jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Ten Billion Reasons Why

What could an organization comprised of some of the smartest, most driven people on the planet do with ten billion dollars in a year? Apple increasing their R&D budget five-fold over the past decade is interesting, but the numbers they are talking about are not uncommon in the rest of the tech industry. What I find noteworthy is the comparison with NASA.

Apple R&D budget: $10 billion
NASA science budget: $5 billion

One explored Pluto, the other made a new keyboard.


Geert Barentsen (@GeertHub) Oct 28 2016 11:29 AM

It reminds me of the meager resources NASA had when they sent a man to the moon for the first time. We can accomplish amazing things when we put our collective minds to it. And what are Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft doing with their collective billions and billions of dollars in research and development? Building ever more immersive ways for us to share funny cat videos.

It bothers me in a way that so much money is spent on such frivolous things when there are real challenges in the world that our smartest people could be putting their minds to. Could a portion of those billions of dollars be spent figuring out how to get clean water to every person in the world? Or how to overcome drought by filtering seawater?

There are pursuits that are worthwhile and pursuits that are noble, and they are so often not the same thing. Every now and then though, they are. I think what Tesla is doing is both worthwhile from a financial perspective and noble in that by creating technology that relies on clean power they are benefiting everyone. It’s possible that a good sum of Apple’s ten billion is also going towards electric, self-driving cars, but we haven’t seen the fruit of that research yet. Meanwhile, NASA landed a probe on a comet.

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