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Maintaining an American Lead in Technology

Interviewee: Adam Segal, CFR Fellow for Counterterrorism and National Security Studies
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, CFR Senior Staff Writer
January 4, 2011

The rapid economic growth of India and China, especially in science and technology,  have led to questions about whether the competitiveness of the United States is eroding in this emerging global order. CFR's Adam Segal, author of Advantage--How American Innovation Can Overcome the Asian Challenge, argues that the United States still dominates many areas of scientific and technological innovation, but that to continue its primacy, the United States should focus less on things such as increasing the number of scholarships for engineers and scientists and a larger budget for National Science Foundation, and instead emphasize strengthening the politics, social networks, and institutions that move ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

Segal contends that U.S. national security is dependent on its technological lead and that securing that lead requires more open immigration policies. He argues against visa restrictions that make it difficult for foreign students and scientists to come to the United States. "This has been a long-running debate ever since the 50s: How do you maintain security? ...Through hiding secrets or trying to run faster?" The answer, he says, "is to run faster." He concludes that local capabilities are also important for globalization, and that regions and cities -- not just the nation as a whole -- will have to start to thinking competitively.

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