Why North America is the Focus of Global Innovation

The Anglosphere and Europe are Innovating the World of the Future, with a Strong Assist from East Asia

All innovation is not created equal. Higher quality and more disruptive innovations count far more in terms of future global impact than any simple patent counts or highly processed “innovation indexes.” Historically, Europe jump-started the modern age of innovation in science and technology, with the center of gravity of global innovation moving to North America in the 20th century. With strong investment and support from Europe and the Anglosphere, East Asia has begun to provide strong innovative assistance — in terms of native achievement and in terms of contributions from human capital exported to Europe and the Anglosphere.

Quality of Innovation by Nation Economist

Quality of Innovation by Nation

The chart above reveals the disproportionate impact of the Anglosphere, Europe, and East Asia respectively, in terms of “quality” innovation.

Most Innovative Countries Source

Most Innovative Countries


The graphic above takes a more detailed look at the influence and components of innovation, once again revealing the central roles played by the Anglosphere, Europe, and East Asia, respectively. (Click on the image for a closer view)

Disruptive Innovation Can Determine the Future of Nations

Why is the US So Much Stronger in the Technology Field than Europe?

Forbes annually ranks the world’s largest companies based on revenue, profit, assets, and market value. In its 2016 compilation, seven of the top 10 tech companies in the world were American. Europe has just just three companies in the top 20: Germany’s SAP, Sweden’s Ericsson, and Finland’s Nokia. And there’s a simply massive size difference between America’s top tech firms and Europe’s. For instance: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon each have a market cap of over $350 billion each. Europe’s tech trio: about $50 billion a pop.

… Europe is wealthy and well educated, certainly more so than China, which has the same number of tech firms on the Forbes list. So what’s its problem? There are a few obvious answers: lack of access to venture capital, inflexible labor markets, and a heterogeneous home market of distinct language, cultures, and regulations.

One French tech entrepreneur has described America’s edge this way: “The confluence of a large pool of capital, world-class talent, vibrant support infrastructure, and a risk-loving culture has bred a self-fulfilling cycle of innovation and entrepreneurship.” __ Source

North America attracts capital, high achievers, innovators, and entrepreneurs because of higher levels of opportunity, a greater acceptance of risk, and a chance for higher rewards for success. This environment of innovation and opportunity has lasted for as long as the US Constitution has been in force. The US Constitution has been a foundation for what has been built in the US — and North America generally.

If not for North America, Europe would be globally dominant in most scientific, technological, and economic areas. Without the US defence umbrella protecting it, Europe would likely also lead the world in military spending, research, development, and global reach.

When looking for current and future superpowers, one must necessarily look among the leaders in innovative science and technology. If a nation’s achievements are almost invisible in global rankings, its future prospects as a superpower are vanishingly small.

Nobel Prize Cartogram source

Nobel Prize Cartogram

Another global map of Nobel Laureates focuses on awards by nation:
Nobels by Nation Source

Nobels by Nation

Amusingly, the author of the piece linked in the map above seems distressed that most Nobel Prizes are won by people working in the western world — Europe and the Anglosphere.

Surprisingly, 83% of all Nobel laureates have come from Western countries, revealing a significant amount of scientific inequity around the globe.

By Western countries Fisher is referring to Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Looking at the map, it’s clear that Western Europe and North America take the lion’s share of the awards. These prizes have been granted to 72 different countries — but more than half come from only three countries, the U.S., Britain, and Germany. __ George Dvorsky

What is the reason for this “inequity” of achievement? A more productive smart fraction along with better systems of learning and government.

What difference does it make? Consider one person’s timeline of technological innovation and achievement over the past two centuries:

200 Years of Innovation and Growth Source

200 Years of Innovation and Growth

Better innovation can lead to greater prosperity and higher quality of life.

Why are Some Nations Rich and Some Nations Poor?

There is not just one reason for the differences in wealth, poverty, and achievement between nations. Economic systems and government policies of regulation / taxation play large roles. Cultural factors such as ambition, risk-taking, trust, cooperation, and habits of honouring obligations also play very important roles. We have also learned that average national IQ can play a dominant role on determining a nation’s GDP.

Economic Success Correlates With National Average IQ More at VDare

Economic Success Correlates With National Average IQ
More at VDare

Side by side comparisons such as the historical West Germany vs. East Germany, and modern day South Korea vs. North Korea demonstrate that even with very similar population average IQs, different systems of government and economic policies can create stark differences in prosperity and quality of life.

The question is controversial, and remains open to debate because so many different factors contribute to national wealth, poverty, achievement, stability, and quality of life. A few of the authors who have examined this question include Adam Smith, David Landes, John Kay, Jared Diamond, Gregory Clark, Lynn and Vanhanen, Robert Cooter, and many others.

The European Miracle is a 1981 book by economic historian Eric Jones, written to help explain Europe’s amazing rise to global preeminence during the late middle ages.

A relatively recent book, by Peter Zeihan, attempts to explain why North America and the US have grown so powerful, and why the region is likely to remain powerful for at least another century. Zeihan emphasises geography, as well as demographics, in explaining the success of the US and North America.

The rise of the US and North America can be considered a historical and cultural extension of the earlier European rise to dominance. Combining the work of Eric Jones with the logic and data of Peter Zeihan, it is easy to conclude that “The Accidental Superpower” was destined for greatness. But only if an ambitious, conscientious, high-IQ population controlled the entire continent under a system of government such as that provided by the US Constitution.

Corruption Transparency International

Transparency International

The massive levels of corruption seen across Asia, Africa, and Latin America suggest that none of these regions is likely to evolve sustainable superpowers without beginning to focus more on developing the opportunities and potential for greatness of their people, and turning away from corrupt central power grabs and potentially violent military competition with their neighbors. Such reforms are highly unlikely for these perennially corrupt regions and nations.

Centres of Disruptive Innovation Likely to Remain the Anglosphere and Europe (w/ help from East Asia)

Europe and the Anglosphere face significant demographic challenges, but the same is true across the economically developed world, as well as most the of the emerging nations except perhaps India. Powerful technological tools allow a shrinking smart fraction to accomplish more per capita, helping to boost innovation and productivity despite a shrinking IQ base.

The geographic, institutional, and demographic advantages in North America provide an enduring foundation of prosperity and innovation that only the worst of government can destroy. Obama has tried, and the Clintons will try again if given a chance. But North America has been attracting the best quality and large quantities of human and economic capital from overseas for centuries now, and is likely to continue doing so.

Rather than attempting to subvert North American companies and ventures, Europe would be far wiser to cooperate with and emulate the aspects of North America that are working well. The same is true for perennial delinquents Russia and China, whose economies are increasingly built upon debt and ever cheaper oil & gas. They should spend far less on weaponry and far more on taking care of their people.

A more peaceful Russia and China would allow North America to spend even more on developing disruptive innovations to help create a more abundant and expansive human future.

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9 Responses to Why North America is the Focus of Global Innovation

  1. yoananda says:

    East Asian have high IQ … do you know why they are so corrupted ? (I was inclined to believe that having an high IQ population they would reject corruption, for the better good …)

    There is also the “c factor” : collective intelligence, which is totally (it seems) different from IQ that can explain par of nation success. It’s a new field of research but promising.
    It would explain why some groups of people (despite their IQ) collaborate better than other.

    • alfin2101 says:

      The “c factor” idea was a big deal around the year 2010. Since then it has not been well refined or corroborated. A troubling lack of rigour plagues the entire enterprise. It is used to describe a wide range of completely different phenomena, and so does not describe any of them well.

      More on collective intelligence in problem-solving

      The concept of “paired intelligence” introduces an intriguing counterpoint

      The Wikipedia article on collective intelligence reveals how the great hodge-podge of poorly meshing ideas is gathered together under the same label. The area where the idea has merit — economics — is the one area where most “c factor” champions reject the underlying implications of group intelligence, for reasons of ideology.

      It is tempting for leftist academicians to think that a large group of sub Saharan Africans with an average IQ of 75 will out-perform individual Europeans or East Asians in solving difficult problems in science and technology. Unfortunately, high fertility rates among very low IQ humans is a problem no matter what one might wish.

      • yoananda says:

        I didn’t know it was so controversial.

        I will digg deeper this subject. Thx.

        I found the result of the study (saying that “c” was not correlated to “g”) a bit odd.

        • alfin2101 says:

          The lack of correlation between one thing and another in a research study can actually be pre-determined by the way the study is designed. This seems to be the case in most of the studies that attempt to exalt the “c factor” and minimise the “g factor.”

          If you have ever designed a research study you will understand what I mean. One example is a study of competing teams of MBA students at a prestigious university, which claims that “c factor” played a larger role than “g factor.” But MBA students in the same prestigious business school tend to already have high enough “g” for the field, which amounts to “controlling out” that factor for all practical purposes. And since “c factor” is not carefully and precisely defined or tested for across the broad range of areas to which it is applied, it becomes quite easy to “lie with statistics” on this and many other fields of research.

          No wonder science is beginning to get a bad reputation among the statiscally knowledgeable.

          Retraction Watch provides many examples of dishonest and poorly designed papers

    • alfin2101 says:

      It is interesting that the aristocratic republics tended to be city-states. The Al Fin Institutes concept of “islands of competence” has some resonance with some of the ideas in your linked piece.

      Today’s America is a clumsy misbegotten giant when compared to what it could have become without the steady erosion of constitutional principles since the early 1900s, accelerating in the “New Deal”, “Great Society”, and culminating in Obama’s wholesale warfare against the US Constitution.

      When forming “an aristocratic republic,” whose aristocrats would you put in power? Finding true aristocrats among global elites is almost impossible. Trying to form an “elitist republic” from today’s crop of elites would be the end of any nation so formed.

      As long as would-be global empires of tyranny exist in the forms of radical Islam, the Russian empire, the Chinese empire, etc., a large and powerful US may be necessary to serve as a foil. That is a tragic reality. Making the US government and military go away would be the prelude to a far worse world than we currently know or might imagine, unless one prepared the ground thoroughly and carefully beforehand. Few people understand what that might mean.

  2. yoananda says:

    Interesting graph on “innovation quality index” but …
    (not talking about US, but innovation in general)
    There is innovation and innovation.
    Many of the patents have no industrial application.
    Many (I think it’s about 1/3 at leat) of the research is on medical field, and their sole purpose is to mitigate the side effects of the other innovation that create many diseases or discomforts.
    Many innovation/patents are not really innovation in the sense of usefulness of the society.
    Many innovation does not enhance our productivity.

    My point is, we have volume information on innovation but not on quality.

    Real disruptive innovation (some times it’s an combination of many small insignificant one’s) is relatively rare in the end.

    Fusion (but it’s been many years breakthrough were announced and still nothing out of the lab for the moment) , 3D printing, graphene (?), super-calculators are probably one of them.

    It’s a bit difficult to measure our real progress. Maybe one discovery can change everything.
    Right now, China is working really hard (regardless of our ethics) to create an army of geniuses. It could be a game changer.
    We never knows …

    I’m not sure what I was trying to say ! lol
    Just my 2 cts.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Excellent point. It is a significant problem when trying to make sense of the effectiveness and disruptiveness of innovation using point estimates. We have to watch trends and impacts over time.

      The Chinese super-genius programme will be interesting to watch. China’s elites are insular, paranoid, corrupt, and suspicious of change. Super-geniuses, on the other hand, are all about shaking things up and changing them. It will make for a fascinating show.

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