Nathan M talks sense about fundamental research
From that Tech Review interview.
“NM: Basic science is the fundamental well from which all this stuff is watered. Ironically, basic science is being given increasingly short shrift. DARPA [the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] funding for computer science is probably the single most successful government program in the history of governments — it led to this entire revolution in computing. Yet most Silicon Valley companies that are the beneficiary of that don’t invest in fundamental research. Then you get the ludicrous thing of people in Congress saying they want more relevant research. No, you should have less relevant research.
I’ve done extensive modeling of all of this. If you’re a company that lives hand to mouth, don’t do research, okay. You don’t need me to tell you that. If you’re a company that has steady cash flows, then you should work at whatever level you can afford. So if you’re a company that intends to be around 20 years from now, like a Microsoft, you are losing money if you don’t do research. It is an incredibly profitable investment only open to a limited club — the people who can afford to take a long-term view. And that’s an industrial research context. At the government level, you really should swing for the fences.
You could make a case that research funding really won the Cold War, because it was those economic things that stoked the economy. As soon as the Soviets went from being our enemies to being potentially our friends, [people said,] now let’s stop giving lots of money to science. Well, that doesn’t make any sense. Fundamental science has been the best investment the government’s ever made.”