Mazzucato y el iPhone (I)

[Este artículo es la introducción de este otro, donde critico el argumentario presentado]

El ejemplo más importante de libro de Mazzucato seguramente sea el del iPhone: se le llega a dedicar un capítulo entero sólo a ese ejemplo.

La fijación con el ingenio de Apple está justificada: Es tomar uno de los ejemplos habituales de presunta creatividad empresarial, esfuerzo de emprendedores de garaje y triunfo del capitalismo y subvertirlo, haciendo ver que realmente, la mano visible del Estado ha estado detrás del mismo, sin haber, injustamente, recogido beneficios de ello.

En este artículo preliminar recopilaré artículos de internet donde se habla del ejemplo de Mazzucato, por capturar la reacción popular de la gente ante el mismo. Incluiré también presentaciones de la propia economista, por precisar qué palabras y de qué manera enmarca el ejemplo del iPhone en su esquema explicativo.

En el próximo artículo, criticaré los argumentos expuestos en el libro.

Empezamos con Bruce Upbin, quien en 2013 escribe en Forbes

Her case study for myth-debunking is the iPhone, that icon of American corporate innovation. Each of its core technologies–capacitive sensors, solid-state memory, the click wheel, GPS, internet, cellular communications, Siri, microchips, touchscreen—came from research efforts and funding support of the U.S. government and military. Did the public see an iPhone dividend? Not really. The “stay foolish, stay hungry” geniuses ran away with the gains, says Mazzucato, and now the company is under fire for not paying enough taxes or creating enough high-wage jobs in the U.S. Apple’s five-year R&D spending as a percentage of sales has hovered around 2% to 3%, while companies such as Nokia and Samsung Electronics spend 9% and 8%, respectively. Steve Jobs’ real genius was not in developing new technology but integrating technologies invented somewhere else, often backed by tax dollars.

Seguimos con un artículo de la propia Mazzucato en INET

Consider Apple’s iPhone and Google’s search engine. In both cases these extremely popular consumer products benefitted mightily from state intervention. For the iPhone, many of the revolutionary technologies that make it and similar devices “smart” were funded by the U.S. government, such as the global positioning system (or GPS), the touchscreen display, and the voice-activated personal assistant, Siri. And for Google, the creation of its algorithm was funded by the National Science Foundation. Plus, of course, there’s the development of the Internet, another government funded venture, which enables the iPhone to be a valuable tool and makes Google searches possible.

Jeff Madrick en The NY Review of Books, 2014

For example, she shows in detail that, while Steve Jobs brilliantly imagined and designed attractive new commercial products, almost all the scientific research on which the iPod, iPhone, and iPad were based was done by government-backed scientists and engineers in Europe and America. The touch-screen technology, specifically, now so common to Apple products, was based on research done at government-funded labs in Europe and the US in the 1960s and 1970s. […]

These later breakthroughs were almost completely dependent on government-sponsored research. “While the products owe their beautiful design and slick integration to the genius of Jobs and his large team,” writes Mazzucato,

nearly every state-of-the-art technology found in the iPod, iPhone and iPad is an often overlooked and ignored achievement of the research efforts and funding support of the government and military.

A major government-funded discovery known as giant magnetoresistance, which won its two European inventors a Nobel Prize in physics, is a telling example of such support. The process enlarges the storage capacity of computers and more recent electronic devices. In a speech at the Nobel ceremony, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science explained that this breakthrough made the iPod possible. Other major developments by Apple also had their “roots” in federal research, among them, Mazzucato writes, the global positioning system of the iPhone and Siri, its voice-activated personal assistant.

Mazzucato de nuevo, en 2014, escribe en FT Alphaville

The iPhone is a good example. This chart shows how every technology that makes it so smart, traces its funding back to a mission-oriented public agency in the US government which likes to pretend it believes in the free market when actually it has been one of the most interventionist in history.

Aquí nos encontramos con un gráfico relativamente famoso para los que llevan siguiendo la trayectoria y repercusión del libro: el orígen de las tecnologías clave del iPhone:

Slide1

Mazzucato de nuevo en Slate, 2013 titula un artículo con “It’s a Myth that Entrepreneurs Drive New Technology. For real innovation, thank the state.”

Apple is a perfect example. In its early stages, the company received government cash support via a $500,000 small-business investment company grant. And every technology that makes the iPhone a smartphone owes its vision and funding to the state: the Internet, GPS, touch-screen displays, and even the voice-activated smartphone assistant Siri all received state cash. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency bankrolled the Internet, and the CIA and the military funded GPS. So, although the United States is sold to us as the model example of progress through private enterprise, innovation there has benefited from a very interventionist state.

Este año decía la economista en twitter que su ejemplo muestra que “toda la tecnología que hace inteligente al iPhone fue financiada públicamente”

En este extracto de una conferencia, en 2014, se muestra algo más comedida en sus afirmaciones,

What makes the iPhone so smart? Was it only the genius of Steve Jobs and his team and the visionary finance supplied from risk-loving venture capitalists? No. In my book The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public v Private Sector Myths, I tell the missing part of that story by analysing the public funds that allowed the smartphone to be created. The research programmes that made the internet, touch-screen displays, GPS and the Siri voice control possible all had government backing.

The point is not to belittle the work of Jobs and his team, which was both essential and transformational. But we must be more balanced in the historiography of Apple and its founders, where not a word is mentioned of the collective effort behind Silicon Valley. The question is this: who benefits from such a narrow description of the wealth-creation process in the hi-tech sector today?

En Harvard Business Review, 2013, enfatiza la relación entre lo que hacen las empresas, la retórica que emplean y de por qué deberían pagar más impuestos para financiar esas innovaciones estatales de las que habla Mazzucato,

Many of the revolutionary technologies that make the iPhone and other products and services “smart” were funded by the U.S. government. Take, for instance, the Internet, GPS, touchscreen display, as well as the latest voice-activated personal assistant, Siri. And Apple did not just benefit from government-funded research activities. It also received its early stage finance from the U.S. government’s Small Business Investment Company program. Venture capitalists entered only after government funding had gotten the company to the critical proof of concept. […]

This also stands in stark contrast to the steps that Apple, Google, and other technology companies take to avoid paying taxes. Apple set up a subsidiary in Reno, Nevada, a state without a corporate income or capital gains tax, and channeled a portion of its U.S. sales there, reportedly saving $2.5 billion in taxes. […]

Yet it’s a capitalism impossible to conceive of without the U.S. government, which through DARPA and other initiatives stands out worldwide for its astoundingly positive track record in funding true innovation. This includes the government’s most recent claim to fame, its steadfast financial support of (controversial) shale gas and fracking technologies, begun over three decades ago during the otherwise much-maligned Carter Administration. […]

An even bigger question for the American taxpayer is whether such support leads to a “parasitic” innovation eco-system. Consider Apple. Despite benefitting directly from taxpayer-funded technologies, it has strategically “underfunded” the tax purse on which it has in the past directly depended.

En una entrevista en El País, 2014 titulada “Las innovaciones revolucionarias siempre proceden del sector público”

Mi postura no es la de decir: todo ha de proceder del Estado. Evidentemente, Steve Jobs y Apple fueron muy importantes. Pero eso ya lo sabemos. Nos lo repiten cada día de nuestra vida. Lo que yo quisiera es equilibrar la historia contando el otro punto de vista. No es que el sector privado no sea importante. Pero ha sido capaz de surfear una ola gigante de tecnología financiada por el Estado, uniendo la tecnología existente con un sentido del diseño importante y con una nueva forma cool de vender el producto. Esto es de todos conocido. El 80% de la biografía de Steve Jobs trata sobre ello. No pretendo un capítulo, me conformaría con, al menos, una página sobre la parte pública. […]

No se puede garantizar que cada gasto será un éxito. La innovación siempre es un proceso incierto. De hecho, la mayoría de las veces los innovadores fracasan. Sin embargo, durante el proceso se aprende. Dentro del gobierno se han de crear organismos capaces de aprender, y con políticas empresariales flexibles y adaptadas a la exploración. Y con indicadores correctos para valorar cada inversión. Para hacer esto, se necesita a gente inteligente. No digo que no las haya en el sector público. Pero si se critica continuamente al sector público, será más complicado atraer a los mejores talentos. Con excepción de ciertos casos, – ¡en Singapur se paga a los funcionarios hasta un millón de dólares al año! – será muy difícil atraer a los mejores con dinero, hay que transformarlo en un honor. Y esto solo lo puedes hacer si tienes el poder de crear un horizonte en tu campo. Por esto, es muy importante que en EEUU un premio Nobel como Steven Chu haya aceptado dirigir el Ministerio de Energía. […]

Lo que causa el crecimiento de la productividad es el gasto en I+D

Martin Wolf (uno de los analistas económicos más prestigiosos del mundo) escribe en 2013 en FT

A perhaps even more potent example is the information and communications revolution. The US National Science Foundation funded the algorithm that drove Google’s search engine. Early funding for Apple came from the US government’s Small Business Investment Company. Moreover, “All the technologies which make the iPhone ‘smart’ are also state-funded … the internet, wireless networks, the global positioning system, microelectronics, touchscreen displays and the latest voice-activated SIRI personal assistant.” Apple put this together, brilliantly. But it was gathering the fruit of seven decades of state-supported innovation. […]

Why is the state’s role so important? The answer lies in the huge uncertainties, time spans and costs associated with fundamental, science-based innovation. Private companies cannot and will not bear these costs, partly because they cannot be sure to reap the fruits and partly because these fruits lie so far in the future. [..]
The days of AT&T’s path-breaking Bell Labs are long gone. In any case, the private sector could not have created the internet or GPS. Only the US military had the resources to do so. […]

Mazzucato loves puncturing myths about risk-loving venture capital and risk-avoiding bureaucrats. Does it matter that the role of the state has been written out of the story? She argues that it does.

First, policy makers increasingly believe the myth that the state is only an obstacle, thereby depriving innovation of support and humanity of its best prospects for prosperity. Indeed, the scorn heaped on government also deprives it of the will and capacity to take entrepreneurial risks.

Second, government has also increasingly accepted that it funds the risks, while the private sector reaps the rewards. What is emerging, then, is not a truly symbiotic ecosystem of innovation, but a parasitic one, in which the most lossmaking elements are socialised, while the profitmaking ones are largely privatised. Do ordinary taxpayers understand that their taxes fund the fundamental innovations that drive their economy?

This book has a controversial thesis. But it is basically right. The failure to recognise the role of the government in driving innovation may well be the greatest threat to rising prosperity.

Mark Buchanan, en 2013 llega a decir que todas las tecnologías importantes del iPhone provienen de inversiones estatales

Even Apple, normally viewed as the singular creation of the lone genius of Steve Jobs, owes much to government. Mazzucato points out that Apple received crucial finance in its early years from the US government’s small-business investment program. Every one of the most important technologies in Apple’s smart products, including the iPhone and iPad, were developed elsewhere and largely thanks to state funding.

En un informe para la OCDE, de 2014 dice Mazzucato

Let me provide a brief example of the technology behind the iPhone, which until recently represented the emblem of Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs was a genius, what he did was to put together existing technology in a very cool way, with a sense of how important simplicity and good design are. All the innovative and smart features on the iPhone, internet, GPS, touch screen display, the Siri feature, were funded by government. Apple itself received a 500,000 dollar Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) programme in its early days.

This iPhone table (Gráfico anterior) shows that technology which went into the phone originated from numerous government agencies such as the CIA, DARPA and the Department of Defense.

Andrew Warner, 2014, en The Long Now Foundation

Mariana Mazzucato’s research shows that many of the technologies that form the backbone of our technological revolutions were the direct result of multi-decade research by the state. Consider the examples of computers, the internet, and GPS–all of these technologies were developed and funded by the government for decades before entering the consumer market, and it’s impossible to imagine an iphone without these technologies.

Greg Satell, 2015 en Harvard Business Review

And Bush’s model clearly works.  In fact, it is the envy of the world.  It is not an accident that the iPhone was invented by a US company, virtually all of its basic technology has its roots in some federal program.

Esto vale para hacerse una idea del impacto y la extensión de las afirmaciones que se hacen sobre el iPhone.

Ya en el siguiente artículo estudiaremos qué es lo que se dice en el propio libro.

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2 Responses to Mazzucato y el iPhone (I)

  1. Pingback: Mazzucato y el iPhone (ii): El mito del Estado emprendedor | Níntil

  2. Pingback: Mazzucato and the iPhone (I) | Níntil

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