Some Thoughts On An Innovation Agenda

from the transparency-and-openness dept

Over the past few weeks we’ve been running this little experiment with Darrell West of the Governance Studies program of the Brookings Institution to crowdsource ideas, feedback and insights into how the federal government can go about promoting an innovation economy. I wanted to use this Labor Day “off-day” to highlight some of what the experiment showed.

  • West provided us with an initial list of 96 items, and many of you added additional items as well. There were a wide variety of ideas, many of which generated interesting discussions.
  • While we had wondered if the original 96 ideas would “crowd out” any new suggestions, in actuality the second highest ranked suggestion didn’t come from West, but from a user, Josh Remer. Also a user-suggested item for putting in place an independent inventor defense for patents ended up pretty high up on the list, though that may be a function of Techdirt discussing that suggestion frequently.
  • Education and learning topped the list. The top three items as per your voting, in order, were:
    1. Have educational resources developed with taxpayer dollars be licensed under creative commons license
    2. Encourage classes in critical thinking, analysis, statistics, and financial literacy in K-12 schools.
    3. Encourage more open access to data collected through federal grant dollars

    It appears that more open information in education, as well as better, more practical education programs were what had people most interested.

  • The next two items were really focused on government transparency:
    1. Ensure that local, state, and federal government procurement processes are fair, open, and transparent
    2. Improve transparency by publicizing government requests to remove Internet content, censor usage, or subpoena information

    It seems that greater transparency from government is definitely up there on the list of what people would like to see — though some questioned what that has to do directly with innovation. I can see the thread that connects them, though. A more open government can help incentivize or enable greater innovation, while also limiting things that can become chilling effects on innovation.

  • The topic with the biggest splits (i.e., largest numbers of both “for” and “against” votes) all had to do with broadband. I find this to be interesting, because, in general it seems uncontroversial that increasing the amount of broadband available can and should be a boon for innovation. However, I think that the concern comes in from what the government’s role should be there… and the fear that they’d only serve to make things worse (a decent possibility). In some ways, I’m afraid this highlights some of the problems that we do see in broadband policy today. Whether we like it or not, there are regulations on that market, and saying “no regulation” doesn’t change the status quo that it is somewhat regulated. I also think that, unfortunately, issues related to “broadband” have been tainted with partisan fighting, thanks to the way things eventually came to rest in the net neutrality fight (which hadn’t been partisan at all… until suddenly it was).
  • The bottom three results, were all about expanding government programs in some manner or another (all three of them started with the word “Increase.”) General distrust of the government? Or just a general feeling of keeping government size in check? Perhaps.
  • A lot of the conversations were quite interesting. One of the more common complaints was that many of the items were “too vague.” That said, I think there’s still value in having a discussion around vague ideas before narrowing in on more specific ones. The goal of this exercise wasn’t to zero in on a definitive and specific agenda, but to find out what issues, in general, were of most interest. Still, I can see where vagueness potentially made it more difficult for people to vote on items since it wasn’t entirely clear what they’d be supporting (i.e., whether it was just “a good idea” or a “good program to achieve a specific idea.”)
  • There were some concerns about whether or not some of the items really had much (if anything) to do with innovation. It seemed clear that some were a lot more direct than others in terms of their impact on innovation, but personally I think there’s value in having more ideas on the list, rather than fewer, in the interest of exposing a wide variety of ideas, even if not all of them were fully fleshed out in the single sentence descriptions.
  • It was great to see widespread participation in the discussion. Nearly 200 comments were generated, creating some thoughtful and enlightening discussions. It was nice to see people like AOL founder Steve Case and writer Doug Rushkoff show up in the comments, along with many of you from the wider Techdirt community.

All in all it’s been great to see how the process played out. Thanks so much to everyone who participated. We’ll be back tomorrow, with our regularly scheduled programming…

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Comments on “Some Thoughts On An Innovation Agenda”

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Ninja (profile) says:

According to TD usual critics it was a failure…

I hope we keep repeating those failures then.

Policy makers would do well to listen to input from the public (UTSR I’m looking at you). While you might get no definitive solution there will surely be good ideas and lines of thought that will help a good policy maker come up with the right course of action.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Financial Education

Encourage classes in critical thinking, analysis, statistics, and financial literacy in K-12 schools.

Disclosure: I have worked in a school as a teaching assistant in a previous life

I’ve spent some time pondering why financial education doesn’t make it into lesson planners and I think the reason is:

a) Most teachers, being average people outside of their specialist subject, aren’t really aware of how finance and the economy works and/or
b) The problem is kids are too good at asking “Why?”.

We can’t do much about (a), this is something that will only trickle upwards as the population becomes educated but (b) is something that I think is part of a greater agenda of dumbing down.

Imagine if kids were taught how to work out real APR on loans; how to tell when they’re being overcharged; how fiat money works; how banks leverage risk and debt; how the World Bank and the IMF pressure governments into austerity measures… After a while they’re going to start asking questions like – Who decides this is how much it costs? Why are banks allowed to do this? Why do governments act this way? Why can’t we choose our own currency or barter goods?

Once people start asking why, it’s not long before they either get cynical and dispirited… or they start asking “Why not?”

This is what governments, lobbyists and special interests fear. Therefore it’s in their best interests to keep the educational establishment from getting too large or less expensive. Keep the kids learning “Find X”, but don’t teach them “Why Find X?”.

SujaOfJauhnral (profile) says:

Re: Financial Education

This is what governments, lobbyists and special interests fear. Therefore it’s in their best interests to keep the educational establishment from getting too large or less expensive. Keep the kids learning “Find X”, but don’t teach them “Why Find X?”.

It’s not just the governments/lobbyists or special interests doing this, in fact they don’t really have to do much anymore. It’s society as whole. They’ve been trained to blindly accept, never to question. Monkies, ladder, bananas and water syndrome, if you do question and/or suggest something different you are crazy and need to be beaten back into place.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Financial Education

What we haven’t done in the US is take away the policies of Reagan (his director William Bennett in particular) that have changed the schools at their very core. As I’ve read, schools have unfortunately been decimated by pushing for vocational studies over other occupations. Gone are the need for the liberal arts. More people are pushed into business management degrees or degrees where they can be good for the private sector. But schools are no longer the major place for advanced teaching here in the US. Further, teachers are not paid well. This is a huge problem.

What the US should be doing is taking examples from the best educational systems but this can’t happen because education is essentially becoming partisan. Here in the US, we have a number of schools being pushed into privatization. This means that the students are given vouchers instead of a public education system. IIRC, Indiana and Louisiana have these systems and they are either middle of the road or horribly inadequate with missing books for education or horribly inaccurate data.

So our options in education are pretty clear. We should be working to push public education over privatization, see what works in other countries and implement those ideas and push for better teaching conditions so that our teachers can actively do their jobs.

Greevar (profile) says:

Size doesn't matter.

“General distrust of the government? Or just a general feeling of keeping government size in check? Perhaps.”

It’s not the size of the government that’s a problem, but the regulatory capture and bribery (a.k.a. lobbying) that’s the problem. The size only gets to be a problem when it gets overly complex to the point that it’s impossible to do its job properly.

iambinarymind (profile) says:

Want innovation in the economy...?

If one truly wants innovation in the economy, then advocate the removal of State intervention/force/coercion from the equation.

Want to help education? Abolish compulsory schooling and allow a voluntary market where individuals can choose without being forced to pay via property taxes (theft).

Want better healthcare? Abolish all State regulations in healthcare which pervert incentives and hurt the individual.

State intervention/force only makes matters worse in the long run. Just as if one has a toothache, heroin may work initially…but in the long run one becomes a junky & enters a downward spiral of destruction.

The power to regulate is the power to grant favors.

I’m not saying that a market free of State intervention/force/coercion is perfect, but it is a hell of a lot better than the fascism we have today.

Consensual relationships…it’s really that simple.

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