Thursday, June 28, 2007


A couple of items popped up on the radar this morning that made me wonder about just how strong America is right now:

1) New York City blackout:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A power outage struck Manhattan's wealthy Upper East Side during a heat wave on Wednesday, snarling subway service during rush hour in another embarrassment for utility Con Edison.

The outage left half a million New Yorkers without power for 50 minutes. Traffic signals died, classrooms went dark, the fire department rescued people from elevators and the Metropolitan Museum of Art was evacuated in scenes that raised fears of another major summer blackout.
This is now five consecutive summers in and around New York City where a blackout has hit a significant number of people, and it's not even July yet. This blackout was minor in comparison to the August 2003, which crippled the entire northeast into Ohio, or even the one last summer, in which parts of western Queens were without power for nine days.

2) US Lags In Internet:
A communications workers union has released a study showing that the median U.S. download speed is a mere 1.97 megabits per second. That number comes into perspective when you consider Japanese users enjoy a whopping 61 mbps for the same price.

We used to be the bastion of advanced technology, in research and development, in pure science for science sake. Now we can't even keep the lights on.

Particularly since the turn of the decade, it seems as though America doesn't do anything anymore. We don't innovate. We don't lead. We don't implement. We don't discover.

This is far deadlier to our society than one might think: without the competitive advantage we've taken in the 20th Century, America would be a second rate agrarian society. Think the Soviet Union, only without the cool uniforms and national health care.

Worse, this ennui about discovery leads us to be a lot more aggressive against those who actually do the work we used to do in our labs. Think about it: why expend the energy and resources to innovate when we can wait for someone else to fund a lab to do all that work, and then move in and either buy it all up, or worse, just take it as if it was our birthright?

Isn't that essentially what Iraq is all about? We can't drill here, so let's drill there?

Quick: name a technological advance of the past ten years that is wholly American.

Google? A couple of Russian emigres (admittedly, they came to America seeking the chance to be something), but even then, what technological advance is it to have a faster librarian, and one that's not even that reliable (in terms of factual content)?

I'm having a hard time even coming up with any technological advances of the past ten years, nevermind American.

What's truly troublesome about this nauseating turn of events is, as the US loses its lustre in the eyes of the world, we will be more and more beholden to the predations of those countries who do take the lead in innovation, to those countries that thought ahead, instead of in the now.

America was about a vision. Now it's about myopia.