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Three reasons why Facebook's Zuckerberg will succeed in D.C.

Patrick Thibodeau | April 15, 2013
Facebook and Congress deserve each other

Two: Zuckerberg faces no opposition

There is no group representing IT workers. The people who raise concerns about unrestricted highly skilled immigration workers are mostly academics, the Programmer's Guild, and the IEEE-USA, a few other groups and a handful of lawmakers.

Among the outside groups, the IEEE-USA has the most impact. This engineering group wants restrictions on H-1B use and a more liberal permanent immigration policy aimed at advanced -egree holders. It knows how to knock on doors, and is influential with lawmakers of similar mind.

But the IEEE-USA is just one group. The technology industry spent $133 million in lobbying last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the sixth-largest industry by spending. The health industry and pharmaceuticals is in first place at $233 million.

Zuckerberg brings more money to the table and a fresh face. Lawmakers, who have Facebook links on their congressional homepages, will be interested in a meeting. Doors will open for him.

Three: Facebook will succeed because lawmakers are losing interest in R&D lists three initial goals, support for immigration reform, education reform and support for R&D.

If Zuckerberg is called to testify and is asked what the U.S. should be doing to encourage innovation, what will he say?

Will encourage Congress to increase U.S. investments in the types of technologies that may help increase productivity, extend life, increase exports and expand the economy? Will it help lawmakers understand that long-term, multi-year investments will be needed to achieve quantum computing, robotics, superconducting supercomputing, exascale system development, and many other technologies?

The U.S. investment in R&D is slowing. The latest budget proposal increases R&D spending but at a pace that's less than inflation, but that's what President Barack Obama is aiming for. Congress will aim lower.

A cynical view is that in the area of hard science, the people behind are lightweights. This makes them perfect for offering testimony to a Congress interested in gradually draining away science funding. This is why may eventually fade away into semi-anonymity once the immigration battle ends.

Gordon isn't the only who says much of what's touted for innovation nowadays is closet clutter. Andre Geim, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize for physics, offered some thoughts about innovation in a piece he wrote recently for the Financial Times.

Geim is worried for the future in a world with an obsession for quick fixes and not on long-term investments. He wrote ... "in my dream, humans realize social media can make some people very rich but cannot save the planet. The latter requires new fundamental discoveries."


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