green china, innovation, etc.

So I took some of my snow-y downtime to catch up on reading The New Yorker. There was a fantastic article last week on China’s  “crash program for clean energy“.  Far too much information to encapsulate here, but I love how this paragraph hits on the correlation between innovation,  tolerance of failure and free expression:

“Add as many mail coaches as you please, you will never get a railroad,” the economist Joseph Schumpeter once wrote. Scale is not a substitute for radical invention, and the Chinese bureaucracy chronically discourages risk. In 1999, the government launched a small-business innovation fund, for instance, but its bureaucratic DNA tells it to place only safe bets. “They are concerned that, given that it’s a public fund, if their failure rate is very high the review will not be very good and the public will say, ‘Hey, you’re wasting money,’ ” Xue Lan, the dean of the school of public policy at Tsinghua University, told me. “But a venture capitalist would say, ‘It is natural that you’ll have a lot of failures.’ ” Financing is not the only barrier to innovation. As an editorial last year in Nature put it, “An even deeper question is whether a truly vibrant scientific culture is possible without a more widespread societal commitment to free expression.” [emphasis added by Culturebot]

I think about this in relation to the arts and arts funding – people want “innovation” but they want reliability and safety as well. If we truly want to innovate the arts sector – and I think we do – we need to invest in small, nimble start-ups and provide them with infrastructural support to succeed. And supporting free expression in the arts is part of supporting free expression in culture writ large, which is part of supporting a vibrant scientific culture as well.  On some level, I’m guessing, it has to do with information wanting to be free.

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