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No Ten-Year Plans

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Ron Bailey has some thoughts on top-down government-driven technology programs:

The motivation behind the Apollo moon shot program was largely geopolitical. The Soviets had launched the first artificial satellite in 1957 and orbited the first man around the planet in 1961. As a NASA history explains, "First, and probably most important, the Apollo program was successful in accomplishing the political goals for which it had been created. Kennedy had been dealing with a Cold War crisis in 1961 brought on by several separate factors--the Soviet orbiting of Yuri Gagarin and the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion only two of them--that Apollo was designed to combat." The Apollo program cost $25.4 billion (about $150 billion in current dollars) to land just 12 astronauts on the moon. It is curious that Shellenberger and Nordhaus cite the Apollo program as an example of transformative technologies since it was basically a technological dead end.

Yes, and one that NASA seems determined to repeat.

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Karl Hallowell wrote:

Another reason why electricity generation isn't a hotbed of innovation is because it's a low value, high capital product with plenty of substitute goods. There's no huge payoff in electricity generation (unless there's some sort of market failure as in the California energy crisis or more recently in the European carbon emission market). I gather there's a typical approach for prototype power plants, spend tens or hundreds of millions to produce power that in the best case is worth somewhere around 5-10% over costs (worst case is far worse, fusion can't even generate net power much less net sellable power). That's huge barriers to entry for new companies and the payoffs aren't that good given the risks.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand published on February 7, 2008 12:04 PM.

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