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Energy, Economics, Health

Unleashing Opportunity, Part I: Policy Reforms to Advance Innovation

By Jim Manzi, Mark P. Mills, Peter W. Huber, Paul Howard
National Affairs 2016 ISBN: N/a


National Affairs is proud to present Unleashing Opportunity, a series of three brief policy books designed to help policymakers in Congress and the new administration take up the challenges surrounding innovation, higher education, and regulatory policy, in 2017 and beyond.

The first installment in the series, Policy Reforms to Advance Innovation, is now available. Download your copy here.


"Anything done a second time is no longer an innovation, and therefore innovation resists planning and rational management. Consider three of the most successful American technological innovations of the past several decades: the IT revolution, the defeat of HIV/AIDS, and the shale energy revolution. Information technology has become central to contemporary economic growth; HIV/AIDS is the only instance in decades of our having defeated a major new disease on the scale of earlier triumphs over infectious diseases; and the United States has suddenly and unexpectedly moved to a position of global energy superpower. In each case federal investments, often over decades, were crucial to ultimate success. But in each case, the methods that created the breakthroughs themselves were either independent of, or actually contrary to, the dominant federal policy focus in each area.

This was in part because of the crucial role played by marginalized groups ranging from nerdy computer hobbyists to gay-rights activists. And it was in part because the solutions themselves were typically very threatening to established technology organizations, both public and private. In 1975, almost nobody in power foresaw that Bell Labs and IBM were about to be outcompeted by start-ups that didn’t yet exist. In 1985, almost nobody in power foresaw the rapid, iterative method for drug developmentthat invented the algorithmic cocktails necessary to conquer AIDS. In 2005, almost nobody in power foresaw the shale revolution, which would transform the geopolitical situation of the U.S. within a decade. And in 2016, we can be confident that almost nobody in power can currently foresee, never mind manage, whatever future technology innovation will ultimately produce the greatest benefits for America and the world.

What then should those in power do? In short, they should try to create the conditions for innovation, rather than attempting to guide the direction of innovation."

Download your copy here