianism []

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