Government as the killer of innovation
Nolan Bushnell is an aging entrepreneur with a white beard -- and, as one might expect, he is sympathetic to the dreams of singularitarians. He believes that robots, of one kind or another, will be central to our lives within two decades. Ask him to imagine the future, and he will tell you about cell phones implanted in our ears and MP3 players controlled with buttons under our tongues. And, of course, cars will drive themselves. "There are so many benefits," Bushnell says, as if to marvel at the fact that it hasn't happened yet. "Accident rates go to zero. You can get home when you're drunk. Kids can get to school without parents. Gas mileage goes up." He could go on and on.
But, unlike committed believers in the singularity, Bushnell also has deep-seated doubts about the future. He worries that regulations will derail the next generation of inventors, and that venture capitalists -- or "lemming capitalists," as he calls them -- will systematically ignore important ideas in pursuit of short-term returns. Much as he'd like to have his Prius run on autopilot, he doesn't know if it will happen in his lifetime. "It all depends on how big the government will get, how pervasive regulation will be," he says. "Right now, the pace of technological growth is just not fast enough." . . . .