by Gary Beach

The Big Shift

Jul 31, 20082 mins

It's inevitable that America will lose its technology edge

America’s days as the center of the IT universe are waning quickly. Or so goes Yuasa’s Law.

Mitsutomo Yuasa was a 20th-century Japanese physicist and historian. In 1962 he wrote an essay, “The Shifting Center of Scientific Activity in the West.” The seminal point of the essay was this: Since the 1500s, centers of scientific activity have shifted from one country to another roughly every 80 to 100 years.

He traces the Western centers from Italy (1540-1610), to England (1660-1730), France (1770-1830), Germany (1810-1920) and the United States (1920 to the present). Since Yuasa wrote the essay in 1962, that year is the “present” for the United States, not 2008.

Let’s look at IT through his lens. From 1957 (51 years ago) through the 1980s, nearly every revolutionary IT advance was American-born. But from 1990 forward, non-American centers have produced the most significant innovations. Consider the World Wide Web (invented by Brit Tim Berners-Lee at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research), Linux (by Finnish tech exec Linus Torvalds) and search (by a Canadian company, Archie).

I would argue the shift foretold by Yuasa is happening to America. This time, innovation won’t move to another country. Rather, it will be to the global, borderless community connected 24/7 by the Internet.

What’s your take? Is America’s run as the center of the global IT world coming to an end? Is that a good or bad thing for our country?