Matt Ridley: some basic science is not worthy of taxpayer funding

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece on Sunday, friend of WUWT Matt Ridley argues that basic science research does not lead to technological innovation, and therefore isn’t deserving of taxpayer funding.

Ridley writes:

“Increasingly, technology is developing the kind of autonomy that hitherto characterized biological entities. The Stanford economist Brian Arthur argues that technology is self-organizing and can, in effect, reproduce and adapt to its environment. … The implications of this new way of seeing technology—as an autonomous, evolving entity that continues to progress whoever is in charge—are startling. People are pawns in a process. We ride rather than drive the innovation wave. Technology will find its inventors, rather than vice versa.

Patents and copyright laws grant too much credit and reward to individuals and imply that technology evolves by jerks. Recall that the original rationale for granting patents was not to reward inventors with monopoly profits but to encourage them to share their inventions. … It follows that there is less need for government to fund science: Industry will do this itself. Having made innovations, it will then pay for research into the principles behind them. Having invented the steam engine, it will pay for thermodynamics.”

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173 thoughts on “Matt Ridley: some basic science is not worthy of taxpayer funding

      • What are you talking about. The world wide web was developed for the needs of a specific high energy experiment at CERN.

      • The initial idea may have come from CERN, but the subsequent development has been done by private concerns.

      • Anna V, did you try to use the World Wide Web back in the early 1990s? It was just a tad different than today. How did the changes happen?

      • @annav I recall that Tim Berners-Lee was actually looking for some project to keep his team intact at CERN during a gap in funding, so he pursued the development of his idea for information sharing until the next experiment cycle began. While his product, a hypertext browser, was likely very useful for many experiments, it wasn’t done for any specific high energy experiment. And he never patented the protocol, not gaining a profitable penny or pence until he was awarded a $1M prize decades later to honor his seminal achievement in creating the web as we know it.

      • The best thing the government did was to not interfere with the Internet with taxes and Regulations.
        Now the administration has indicated that the USA will relinquish control and probably hand it over to the UN, Russia, China, etc.
        Where is the outrage?

      • @Tyoke I am talking of where original ideas emerge that can then go to industry and technology. The demands of basic research are such that they strain the brain to come up with new and better forms in technology, which can then be transferred to the rest of society. Societal demands would never reach those heights, just by probability alone, as society is thermodynamically ambling along, and the probability of a technologist to come up with an idea that society has not demanded is very small. And even if he/she comes up with it, to convince the outlay of capital will be impossible. Basic research demands in technology bring up these new roads.

      • My dad was part of CERN from day one due to him being part of the CIA. This was long, long, long ago. I used to chat with other people via CERN by going into his office at the University of Arizona and chat with friends using the one in Berkeley, for example. We also plotted when to have demonstrations against the President using this system. All free!

      • Anna V, the World Wide Web came from a scientist at CERN, the internet was around LONG – as in decades – before the WWW, and in fact was a DARPA idea released on a hapless planet. Look up ARPANET.

    • Having contributed to technological advances, myself; 100% of it funded by free market competitive corporations, and having secured patent protection for a very limited time, for those corporations, I take umbrage at being referred to as a ” jerk “.
      Some of us jerks, are actually really nice people.
      Now I am not going to suggest, that some of those corporations themselves did not obtain taxpayer support for some of the research related to the technology I was working on.
      But on the other hand, I also had occasion to work on behalf of those very same taxpayers, paid entirely by my free market corporate employer to protect those taxpayers from an unwarranted (and in fact fraudulent) patent infringement lawsuit, wherein a purported ‘inventor’ sued the US Government alleging infringement of a patent of his which was not only invalid on several different legal grounds (in the patent law), but was also fraudulently obtained. His patent lawyer (very fine chap) was unaware that the patent was fraudulent, until I got involved in the case, as an expert witness. It was a fun exercise, and involved prior art going back to about 1640 AD, but I was happy to help out my fellow taxpayers by helping defend the US Government against the suit. (and saving them a whole bunch of money). And I did the key research work on the matter on my own time on the weekend. The law firm on ‘our’ side of the table, told my employer, that my efforts directly saved my employer $0.75M in their direct legal fees, if they had had to research the work that I gave them for nothing, on my own time.
      So while their may be some real jerks making technological progress, I am not one of them (the jerks, that is).
      So there !

      • I believe he meant “jerks” as in jumpy, fits and starts, not smooth. Not human jerks.
        A little defensive over there?? 🙂

      • I think you misread that, but that’s understandable because that sentence could have used some revising. …Implies that technology evolves by jerks (verb), as in it progresses in big leaps rather than in a slow continuous pace that relies on the mountain of technology proceeding it.

      • Why don’t persons actually say / write what they mean, so others don’t have to ” believe ” what they mean.
        He might have said ” in steps ” . “jerks” also implies suddenness, as well as steps.
        Innovation is not always sudden.
        And I don’t have a ” sarc ” key. So I presume an intelligent reader.

      • George, with respect to your response below: “Why don’t persons actually say / write what they mean, so others don’t have to ” believe ” what they mean.”, the phrase “technology evolves by jerks” means precisely and ambiguously “technology evolves in a series of sudden and unpredictable bursts”. If it were to mean what you imply above, it would need to say something like “technology evolves through the agency of jerks”. So I have to side with the viscount: he wrote what he meant, and it was in no way offensive to those who evolve technology.
        And now that’s out of the way, I would like to acknowledge and celebrate your role in that process as you describe above (and, for the avoidance of doubt in case the foregoing sentence reads all wrong, that is said with absolutely no sarc intended).

      • I’ll defend George on this one. My first impression too was that it was a jab at the poor practice of some people mass-patenting things without detailed plans or any intention of producing (often such obvious patents as one-click online shopping or the portable music player) and then making their living through lawsuits of those who do produce things.

      • George isn’t a jerk, but his work has jerked technology to a higher step change. How about that? Is that OK? Is everybody happy now? ☺
        If it wasn’t for George Smith et al., we might still be using incandescent flashlight bulbs.

      • “Some of us jerks, are actually really nice people.”
        And apparently have no idea how to use commas.

      • Jeff Alberts October 27, 2015 at 5:06 pm
        “Some of us jerks, are actually really nice people.”
        And apparently have no idea how to use commas.
        If you look really closely, there is a comma between ‘us’ and ‘jerks’, so, it reads; “Some of us, jerks, are actually really nice people.”
        If you think there was a comma too many, rather than one too few, then, perhaps, you’re one of us.
        (Could be just a speck on my monitor.)

      • Almost all advances in our modern world have been made by thinkers outside of science, practical people, science then has to try and play catch up. Just ask science how a computer chip works and watch them fudge. Ask them why most of the universe is missing according to their science? Magic mathematics and imaginary friends and particles seems to be the answer.

      • Matt Ridley is English and he writes in English. In English, a jerk is a quick, sharp, sudden movement. American slang, as I understand it, uses “jerk” to refer to a contemptible or obnoxious person. How the correct use of the word could be confused with the other is puzzling.

      • Dr. Richard Lederer the worlds foremost authority on he English language he’s written 157 books on it says BS to the punctuation rules he says you should put a comma anywhere you would pause for breath in reading your words and that’s the way I do it so if you don’t like commas then just don’t take any breaths.
        And did I tell you already that my laptop doesn’t have a sarc key. You guys are just way too slow.

      • Actually I am quite proud of a number of things I accomplished / invented during my career’s heyday; some of it as long ago as 45 years or more ago.
        My last project at Fairchild Semiconductor, in early 1970 was a success, and ate up 3 months. My second to last project there was more monumental, but was a failure; by virtue of the whole department being terminated one Friday morning. I just went home, without processing out; then when I came in on Monday morning, I was rehired into a different department, and did that final thing before quitting.
        That final task was to take a $65,000 Fairchild Transistor Test System, and add on $8,000 of off the shelf catalog hardware, to turn it into a UHF TV RF transistor S-parameter tester for an Italian Semiconductor Company (SGS). We quoted it at about $135,000 against a bid from HP at around $500,000.
        The HP system was more general purpose, but SGS simply wanted S-Parameters plus low frequency tests, which the Fairchild System was very good at. So I designed the UHF S-parameter test jig for $8k of parts.
        RF S-parameters are hard to measure, as you have to separate forward and reflected waves in a 50 Ohm transmission line system. That is normally done with ” Directional Couplers ” which is a narrow band microwave device which HP manufactured.
        So their system could only measure S-parameters at about three frequency bands for which they had the couplers.
        My system, which I invented, did not use directional couplers, so it could do S-parameters from DC (almost) up to to GHZ (if needed), using off the shelf components.
        The $8,000 components were ordered right out of the HP catalog.
        We got the sale.
        Then I quit to become an LED company co-founder.

    • Not true.
      Private companies were building both intra and inter nets completely independent of the DARPA project.
      HTML and other inventions that actually made the hardware useful were developed privately.

      • Digital Equpment had at one time the largest “private” network in the world, DecNet, which spanned the globe. Defining the “web” is an intricate task, much like describing chocolate.

      • “HTML and other inventions that actually made the hardware useful”
        Gimme a break, turned networking into the sewer it is today more like. Knows nothing else syndrome, how old are you? Just think what we could have had if Berners-Lee had been told to write decent code and not create a putrid, insecure, text based excuse for a protocol.

      • It really is amazing the way some people get so bent out of shape at the mere notion that individuals would have opinions that vary from their precious selves.

    • The internet wasn’t created by government-funded basic research.
      It was created by government-funded APPLIED research. The foundation of the Internet was a practical, useful computer networking system that would survive a nuclear war (among other things).
      Government-funded basic research ends up funding things like treadmills for shrimp.
      Government-funded applied research end up funding things like packet switching.

      • It was very definitely a government funded system…set up by the CIA. For crying out loud, CIA funds are dark funds you don’t see them in Congress talking about that. And Al Gore had enough power back then in Congress and in the White House to pull off the creation of this system which was built by a bunch of egg heads at several universities including my dad, Aden Meinel.

    • Well I thought that Academia was the proper home of BASIC research.
      The Government (at least in USA) may have a need for APPLIED research, in order to carry out its prime directive; as in Article I , section 8, clause 1 of the US Constitution.
      To lay and collect taxes to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare and common defence OF THE UNITED STATES). (or words to that effect)
      Doesn’t provide for the welfare of Tom, Dick and Harriette, to let them go to a tropical paradise to study the refractive index of jellyfishes.
      So who is going to reap the economic rewards of discovering the Higgs boson ??
      And as for paying for defence; Obummer just vetoed the Military budget.
      On the other hand, taxpayer funded programs, like the successful NASA moon trip may be a preferable vehicle for applied research, than having world wars to develop new technologies.

      • “””””…..
        Jeff Alberts
        October 27, 2015 at 5:10 pm
        Promote the general welfare, not provide…..”””””
        Well Jeff, if you have a copy of the US Constitution wherein it says in Article I, section 8 Clause 1 “promote the general welfare”, then it is a forgery.
        Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect
        Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and
        provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the
        United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform
        throughout the United States; …….””””””
        So here’s my question or you Jeff.
        Can YOU cite even ONE US Supreme Court case decision, in which the Supremes gave ” THE PREAMBLE ” to the US Constitution as THEIR authority in reaching their decision.
        So why is it that liberals keep quoting the preamble to the Constitution; which after all is just the ” library card ” that says what the US Constitution is about ?
        The first words of the US Constitution say ” We the people …”
        The wording you gave can be found nowhere In the text of the Constitution; it’s in the preamble.
        “””””…. to pay the Debts and
        provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the
        United States; …..”””””
        THE UNITED STATES, in case you didn’t learn that in school, is one of the three parties to the contract that is the US Constitution; and it is the common defence and general welfare of that entity, that the Congress is authorized to collect taxes for. Not to hand out to everyone with a project they want some grant money for.

      • I think issuing the Nobel Prize for the Higgs boson is another example of ‘progressives’ post normal world ‘creativity’. At CERN they were very vague about this ‘discovery’ but because Higgs was near the end of his life and physics has needed a real discovery for more than half a century or so (this is why they are crowding into climate science and coming up with mitigation and energy technologies that make an engineer weep), they handed out another NP to thin out the embarrassment in Oslo of the dozens of Crackerjack^ TM prizes the cultural Marxists have broad casted to Arafat, Sadat, Kofi Annan (who presided over the killing of a couple of million Rwandans as head of UN while his boy was apparently raking in cash in a fraudulent oil-for-food program with Iran and another shady deal in a West African oil resource), Pachauri/Gore and to Obama as a bribe to promote CAGW and the IPCC and to a score or so more.

    • And if left to the government it would be a 300bps, text based, network connecting a few hundred minicomputers.

    • I have to disagree with you, the internet was funded by DARPA to develop software to be robust and maintain connectivity between various military assets. The funding was put in place to implement scientific breakthroughs that had already been developed not develop new silicone circuits based on new scientific theories.

      • Actually, it was DARPA via the CIA and was designed to be totally isolated from other systems due to WWIII nuclear bomb attacks only…they parked the system at places most likely where nukes would hit and I made fun of this way back then when arguing about this system when it was still secret.
        Our government has had all sorts of WWIII plans that are just plain insane or childish and this continues to this day. When Russia gave up the Cold War, the US government allowed the DARPA system out of the cellar where it was locked and we got the Internet we love so much today.

    • A product of TAXPAYER funded research, and actually developed by intelligent individuals who are not made more intelligent by being funded by government.

    • If I were going to try to give credit for ‘what we are on’ to a single entity, that entity would be Marc Andreessen. That said, it is silly to try to give credit to a single entity for whatever the internet is.

    • The thing that keeps hitting me about scientific progress is, how much more beneficial it is when it grows up outside of the beady eye of the establishment.
      Just think how it might have turned out if a government agency had invented the motor car, for example. Surely, we wouldn’t be owning our own cars today – only a small cadre of government-licenced, government taxed, government-regulated specialists would be allowed to drive the damn things, which would be far too dangerous to be permitted in private hands.
      Much the same with the internet – it moved so fast and diversified so quickly that no government could keep a lid on it. Had it emerged manageably from a government institution, they surely would have cut its potential to shreds. Any government, even liberal, open-minded western ones.
      Contrast that with telecomms inventions in UK, where the government DID grab a big say, in the 50s and 60s, in how it would progress. The state run ‘Post Office’ had a monopoly of telephone services for very many years. My father went to NY on business in 1960, at which time a new business in the UK could wait months or even years for a telephone connection (yes, just a connection) and was amazed to find that in NY you could have a telephone line in a couple of days. He also learned that NYC had a couple of dozen TV stations, when the whole of the UK had ONE BBC channel, and one, very recent, begrudged, independent channel. And he learned shortly after that in USA they had ‘facsimile’ transmission of documents – fax. UK business had never even heard of such a thing until years later. While USA was widely enjoiying the delights of cable TV, UK ran an experiment with cable-transmitted pay TV, which of course had to run through the telephone network (controlled by the aforesaid government Post Office): after a while the Government announced ‘It has been decided to discontinue the Pay-TV experiment’. We had to wait a two decades before any pictures came to us via cable. Even today we are obliged by law to pay a Licence Fee of GBP149 (USD228) if we wish legally to watch any TV broadcast. That licence funds the government-protected BBC, but we have to pay it even if we never watch, or listen to, any of the BBC’s output.
      I can’t see much excuse for government sponsorship of scientific research ( I might concede that some defence-related projects could be an exception to this) if the end result is government control, or influence, over the output.

      • Except the internet was created in secret by our government and the people who created it were all the same people who were working for all sorts of other secret government programs thanks to the Cold War.

      • Ironically, the fundamental technology of the internet, packet switching was proposed and developed by the British Post Office research centre at Martlesham.

    • There seems to be a good bit of confusion on this thread centred around the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web
      The Internet evolved from Arpanet which was developed as a resilient communications network by the US Dept of Defense. It was later expanded to Academic institutions and by the 1980’s commercial organizations such as CompuServe and AOL were offering connection using protocols such as telnet, ftp, Usenet and Gopher. I was using the internet long before the first web browsers hit the market.
      The www protocols developed by Tim Berners Lee came later and permitted easier access to novices and paved the way for the current exploitation. As I recall after installing Mosaic 1.0 on an X Windows terminal I found there were only a handful of websites in the UK.
      Neither the internet nor www were the products of basic scientific research they were driven by application requirements.

    • I can’t remember the guys name, but he was one of these pure research types. In an attempt to study something that would never be of use to anyone, he devoted his career to the study of imaginary numbers.
      Poor guy is probably spinning in his grave.

      • My math prof (one of them) gleefully told us that he knew of no useful application of “Projective Geometry.”
        I still know of none such.

      • @George E. Smith: Projective Geometry has applications in machine vision, coding theory, and cryptography. If you have a smart phone or tablet, there’ll be something on it that needed applied projective geometry.

      • “””””…..
        George E. Smith
        October 27, 2015 at 10:30 am
        My math prof (one of them) gleefully told us that he knew of no useful application of “Projective Geometry.”
        I still know of none such.
        Richard A. O’Keefe
        October 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm
        @George E. Smith: Projective Geometry has applications in machine vision, coding theory, and cryptography. ……”””””
        Richard, I’ll take your word for it; but I wonder if we are talking about the same thing.
        The subject I’m referring to was taught; and might have been invented by Prof Henry Forder, who was my Pure maths III prof at U of NZ in 1956 / 7
        It is a plane geometry (2D) built on some simple axioms.
        #1 Two ‘points’ define a ‘line’. (lines have no ends)
        #2 Two ‘lines’ define a ‘point’ (ALL lines intersect)
        #3 There are at least four points. (like the four main stars of the Southern Cross)
        The first theorem proves that there are at least seven points, ( three pairs of lines can be drawn through four points (not collinear). That gives three more points per axiom #2
        You can’t prove that there are any more than seven points.
        Parallel lines. There are parallel lines, despite axiom #2.
        Parallel lines meet at a point on the ‘ line at infinity ‘ The line at infinity separates the conic sections into ‘ellipse ‘ (don’t touch the line at infinity); parabola (touch line at infinity at two coincident points); hyperbola (intersect the line at infinity at two separate points); circle ( intersect the line at infinity at “The two circular points at infinity.”)
        That makes circles a special case of a hyperbola.
        Well etc, etc I believe you can prove most of the geometry theorems of Euclid, in projective geometry.
        I got an F in Pure maths III in my second year, and had to repeat it the third year; Shouldn’t have taken the skip PM I option in my first year, to take PM II.

    • James Faraday was conducting a tour of his magnetism lab for various lords back in the day. It is reported that one lord miffed “of what use is this oddity for anyone”, to which Faraday responded, “my Lord as soon as you can find a way to tax it there will be unlimited uses”.

  1. Basic research does not lead in a straight line to innovation. So it makes no sense for private investors to invest in it. Basic research supports innovation by expanding the fund of knowledge that innovators draw upon. So without basic research, we will all be poorer in the long run due to less innovation than would otherwise occur. Sounds to me like the sort of thing that tax dollars should be spent on.

    • You really believe that money should be forcibly taken from people (taxes) and spent on the principle that it will likely not lead to anything useful to those people? Is there anything at all that you would have government NOT tax and spend money on? Is there no room at all for private philanthropy or even plain curiosity?

      • If you believe that government science funding is wasteful, how can you stand all the other government spending that is so much worse?
        Government science is funded through competitive grants. In the last decade, the payline for some NIH grants hit a low of 6%, meaning that 94% of the proposals were rejected. Many labs shuttered their doors, and many careers ended during the multi-year drought of funding. The NIH payscale for a new PhD scientist on a government grant is ~$40,000 per year, with no overtime, no retirement plan, no job security, no unemployment benefits if they are dismissed, and only enough benefits to cover a single person.
        Contrast this with something like the US Post Office. The average GED educated postal worker earns $52,000 per year, has a job for life, generous retirement plan, guaranteed overtime pay, union representation in any disciplinary hearings, gold-plated benefits package, etc.
        But hey, let’s point at the wasteful science spending…
        The rest of government should be MORE like government science funding, we should be holding it up as an example of good government, not attacking it.

      • skorrent1 ,
        “You really believe that money should be forcibly taken from people (taxes) and spent on the principle that it will likely not lead to anything useful to those people? ”
        No, I do not. I do believe that you believe some things that most people would find silly.

    • We already use tax dollars to fund basic research. I live in Illinois, land of taxes. A portion of my state taxes are used to fund the state university system, including the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Chicago State University, and several other large well funded state research universities. Professors at these state universities are pretty much free to research whatever they choose. For example fifty years ago when I was a student at the University of Illinois I worked part time for a professor who was researching the history of peppermint (I kid you not!) and I had a professor in a botany class who was researching the classification of three species of palm trees in Cuba. Garbage research but tax funded.

    • And as noted by someone earlier that is at home among the academics. It all gets sort of muddled when the applied aspect of the research could be weaponized and the end result is no possible sharing of the knowledge outside classified domains. Not exactly the “free flow of ideas” notion that academia requires to justify itself.

  2. Arguing all or none absolutes is interesting (nature vs nurture, etc) but rarely practical. It seems clear to me that it is not a question of basic or applied science but relative priority. If we draw an analogy between public science and a new company startup, you could argue that we have spent a lot of time in R&D (basic science) and now have a very large pool of fundamental knowledge from which to bring forward to product development (applied science). Like any good CEO we should still be looking to the next next thing with some continued investment in R&D, but at some point you have to shift a good portion of your limited capital to product development to be responsive to shareholder (i.e. tax payers) demands.

  3. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Precisely why the ‘science’ of climate change has been so detrimentally corrupted and sullied in this sorry age of collective global warming madness.
    $29 Billion of grants and funding is awarded annually, in the US alone, by warmist bureaucrats to those ‘scientists’ who tow the man-made warning narrative, prefacing their study with an anthropogenic conclusion.
    Zero government funding exists for studies on the ‘natural’ variability of climate change.
    Ergo, why wouldn’t a budding climate scientist, cow-eyed with ideals of “saving the planet”, preface his or her paper with the ‘Anthropogenic’ conclusion, guaranteeing industry acclaim, funding, a publishing deal and subsequent citations?
    Publish or perish as they say. This time at great cost to science and discovery.

  4. I must admit, this statement is quite true in an off-handed way, “Patent and copyrights ….. imply that technology evolves by jerks.” If you look at oil well drilling patents, machine vision patents and others, you realized that the guy who hires the most strident legal team, as opposed to the best engineers, often prevails in reaping the greatest rewards.

  5. Watch as the authorities circle the wagons to protect their inner circle of decision making. It’s become an art form unto itself. That is what should be unacceptable. If the decision is held in the clear light of day, it would not be able to stand.
    Transparency is what he is fighting for. Both in the science and his treatment.

  6. M. Verdier raconte n’importe quoi, tout en se faisant connaître comme météorogiste de France II. Chez vous, où à peu près n’importe quel motif, ça devrait vous dire quelque chose.

  7. M.Verdier raconte n’importe quoi, tout en se faisant connaître comme météorologiste de France II. Chez vous, où à peu près n’importe quel motif est bon, ça devrait vous dire quelque chose. (Pardonnez les fautes de frappe, elles semblent inévitables sur votre site)
    [Reply: Please comment in English here. Thanks. ~mod.]

      • Lotsa folks don’t talk frog. English is this country’s official language, and it’s the unofficial language of the planet. Sorry for our Louisiana and Canadian friends. ☺

      • A very unpleasant word, and not much of a comment either! There are a few millions of us who think they can live in another language than American. Many speak Spanish (you know, all those Indians you thought you had got ridden of a couple of centuries ago), a lot speak Chinese. You’re doomed. Sorry (from a nation of immigrants!).

      • Lots of immigrants to America start businesses (wonderful) and then they put up all their signs and advertising in some non American language. Also wonderful.
        That is the (written) signal “Americans not welcome here. ”
        So I don’t invade “their” premises. And I don’t care what language they speak in their home.

      • George, living here in “beautiful” Los Angeles and knowing a little spanish, I find some of the best “eats” can be found in non english signed restaurants. It usually means more authentic. Taco Bell crappola vs. say, Lupitas, just down the street is a world of difference in the yummy factor.

      • Ben of Houston,
        My apologies to anyone who doesn’t share my sense of humor. I was having fun and don’t consider anything I wrote a “slur”. You can razz me the same way, I have a thick skin. But as I said, if you don’t, then my sincere apologies. Good thing you’re not Polish. ☺

      • François I tried google translate on what you said, I didn’t make sense,
        feriez-vous s’il vous plaît?

      • dbstealey.
        The best way to judge a good mexican restaurant: If the salsa is good, the food is good. Always works…For me anyways.

        • Dahlquist,
          FYI: My fav hot sauce for @home:

          I like it hot, but flavor is more important. This stuff is really tasty. And come the revolution, you can always use it to make a bomb…
          [/i keed!]
          PS: Since you’re in SoCal, World Markets (formerly Cost Plus), has it for $2.99

      • db.
        Si senor, ju no keeding. Eef es no bueno para la bomba, eet sure will be en la bano (toilet)…Sort of. Habla Tex mex? My Dad really loved that sauce. Gotta take it easy on the habanero…Stuff will kill you if not careful. But it sure leaves a nice afterglow when taken correctly. I like plain old jalapenos and cerranos roasted on the grill and eaten plain. And the dried red Japanos and californias roasted and crumbled in the salsa with the cooked tomatillos, etc. Homemade. Wife is from Mexico. Lucky me. Sometimes… ; )

    • George E. Smith says: October 27, 2015 at 12:28 pm
      Lots of immigrants to America start businesses (wonderful) and then they put up all their signs and advertising in some non American language. Also wonderful.
      That is the (written) signal “Americans not welcome here. ”
      So I don’t invade “their” premises. And I don’t care what language they speak in their home.

      George E. Smith,
      Your opinion in that regard is not a reasonable view of reality.
      Just as most of the best French restaurants in the USA have their signs and outside motifs in French (not in English), many of the best Asian restaurants have their signs and outside motifs not in English. Ditto Spanish, ditto other languages.
      Yet, they welcome Americans and English speakers and even depend on English (only) speaking Americans for the vast majority of their business. The non-English aspect is actually an attraction for many people (like me for instance).
      Likewise, ‘American Bars’ in foreign countries having English names and signs do not signal that local citizens in those countries are not welcome in the bars . . . actually, more often than not the English signage and motifs are an attraction to the citizens.

      • Who said anything about a reasonable view ? How other persons view it is fine with me.
        If I go to another country that speaks a different language, Mexico or Australia, I expect to have to deal with their language somehow. My MIL speaks to me in a mix of English/Spanish, so I get along ok with that.
        In some countries, it can be exasperating.
        For example, last year I spent two weeks in Geneva, with my sister who had been in a Geneva hospital for 13 months, in the same ward and bed for all of that time tended by the same bevy of nurses and doctors. The econ day I visited her, I went to exactly the same place I had seen her the previous day, and her bed was empty. So I went to the room full of her nurses, and asked for her, by her married Irish name. (very Irish name).
        They all looked at me as if I was daft, and couldn’t understand what I was saying, let alone tell me where she was. So I ended up going to a completely different wrong floor and section looking for her, and another person tried looming her up on the hospital (HUG) computer but could find her listed. So I went back to where I knew she had to be, and asked again.
        Eventually one of her nurses, who spoke a tiny bit of English realized I was mispronouncing her very Irish name, and asked me if I meant mahdahmah doolarn ?
        So they had been tending her for 13 months, and every single visitor she had, without exception was English speaking but they had Frenchified her Irish name so as to be quite unrecognizable.
        Well they pronounced it the same way they pronounced the name of her home town of Meyrin, which happens to be where CERN is.
        I was completely unable to connect what the voice on the train was saying with the name of the station we were arriving at. But I did know where to get on and off.
        I watch some Korean Language soap operas with English subtitles, and I can’t identify even a single word with the spoken dialog. But I enjoy them anyway.
        As for Taco Bell, I eat there often. I can get a grilled breakfast burrito, and a senior coffee for $1.42. The coffee I free; good too.

    • Every article written in English. Every post written in English.
      Yet the frog gets bent out of shape because others object when he insists on writing in one of the dead languages.

  8. I think basic research is exclusively what Govt. (public) should fund. There is no point in funding anything that for-profit companies are researching. The change I see we need is that govt. funded basic research mostly goes through universities and those universities are looking to patent and “spin-off” the results of research. If it comes from the public’s money, then it is for the public good and freely distributed.

  9. Technology makes life easier which curtails natural selection for traits that might be considered desirable, such as intelligence, judgement, strength and speed. Technological progress favors fecundity. I am not in the camp of the greens who want us to go back to the stone age, I like the soft life. However, at some point society needs to come to grips with what technology is doing to humanity. Presumably the human brain continues on its death spiral into oblivion ( So technological innovation is a gift with conditions.
    Basic science on the other hand speaks to the never achieved potential of human intelligence. By understanding what the truth is and the way nature really works, there exists a hope, however faint, that human beings can aspire to an end point for humanity greater than the violent confrontation, greedy hoarding and exploitation of each other and nature that characterizes our species today. Basic research is the only research that is important to human development and so should be supported by society. People looking to make money through technological innovation will always find a way to do that and so technological development does not need support from the collective.

    • Yet the more technologically developed countries have the lowest birth rates. No, technology does Not favor fecundity, as even a cursory glance at the data attests. Technology favors mental -plasticity-, or the ability to rapidly adapt to radically different modes of activity (from writing on paper to typing on a computer; from reading text to navigating a virtual 3D world; from tactile inputs to touch screens), and leverage them to the best gain possible.
      Now, where that selective pressure will take is, who can say, but it’s interesting. And since in no way is technology increasing breeding, but decreasing it, which is very peculiar, if one really steps back it takes on the appearance that technology is slowly supplanting our species.

    • Actually, let me put it out clearer, so there is no reason left to wonder, as to why technology selects -against- fecundity, and how your opening statement is completely backwards from reality.
      Why do individuals breed? To continue the species, sure, but no individual organism thinks that (or somehow knows the full number of its species at all times) when it goes to breed. The pressure any individual senses is the amount of personal hardship experienced. That harder life is, the faster one wants to breed and the more offspring to have to provide assistance against that hardship (a great, easy example is daphnia).
      When humans are in a low technological, agrarian state, we breed large families for the purpose of having more hands to tend to more land so we can have enough food to survive–not something we can easily do all by ourselves. However, when in a high technological state, such as in the US or Japan, where technology has eased the burdens of life, there is now no longer any direct environmental input to trigger breeding. Instead, making a new individual becomes -increasingly expensive- with increasing technological progress. This is since each new person you make needs to be integrated into the technological environment to be able to compete with other integrated members of society and survive, and technology is expensive–not just monetarily, but mentally energetically as one has to learn increasingly more all sorts of new things beyond just using one’s body. This directly puts pressure on the population to select against breeding.
      And indeed, we’ve seen the large household state of the agrarian days basically completely vanish. People marry much later in life, and have far fewer kids. In Japan, it’s actually becoming an existential threat. Where once children were a necessity to assist a person to survive, now technology can do it all instead.

      • What I mean when I say that technology favors fecundity is that birth rates do drop in technologically advanced societies so ordinary people have fewer children. Therefore, people who are inclined to have more children begin to dominate the population. In primitive societies where disease, violent death and other factors serve to limit the population, then factors such as intelligence play a bigger role. I once read a report, too long ago to verify now, that the only measurable advantage of higher i.q. score was a lower rate of serious accidental injury or death. So I don’t disagree with you, I should have just made my point more clearly.

    • BCBill love your first paragraph, as in the movie Idiocracy. Don’t agree with your 2nd paragraph though. Basic research should NEVER be financed with money that was taken by force (taxes). We don’t all share the same values. You want to finance it because you feel it is important to human development. Fine, go ahead. Don’t expect to use my funds though because I don’t see value there. Federal taxes should ONLY be used to fund the most basic common denominator that a large majority agree on. That generally doesn’t include basic research, except for military defense use.

      • Yes, it could be argued either way. I stated the point categorically to show that there are two sides. Technology appears to be causing very alarming changes in the human animal and so could be considered to be detrimental. On the other hand pure research could be considered to be a noble calling which benefits all of humanity. Obviously people will have different views on importance of the consequences of, for example, declining human intelligence, versus the benefits of, for example, a car that drives itself (which I hold to be an example of useless technology that does nothing but further degrade the condition of human beings). In the past, wealthy patrons supported pure research. Maybe that is the natural order of things, only the wealthy have time to think about really big issues. However, when society decided to fund science rather than leave it to the whims of the wealthy, it tacitly agreed to take on the big issues as well as the small. They are both important, I think, and it if we decide to leave the big questions to private funding, then we should also leave the technological questions to private funding too, because they have little difficulty raising the funds to continue.

    • BCBill…So, you’re saying that we’ll all be pinheads in the future, because of our shrinking brains?
      Wonder if that’s because we are focused on less broad needs, we know where to go, what to do and how to do it, whereas previously, people had to think all these things through. Technology makes things easier, but lessens our ability to think outside the box, more and more?

      • Yes, I think we are all going to be pinheads in the future. Or to put it another way, I think we are turning into a hive animal. We now have castes within our society who do specialized and simplistic tasks very well. With specialization, there is very little requirement for the attributes that some admire, such as intelligence, strength, the ability to coordinate efforts on the fly and so on. So individually we decline, but as a group we are more successful than ever. Why intelligence (and this needs to be defined, but there isn’t enough space to do it) developed in the first place is a very big question. It takes a lot of energy to keep a big brain running so the advantages to intelligence need to be very great for it to evolve as a widespread trait. Most animals get along very well with tiny little brains and without the particular abilities we associate with human intelligence. I suggest that human intelligence was most beneficial in a hunter/gatherer setting where the typical human brain was integrating thousands of observations on climate, patterns of animal movement, plant growth and behavior and so on so as to make “leaping ahead” decisions with regard to where game will be, what to do if the Xberry crop fails and so on. This ability allowed us to survive under a huge variety of changeable conditions, including changing climate. Accounts of modern hunter/gatherer societies show that they are very good at this, with hunger being almost unknown even in very extreme environments. With agriculture the complexity of life was reduced but still complex. So at the end of the 19th century the typical farm teenager knew how to plant a variety of crops under a variety of conditions, basic animal husbandry skills for a variety of animals, a variety of food preservation techniques, a variety of hunting and fishing skills, basic carpentry skills and most importantly, how to work efficiently in a group. Contrast that with today where the average teenager knows basic game playing skills which produce nothing of value and how to make their bed on some days. Okay, I am exaggerating but my son and his friends coined the term citiots (city idiots) to describe young people who come to the countryside and who are basically devoid of any useful skills outside of an electronic setting. The biggest question facing humanity is “what are we becoming?” and the ancillary question is “are we happy with that?”

      • BCBill…Yes, after I wrote my last to you I did consider that the broadness of knowledge needed to cope in the hunter/gatherer lifestyle, as well as a mind open to new concepts and attacking new obstacles was our highpoint in our intellectual abilities, leading, eventually, to where we are today. When survival of the fittest became less and less of an issue and we became more comfortable in the agrarian lifestyle and began to feel more comfortable and without so much attention to our daily survival, we became, individually and even communally more focused on individual skills and crafts. From being a skilled pottery maker to a professional soldier, these being focused skills without the need for such a struggle for survival, which required a very broad store of experience of many various skills and also a very open mind to all of the potentials and possibilities… This lifestyle necessitated one to acquire predictive abilities, looking forward by taking all the current conditions in the environment, past knowledge, skills acquired, advancing language ability, proper tools for the job at hand, etc. Today, there is no need for most of us to view and adapt to our individual environments to survive. All, or most of our survival needs are easily within reach and these days, children think meat grows on trees for our hamburgers.
        There is obviously too much time on the hands of a very many idiots these days who do a lot of harm to his/her fellow humans. I have faith in nature and believe that our current way of living will not last for too much longer, sadly. I’m not saying soon, but hopefully some good ones will survive to give it a try again. And maybe get it right.
        Doom ; ) “Always look on the bright side of life.” Dr. Strangelove. One of the best.

      • Monty Python- always look on the bright side of life. My most inspiring song- the Galaxy Song, also Monty Python- “and pray that there is intelligent life somewhere up in space because there is bugger all down here on earth”. Not to be too negative about human potential, but we should all be really, really concerned that our ancestors of 20,000 years ago were in all likelihood considerably smarter than we are today (desperate rationalizations such as “improved brain efficiency” aside).

      • BCBill, I knew it was Monty Python and forgot to cite it. I was just trying to connect the doom with a happy thought. I watched Python in the 70s regularly.

      • Dahlquist / BCBill, thanks for an intriguing tangent. This WUWT has a number of them.
        [BCBill on becoming ‘hive’ pinheads] “So individually we decline, but as a group we are more successful than ever.”
        When I was growing up in the US in the 70s and early 80s I believed this wholeheartedly and even welcomed this trend. But as technology advanced I began to see another side to it, a dark side. I began to see us make many small changes, each giving a little nudge towards more centralized control with numerous single point of failures built in, and what’s worse, a gradual and complete abandonment of the tech that preceded the era. I started to judge our progress based not on what we can do, but how well could we survive catastrophe such as a continent-wide month long Winter freeze or an asteroid impact. It has been downhill all the way. We may be more successful then ever but in evolutionary terms this modern specie has become fragile.
        We now have whole states that purchase grid electricity from neighboring states, their own power plants that served them locally shut and decommissioned. Autonomous and precious nuclear power plants are being shut because investors are playing cents on the current energy dollar and the perceived value of autonomous operation is zero. Networks of new long distance natural gas pipelines are being built and when complete, gas will flow until the day the grid goes down. From now on natural gas will be used to generate electricity which will be used by many to operate electric heaters, which is obscene. The communications system is in even worse state, for in the 70s everyone got dial tone from a POTS building in their own area, and even if cut off from the next city people could call each other. Now many of those buildings have become blinky-light remote slaves of remote cities. The cell network is the most singularly spectacular failure waiting-to-happen in human history. The towers and regional remotes are too stupid to complete calls, and even the larger regions of the cell network that could complete calls are driven by billing-paranoid software that would become paralyzed and useless should one of a few links to ‘central control’ go silent.
        So yeah, it is really successful, and will continue to work better than ever before until the DAY it stops working.
        I no longer think this is progress, it is regress. I find little traction for this idea these days. People want to believe newer is always better. The problem is that our hive mind is driven by tiny cost-saving measures and we have let survival instinct and disaster planning (for true disaster, not the silly kinds smart people can walk away from) be bred out of the line.

  10. List of inventions/innovations that made the Internet what it is today: pornography, other killer apps (gambling, Napster, Netflix, …), AMD’s release of a cheap 10baseT chip, Rockwell’s release of a cheap 19.2K modem chip, Microsoft licensing Shiva’s TCP/IP stack and adding it to Windows, Netscape Navigator, Cablelabs selection of the Broadcom cable modem chip, affordable home computers, WiFi, smartphones, LTE/4G, …
    Taxpayer funded research was swamped by private sector R&D in the mid 80’s and we are all better off for it.

      • Yep, mostly folk who bought photocopiers made by Xerox. The Parc spawned Ethernet, GUI interfaces (Apple, Microsoft, 3Com, UB and on and on) … and for what return? Government gave us TCP/IP (gawd help us all) and CERN gave us HTML (the ultimate sin). If you want half decent technology better let the private sector take care of it, altruistically or otherwise.

      • Nobody said otherwise.
        The issue is govt spending vs. private.
        Learn some more English, maybe such basic things won’t have to be explained to you in the future.

  11. Bullshit. Is biotechnology supposed to pay for discovery of the double helix structure of DNA and deciphering of the genetic code? Information technology for mathematical logic &. quantum mechanics? The electric grid for Faraday’s experiments &. the Maxwell equations?
    Money invested into this kind of research has a ten thousandfold return, only one can never know in advance which bit proves to be invaluable in the long run.
    Therefore it is the only kind of research deserving public funding.
    Like (the currently non existent) general theory of irreproducible (chaotic) non equilibrium thermodynamic systems. Of which class the terrestrial climate system is but a humble member.
    So, of course it is futile to spend public money on “climate science” until its physical bases are understood. And once this genuine scientific riddle is solved, I bet there would be no need to spend any 😉

    • Bullshit right back at you. Don’t ask me to pay for genetic code research, it is of no value to me. Tell you what – as for USA federal funding of basic research, I’m okay with using a small part of GDP, but not much. Currently it is WAY to high. Right now it should be Millions with an M, not Billions with a B, per year. And climate science should get only a few Thousand with a T, or less!

  12. So if I understand the theme of Ridley’s thought… we should let private useful-cause-it-makes-us-profits folks do the R&D. A quick look at one chart mentioned by Knut highlights an intruiging case ( Health R&D has quintupled in the last 50 years while most other stuff has stayed within the bounds of politics and inflation. Now given the age of most contributors to these posts, and the well documented actions of Health Insurance Companies as the private funders of health care…. Does the choir really want to sing ‘amen’??

    • les
      Ah, good graphic isn’t it ?
      Glad you took a look.
      Helps to frame the debate. If you dig deeper they do a good job giving further perspective.
      While not in the link I sent, one of the fascinating trends is the great unknown that increased computing power is bringing to emerging artifical intelligence.
      Big changes are a coming.

  13. General in 1900 to industry: build me a death ray. Engineer: well, we have to invent a device based on an as yet not discovered phenomenon, let’s call it “stimulated emission”, and then develop the atomic theory to explain it. So, I’ll build the device and then, as by magic, some academic will discover how it works.
    I wish them all the luck and the success they need.

    • Ed Zuiderwijk October 27, 2015 at 1:02 pm
      General in 1900 to industry: build me a death ray. Engineer: well, we have to invent a device based on an as yet not discovered phenomenon, let’s call it “stimulated emission”, and then develop the atomic theory to explain it. So, I’ll build the device and then, as by magic, some academic will discover how it works.
      Well I was going to go on about the Manhattan project And German’s and Japan’s versions of it. ( Yes Japan and they were a head of the Germans. They had constructed centrifuges.)
      But instead I think you should take a look the DDG 1000 program. Seems they are (navy) putting a rail gun on the third in the class.

  14. There is a story about how Blaise Pascal whimsically came up with differential equations for the purpose of inventing something mathematical that was “completely useless.”
    The fact that differential equations are now the foundation of modern engineering was not a factor.

  15. All of the research that I have done has been funded by corporate interests and investors interested in technology development for the purposes of product development. The total is about $200MM to date. However my graduate work was funded by the taxpayer and that project was a $5MM boondoggle yielding no salable products, few patents and no profits. Weirdly, for the graduate work, I had to write the proposal citing quasi-government “crown-corporations” as private partnes to sponge of the matching funds from the Feds. I thought that I was a genius at the time but I was just pawn on a fools errand within an precast corrupt academic money scam. It lives to this day. I call it the walking dead.

  16. All of the research that I have done has been funded by corporate interests and investors interested in technology development for the purposes of product development. The total is about $200MM to date. However my graduate work was funded by the taxpayer and that project was a $5MM boondoggle yielding no salable products, few patents and no profits. Weirdly, for the graduate work, I had to write the proposal citing quasi-government “crown-corporations” as private partners to sponge off the matching funds from the Feds. I thought that I was a genius at the time but I was just pawn on a fool’s errand within a precast corrupt academic money scam. It lives to this day. I call it the walking dead.

  17. dbstealey. Ni bu shuo zhong hua, mei wenti. By the way,our language is not “froggy” it just happens to be a language a -fairly large- number of persons speak.

    • “Ubi est Tullia?”
      That’s about all I remember from my Latin classes. Maybe “Dominus vobiscum”, too.
      Anyway, if you’ll notice, everyone uses English here. It’s the Lingua Franca of WUWT. ☺

    • And the number is decreasing by the day.
      Heck, you even have to get your govt to defend the language against linguistic invaders.
      How insecure.

  18. There is a very long standing set of economic views arguing against government’s involuntary taxation of the population then the government promoting to spend it on research that is intended by the gov’t as being scientific. Those views start in the mid 18th century. Such views are well documented in Prof.Terence Kealey’s book ‘The Economic Laws of Scientific Research’.
    NOTE: Also, Prof. Terence Kealey is chairman of a panel of scientists, sponsored by the GWPF, who are making an inquiry into the integrity of the official global surface temperature records. I haven’t seen any detail of their progress since they started in April 2015.

  19. Wow, the horse evolved for riding by progressive Mongols so compound bows could technologically evolve to better kill other humans still hung up on out of date chariot technology. That explains it.

  20. 2 billion of the world’s people still live on less than $2 per day, but we are supposed to believe that rapid scientific progress and the resulting economic windfalls are inevitable in the modern world?
    The author talks about the “munificent funding” of science, and that’s just befuddling. The March of Dimes was the first major attempt at “crowdfunding” research. They raised millions of dollars, an unheard of amount of money, to help cure Polio. But in practice, less than 2% of the money went toward actual research, most of it went to palliative non-curative care for people with polio. It took many years to develop the vaccines that eradicated polio in most of the world. How much faster might they have been developed if 5% of the money went to research? 10%? How many hundreds of thousands of people unnecessarily contracted polio in the interim?
    Today the US spends close to $3 trillion per year on health care, but the NIH only has a budget of ~$30 billion for biomedical research. We’re actually further out of whack than the March of Dimes was during the polio era.
    I don’t call ~1% of the health budget going toward research and 99% going toward current standards of care as “munificent”. And ultimately the highest hurdle that companies seeking to develop new medical devices and treatments must clear is the government’s own regulatory burden, so having the government put money into research that helps build up the scientific foundation needed to clear their own regulatory demands makes sense.

  21. Higher standards of peer review would help and a total reform of the patent system. Meanwhile the entertainment biz gets away with non-sharing and pure profit.

  22. It seems most people are not aware that computer networking became operational with SAGE and BUIC. It used modems, etc. AUTOVON and AUTODIN seem to have also been forgotten as precursors that made DARPANET possible.

    • I remember the huge computer complex at the University of Chicago way back in 1953. I was a three year old and when my dad was using the computers for astronomy and other (nuclear bomb) stuff, I would play under the desk and could hear him whack away at the keyboard entering data.
      Remember those things? HUGE. With a zillion buttons on it! When the thing was retired, my dad used it as a foot massager. I did too. It was quite relaxing.

  23. In the good old days (the ’60s-80s) the Geological Survey of Canada set out to establish calibration sites (Bells Corners, Cavendish, Nighthawk) for many of the geophysical companies (surveyors and instrument sellers). This is something that would be unlikely to be picked up by private industry. The same for geological mapping and regional geophysical surveys destined for the public domain.
    Looking back, these people really cared about what they were doing and helped set the stage for many years of successful exploration. The mineral outcrop at Voisey’s Bay was mapped by a Provincial geologist and later followed up by private prospectors (using that map) which turned into a multi-billion dollar mine.

  24. Talk about myths! Economics, a mythical science promoted by central banks, designed to mythologise the role of money and banks in the real world. Technology isn’t self evolving; yet!! Without mankind there is no technology and there would be no economists and no economy. The consistency of globalist talking points scares me. They are all reading from the same playbook, one that is based on a feeble grasp of reality, that is then projected into unrealistic models of the future!

  25. “People are pawns in a process. We ride rather than drive the innovation wave. Technology will find its inventors, rather than vice versa.
    Patents and copyright laws grant too much credit and reward to individuals and imply that technology evolves by jerks.”

    Technology is not an entity with a will. It is not evolving as a living organism. Technology does not find inventors at night, like a fairy tucking something under a pillow. Innovation has come from individuals trying to solve real problems, and who have noticed the world around them — esp. when something unexpected happens. In order to value, understand, and be grateful for everything we use, it is better to understand the individuals from all backrounds who have given us the items we use every day.
    It is counterproductive to believe that Technology is an animal that gives us nice things. It might make people unappreciative, spoiled, drugged, ignorant of the labors and sorrows of inventors and amateurs — and worse, willing command Technology to suddenly give them a low carbon economy and free energy. God save me from college graduates.

  26. The theory of evolution is not just a competition for survival of the fittest. It is also the preferential death of the unfit. Humans stopped evolving sometime around the introduction of agriculture. When we developed enough surplus to keep the less fit alive and reproducing, we deactivated evolution. We are not allowing bad genes to be eliminated. Genetic decline is inevitable for us until we have GMH (genetically modified humans). Cultures continued to evolve, with memes the equivalent of genes. When technology, a subset of culture, is seen to be self organizing, it will also be seen to be competing for survival (funding from us). As a territorial survival strategy big government, big budget technology offers prestige and power. Private funding technology offers profit. Whichever offers the more attractive flower will attract the most bee$.

    • “We developed enough surplus to keep the less fit alive
      We deactivated evolution
      We are not allowing bad genes to be eliminated”
      And so on and so forth.
      It occurs to me that when a Boomer says “we” you really need to reach for your wallet, don’t make eye contact, and get to the door.
      A term that generation is always using is the compelling “we,” eg “We must save the planet.” But the word used is just as often the “collective.” They are real experts in “collective memories,” “collective unconscious,” “collective imagination,” and the ubiquitous “collective consciousness,” which of course must be raised, or relocated, or obeyed, or some other such action.
      The reason for this is, I believe, that the Cannabis Generation read so many of the same cheap paperbacks under the influence of drugs, watched the same tv, and compulsively adored the same personalities, that they cannot comprehend others who are not caught into trends as deeply as they have been. It is just no sense to try to come between Baby Boomers and their fashionable intellectual trends. For this you will receive no thanks, and probably abuse.
      So with no reward expected or wanted, I will tell you all, you are wrong about this racial darwinism and about population control.

      • Zeke,
        I’ll raise an eyebrow with you at the portrait of evolution with a target, but your objection to the proprietary use of the pronoun ‘we’ doesn’t survive the banality of your own generational stereotype.

        • I’ve thought about for a day or so mebbe, and I really don’t believe you are ignorant of Paul Ehrlich or of his influential paperback book The Population Bomb. Nor are many of that generation ignorant of where Ehrlich is today.

    • Or to put it succinctly, we are not controlling the technology – the Internet is telling us what it wants us to do fo it.
      Meme evolution is faster and more flexible than genes. Genetically modified humans are meme creatures, no? What expectant parents would not pay $200 for 200 IQ gene tweak? Not do it and see your child fail like a Neandertal at a Mensa conference? See the movie GATTACA. (SIRI just told me the spelling).
      There will never a confrontation. Humans will rush toward the new life form as their fondest wish. Who can resist an iPhone that makes you superhuman?

  27. I perfectly agree with Berényi Péter :
    ‘So, of course it is futile to spend public money on “climate science” until its physical bases are understood. And once this genuine scientific riddle is solved, I bet there would be no need to spend any ;)’
    I hope other people will also support that. CMIP6 model run initiatives, next IPCC report and nemerous meetings abroad and funding on model improvement etc. are pointless. Wasting of public money should be stopped immediately.

  28. Lincoln is still the only US President to hold a patent, and he had this to say…
    “[The patent laws] began in England in 1624, and in this country with the adoption of our Constitution. Before then any man [might] instantly use what another man had invented, so that the inventor had no special advantage from his own invention. The patent system changed this, secured to the inventor for a limited time exclusive use of his inventions, and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery and production of new and useful things.”
    The current US President believes that “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
    I’ll take Lincoln, thanks.

  29. Geez, are you guys really that ignorant. Al Gore “developed the internet”. Now, that everyone is laughing, Al Gore was responding to a question by Wolf Blitzer, for an example of something he had done while in Congress. He said, “When I took the initiative in creating the internet.” Now I am a “slightly to the left of Attilla the Hun conservative. I defend Al Gore for saying this. Although it was POORLY STATED. He voted for and promoted specific funding to expand the EXISTING FOR over 20 years, DARPA NET to civilian usage. (Although actually by showing up at a military base and asking to use the DARPA NET, you could…I used it working on my MS, to access MAXYMA at Harvard…sponsored by DARPA. INDEED that funding (and the allowing of private firms to expand the DARPA NET, led to the current internet. ALSO, a few years later, the need for a way to “coordinate” information on the Web became apparent. The funding for Modzilla came up from a congressional budgeting, and Al Gore did promote that too. I might despise Al Gore for his “Gorebull Warming” efforts, but this is the DIFFERENCE between the “lefties” and “liberals” and conservatives. I know the history. Al did do the RIGHT THING. Did really have VISION in this realm, and gave use something very worthwhile, and there is NO strong evidence this would have been developed with just private funding.

    • When my dad and his fellow scientists at various universities were seeking funding AL GORE got it for them and this created the internet. The funds didn’t come from businesses or Bill Gates or anyone, it was from Congress. I was there when this happened, I saw it close up.
      I still love Al Gore even though he went off on the global warming stuff.

  30. People interested in the impact of basic research to technological advances should read this:
    “Several studies have indicated that there are significant returns on financial investment via “Big Science” centres. Financial multipliers ranging from 2.7 (ESA) to 3.7 (CERN) have been found, meaning that each Euro invested in industry by Big Science generates a two- to fourfold return for the supplier. Moreover, laboratories such as CERN are proud of their record in technology transfer, where research developments lead to applications in other fields – for example, with particle accelerators and detectors. Less well documented, however, is the effect of the experience that technological firms gain through working in the arena of Big Science. Indeed, up to now there has been no explicit empirical study of such benefits. Our findings reveal a variety of outcomes, which include technological learning, the development of new products and markets, and impact on the firm’s organization. The study also demonstrates the importance of technologically challenging projects for staff at CERN. Together, these findings imply ways in which CERN – and by implication other Big Science centres – can further boost technology transfer into spill-over benefits for industrial knowledge and enhance their contribution to industrial R&D and innovation.”
    Also this : .

    • anna v,
      Personally, I am all in favor of gov’t support of basic research like CERN, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the ISS. There are things which are just too expensive for a single company to fund. They’re so expensive that it often takes a coalition of governments.
      But when government gets into things that can be politicized (like its current demonization of “carbon”), then it will be politicized. Government is, after all, a political body. And they have the police power of the State to force their subjects to pay for propaganda like that.
      And that’s where industry comes in. They know who has the cookie jar, so they begin their incessant schmoozing. We see the result: giant GE windmills polluting the view and chopping millions of birds and other wildlife, all across the country. So the governement is the problem. Industry just does what companies rationally do.
      The government could insist that everyone must paint their foreheads blue “for the common good”, and with enough money and our tame media, eventually most people you see on the street would have blue foreheads. The ones that didn’t would eventually be demonized as ‘not of the tribe’, and they would lose thier jobs, or at least miss out on promotions and pay raises, and the young guys without blue foreheads wouldn’t get the hot girls.
      Think I’m kidding? Remember Fidel Castro? Not a person in Cuba dressed in anything but green army fatigues. So just replace ‘blue foreheads’ with ‘skeptics of man-made global warming’. There isn’t very much difference, is there?
      That’s what is happening. Proposals to remedy the situation welcome…

  31. Lets review the technology you are using right now.
    Microprocessors: industry creations
    Network standards – Ethernet/WiFi: industry consortiums
    Telecom standards: ITU, industry consortiums
    Internet protocols: DARPA grants (1980s), universities, latter on industry
    Media standards: MPEG 1/2/4 – industry consortiums

    • Discovery of electricity: academic. Discovery of electron: academic. Development of quantum mechanics: academic. Pauli principle underlying all semi conductor energy bands: academic.

      • Discovery of electricity (lightning/thunder), electrostatic phenomena – perhaps better say quantified rather than discovered if you are meaning formal explanations for it. And all these you mention are fundamental phenomena that are of no use by themselves. They are pre-technology and in many cases development of technologies can proceed without fundamental knowledge of the physics – as mentioned above, the steam engine arose from observation of behavior of a boiling kettle lid or some such. One could harness the steam with no knowledge of thermodynamics. It is most fascinating that thermodynamics followed the study of the steam engine (also mentioned above).
        Your case is for government funding fundamental (non-applied) research I gather. It certainly doesn’t mean that technology (the domain of the engineer), is not largely private sector driven. Also, the progressives “collective” whimsy about ‘technology choosing the people’ and that they don’t deserve to profit from it (Sorry Matt, I can’t buy this economists’ theory of technological development – they aren’t wrong that it keeps growing but not in the fashion stated). Let’s look at the steam engine (he lived in a coal mining town):
        “In 1807, George Stephenson…. began working nights repairing shoes, clocks, and watches, making extra money that he would spend on his inventing projects. In 1813, George Stephenson became aware that William Hedley and Timothy Hackworth were designing a locomotive for the Wylam coal mine. So at the age of twenty, George Stephenson began the construction of his first locomotive …- every part of the engine had to be made by hand, and hammered into shape just like a horseshoe. …
        After ten months’ labor, George Stephenson’s locomotive “Blucher” was completed and tested on the Cillingwood Railway (horse-drawn RRW) on July 25, 1814…. (His) engine hauled eight loaded coal wagons weighing thirty tons, at about four miles an hour. This was the first steam engine powered locomotive to run on a railroad and it was the most successful working steam engine that had ever been constructed up to this period (others were used as stationary pumps),… He (built) the world’s first public railways: the Stockton and Darlington railway in 1825 and the Liverpool-Manchester railway in 1830.
        …Stephenson invented a new safety lamp that would not explode when used around the flammable gasses found in the coal mines.
        …Stephenson and William Losh, who owned an ironworks in Newcastle patented a method of making cast iron rails.
        …In 1829, George Stephenson and his son Robert invented a multi-tubular boiler for the now-famous locomotive “Rocket”.”
        I say let’s give such a guy some cash and a way to profit from his invention. The new cultural marx brothers philosophy of the progressives would take all this away as part of their return to nature and killing civilization.

    • NUTS.
      Private industry did all that research etc. WITH GOVERNMENT FUNDS. They went to Congress for it. I was there, I used to lobby Congress for research funds, etc. on behalf of my father.

      • emsnews,
        Maybe so. But before the gov’t got involved with shoveling out taxpayer loot to its pals in industry, there was an unending parade of fantastic inventions, not the least of which were airplanes, smallpox inoculations, canned food, and many thousands of other things invented by solitary groups or individuals.
        I suspect that if the government had invented airplanes, we would be debating whether monoplanes or biplanes are the best way to go.

    • Eric, the DARPA involvement spanned the 1960s and 1970s with ARPANET becoming active in 1969 tying four major universities with important classified research programs. ARPANET consisting of physical linkages of the four university networks and the TCP/IP protocols was the nucleus of the later internet. Some useful search tools like Archie, Veronica and Jughead appeared in the very, very early ’90s and ties to the usenet news network (UUCP) were also implemented fairly early. The first web browser appeared later when it became obvious that visual displays and greater band width were becoming available. Now we’re stuck with “Flo” popping up and gabbling about insurance.

  32. Matt Ridley writes, “People are pawns in a process” and “technology is developing [a] kind of autonomy”.
    He seems to be blind to the all-deciding factor of freedom for the individual. That imust be the ultimate driver of the “process”. Free people are never pawns. The process Matt Ridley talks about would cease if freedom were to cease. It is certainly not an automatic occurrence. The mighty creative force of the human individual will only thrive given freedom. And where we have humans we also meet with the concept of ethics – that is another decisive factor in the “process”.

    • Indeed Andy. If Ridley were correct it would be difficult to explain why most serious technological development in, for instance, the 20th century was done in the West and not equally so in the Soviet Union.
      The only area where the soviets kept up with the US was in the narrow field of military technology which absorbed such a large portion of the national effort that it brought down the economy and took the system with it.

    • AndyE says, “The creative force of the human individual will only thrive given freedom.”
      ++++AndyE So agree. The extraordinary genius and energy of amateurs and inventers you are talking about developed because of the freedom of the individual.
      Specifically this freedom is supported by the ability to borrow money or raise capital to make the new invention and to offer it at a price that will attract people to try it.
      To illustrate, Cyrus McCormick improved his own father’s idea for reaping and bundling grain with a new machine, saving many many hours of manual labor in the field.
      He was able to patent this, demonstrate its effectiveness to skeptical farmers, and then to produce it in a plant up north, if memory serves.
      Or George Eastman for example was able to save and borrow enough money from relatives to develop a chemical process that eliminated packing around huge tents and plates when taking photographs. Both of these examples were young men from farms.
      Literacy for all has been a great contributor to technology, and this was a entirely new concept developed in the Colonies, esp. the Puritan charters. The South was not a huge observer of this ideal. In the mother lands, literacy was for males and for the wealthy.
      Private property has also been essential. A farmer or rancher can improve his methods at any time on his own property. Under systems which collectivise farms there is no ability to graze or plant in a new way. This was what trapped people in the medieval methods for so long, but new types of planting and breeding and improved animal nutrition were developed by English farmers who had their own land. Otherwise land was rotated between grazing and planting in the same way each year.

  33. I am really shocked to read that so many people consider the advancement of knowledge to be something unimportant…

    • And many of them have no idea how research is funded via the Pentagon. Many a private lab sucks down government money. Ask any lobbyist pestering Congress for funding.

  34. From 1967-71 I was a grad student at the University of Toronto under Prof. John Polanyi, who deservedly won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his pioneering work on infrared (IR) chemiluminescence, using IR spectroscopy. Ironically, on the day his Prize was announced, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) here in Ottawa closed down the section on photochemistry where Polanyi had been a post-doc under 1971 Nobel Chemistry winner Gerhard Herzberg. Without support for basic research in molecular physics, there has been no prominent voice arguing that “emission from the atmosphere” that everyone in the climate change literature talks about is physically wrong. The main gases of the troposphere (78% N2, 21% O2, 1% Ar) are composed of non-polar molecules (with zero electric dipole moment), so the amount of IR they can absorb and emit is negligible. There is some IR emission to outer space at 667 cm^-1 (central CO2 bond-bending vibration frequencies) and ozone, but this amounts to only about 19 W/m^2, nowhere near the 240 W/m^2 needed for energy balance. And this 19 W/m^2 emission is powered by incoming Solar UV and visible radiation which is absorbed by ozone in the stratosphere, resulting in the observed temperature inversion from 10 to 50 km altitude. This emission is definitely NOT powered by IR photons radiatively exchanged in the 10 km of the troposphere (we know this because the “220K CO2 emission” appears when satellites look down on 210 K Thunderstorm Anvils, and net heat cannot flow upward from a colder 210 K to a warmer 220 K layer). So knowledge of basic science can be used to show that the “settled science” of the climate change literature is anything but settled, and that the skeptics are right. I can send more details to anyone interested if you contact me at .

  35. In 2003, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development … found, to its surprise, that whereas privately funded research and development stimulated economic growth, publicly funded research had no economic impact whatsoever. None. This earthshaking result has never been challenged or debunked.
    It all has to do with efficiency and the inability of anyone, private or government to predict the future. When a private company gets it wrong, they go bankrupt. Their bad ideas die.
    However, when governments get it wrong, they continue, because there is always an excuse to be made. The only person that can die is the taxpayer.
    As a result, government funding is not self-correcting, and it delivers very little net value. A lot of government funding ends up paying people to dig holes and fill them in. It appears very productive on paper, but in the end does nothing.

    • This opinion you express is based on the idea that the quality or interest of research is determined solely by its economic impact.

    • Yes. The chapter missing here is the one on “mission creep”, or “How government institutions, refunded at higher rates each year, refocus their mission statements under diametrically opposite political ideologies when new administrations take over, gradually losing sight of their initial goals”. (It’s a long, boring chapter, too.) I’m no expert, but wasn’t NASA originally given the mission of going to space? It seems a rather tortuous path they followed to end up with their political advocacy of AGW under James Hansen’s leadership.
      Ridley observes that government funded institutions may actually do harm by doing the “wrong research”, and muscling out the smaller, privately-owned business ventures which would otherwise be at the cutting edge; they are a black hole for money that could be going toward provably efficient results.
      Government initiatives seem designed to please constituents. Money earmarked for “climate research” gets granted to those who write the proposals clearly designed to prove AGW exists. Such spurious goals don’t nurture innovation. They just create meaningless projects.
      A government faced with a real technological problem – say, a catastrophic series of shipwrecks on its coasts, due to the inability to correctly measure latitude at sea – might legitimately spur research into innovation by sponsoring a prize with measurable results. The idea of a chronometer to solve that problem only came about because William Harrison, an inventor, was already working on it privately, and began to devote himself to the project full time.
      Important technological ventures likely get submerged as government staffs attempt to keep their heads down and survive one partisan administration after another. Those administrations morph, they bifurcate, they redesign their reasons for being, but the funding keeps on coming. Private institutions, on the other hand, are like people. They must learn to adapt, compromise, cut their budgets, secure their funding, and survive by their wits and their successful, efficient flow of innovation.

  36. It is really amazing that someone in right mind would seriously expect practical outcome from the basic research. All history of science is the proof that basis science was done without expectation that it will spin off some technology. If a scientist proposes basic research and explains what practical outcome will be generated, this scientist is either God himself or a shyster. Ironically, all the NSF funded proposals contain such a justification “Greater Impact”. No wonder that basic studies funded by NSF type organizations are done by scientists like Jagadish Shukla and Michael Mann type. However, the idea that funding of basic research should not come from taxpayers money and, instead, should come from the private sources is worth of support. These funding sources would not be industry though, but it would be individual philanthropists or the academia system, as it was for ages before WWII.

    • Thanks. It’s brilliant, if a little savage. As usual from Lubos Motl.
      Quite possibly he has now been removed from the Ridley family’s Xmas card list!!

  37. This may be why the West advanced with gunpowder while China kept using it’s invention for fireworks. On the other hand the West used a leaky, open academic campus for nuclear bomb development while the East used spies under the bridge outside the campus to spread the news faster than the White House got updates.

  38. I admire Ridley and agree with much of what he has to say, but he is demonstrably wrong on this issue. The multibillion dollar biotechnology industry was created by the ability to manipulate DNA, first with restriction endonucleases. These magical enzymes were characterized by basic science research designed to understand how bacteria resist attack by bacterial viruses (bacteriophages). No one could have possibly predicted that research on bacterial viruses could possibly lead to anything practical, let alone the birth of a multibillion dollar industry that has already saved many many lives by virtue of biological therapies for cancer and other diseases. Basic science must be supported, or the cool new technological stuff will slowly stop appearing. Industry can’t do it because they can’t justify basic research to stockholders. Support of basic research by government leading to remarkable advances developed by commercial operations has worked amazingly, remarkably, unarguably well for a long time. Even the abuses of climate science shouldn’t lead to throwing out that successful formula for the rest of science.

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