The Smart State

The Smart State

2015, Technology  -   14 Comments
Ratings: 8.71/10 from 172 users.

Technologies like personal computers and smart phones have reshaped every corner of society. Figures like Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are commonly heralded as the god-like innovators of these planet shifting technologies, but the new documentary The Smart State makes a much different and far less popular argument.

While private industry figureheads like Jobs and Wozniak are to be credited for their keen foresight, aggressive marketing skills and sleekly attractive packaging, the bulk of the advanced technologies they employed in their products resulted from the sweat and ingenuity of the public sector. In the opening moments of the film, a technology expert dissects the innards of a smart phone. The origin of each working part becomes clear through every step of his examination.

The development of the phone's camera was sponsored by the U.S. State Department and proved particularly useful in wartime situations. The GPS technology was also a remnant of conflict, and its invention dates back to the Cold War. Each of these technological features, including Bluetooth, internet, wifi, touch screen, and voice activation, found their roots in the public sector.

The film challenges the common perception that the public sector's role in the creation of new technologies is one of funder and facilitator. In fact, in many instances, the opposite has been true. Government funding of public universities and research centers has led to many of the breakthrough advancements of our time in both the fields of domestic technologies, workplace robotics and medicine. But who actually profits from all of this invention and productivity, and what arrangement would best ensure the future vitality of innovation?

Those are the central questions posed by The Smart State. Private industry not only receives the bounty of acclaim for new technologies, but the vast majority of profits and government tax cuts as well. In the end, the film's expert interview subjects urge for a more collaborative existence between the private and public sectors much like what exists in Denmark. In plotting a future full of energy innovation and free from carbon emissions, the country has found its greatest success when the investment, creation and rewards of new technologies are shared.

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Don't think of this one as a plug for 'public-private-partnerships. The expert is demanding that our moronic politicians stand up for us and not just let the corporations walk away with the inventions public money finances.

4 years ago

The reason they say we pay twice is because the gov't subsidizes (pays) for the research that creates a drug, then the drug is sold by a private company and a gov't run insurer like medicare/medicaid has to pay for the drug if their subscribers need it. Hence paying twice. Also, while a private company reaps all of the profits of the drug, it would not have been profitable if the gov't hadnt subsidized all of that research. Its a scam, but capitalism is one giant scam anyway so its appropriate.

4 years ago

"Private industry not only receives the bounty of acclaim for new technologies, but the vast majority of profits and government tax cuts as well."

What a load of nonsense that sentence from the storyline description is.

Of course the voluntary sector receives the vast majority of the credit for and the profits from new technology – they do the most to develop technology and bring it to market. Government isn't supposed to be a for-profit enterprise.

The most ludicrous thing is portraying tax cuts as some kind of benefit from the coercive sector – they are simply allowing people to keep more of their own money instead of having it stolen by the State!

M.K. Styllinski
5 years ago

Interesting film.

Although I'm all for renewable energy innovation there is a big green mask going on with wind power. This technology is utterly uneconomical, environmentally unsound and produces serious health problems from infrasound. A very big corporate scam I'm afraid and yet to be understood in green circles since the wind turbine has become the icon of renewable energy.

6 years ago

Chuckling my hiney off. Socialist propaganda top to bottom. You have those in the top of and therefore benefiting from a socialist regime extolling its virtues and never the whole truth.

Purely a call for higher corporate taxes which will be born by the consumer as it always is.

What creates the environment for Corporatist(fascist not Capitalist) corruption wherein big pharma tells govt where to invest and ok do some orphan drugs which will benefit them in other research as well, while also dictating to look the other way while they charge exorbitant prices for those drugs govt already paid... And they are clueless to how that happens? Ha. The pretense is that there is no corruption in Socialism, that Socialism is purely beneficial. What a joke. It is inherently corrupt. Telling people they must be taxed to fund someone else's startup IS corrupt. If you decide to take some of your dough and invest it in a fund that provides financing to startups, then that is your free choice.

The US has MANY private investment outfits, big to small, which do similar to the Govt of Denmark Fund. Acting like that model is something new invented by the socialists, investing in startups, is pure socialist propaganda. They mentioned only a couple of their successes, none of their bad picks, nor if the fund is self sufficient or still sucking up taxes from the public, unlike a private usa firm who does similar, that disappears as it should if they make too many bad picks.

They talk of original invention by the public sector being universities, while at least in the usa many a research grant at a university is funded by a private company. Not to mention, the public sector funded instructors partially funded by slave labor students doing the work to obtain a grade, where much of the actual innovation comes from and would come from if the university had NO public funding. The reason university tuition has risen far beyond the rate of inflation is precisely because of the floor of public funding. Can you learn more in fancy university bldgs or in less expensive bldgs? Or at home taking the class online and doing independent research because that subject interests you? Depends on the student. What if you join a special interest group on drones or robotics or programming or whatever you like? They are out there and they are not funded by govt.

Unfortunately big pharma has a stranglehold on all things medical controlling govt, education, grants, etc. in that field. Whose fault is that? Capitalism or Socialism? The govt (socialist) sector clearly allowed that to happen, as a result of you doing nothing about incremental socialism.

Socialist pretend their goal is creating jobs, yet steal your dough you could have used yourself to save to start a biz or combined with friends or others to form a biz. Nice thieving weasels who claim good intentions. And how long before they have their crony's phoney solar cell factory sucking up millions of everyone else's money, e.g. obama's transformation to socialism-communism?

The wonderful collaboration of govt and industry in the wind sector is what? Wasted millions and billions of taxpayers and consumers money on technology that is less efficient that the old farmers water pumping windmill. Creating the illusion that bigger is better and more efficient so that only big corporations have little to no competition and govt supporting the big corps in permits and contracts. All bunk. Where is the research towards Tesla's innovations and some real innovation towards energy production?

You will NEVER be free of govt nor its pal the big corporation if you fall for the ruse that only big companies can generate energy efficiently. Energy security is when you produce your own energy needs.

We don't need you el govenmente. Get out of my pocket and out of my life. If you want to level the playing field by keeping big biz from taking unfair advantage, good, but Ms/Mr. govt all you have proven is that you facilitate that, not prevent it. Otherwise Denmark wouldn't have crappy bird killing windmills everywhere. They would have a nice little power generator/magnifier at every home. Same goes for the usa.

7 years ago

I'm not sure how we "pay twice" when drugs are created through public funding that wouldn't otherwise be created to treat diseases that wouldn't otherwise be treated. It's just the cost. Would those drugs be created if the cost were lower? The documentary doesn't provide and answer; it just asserts that we "pay twice."

Fred Garvin
7 years ago

I was not necessarily on board with this documentary until the point was made that taxpayers pay twice when drugs created at publicly funded universities for example are provided to those in need or elderly under medicare/medicaid. We got hustled!

Mahmoud BouRaad
7 years ago

Values mater. So does freedom.
Follow the lead, as clean energy innovation is the name of the game and, now a days, it's the most important issue. It's a must and essential for The Smart State, in cooperation with universities' laboratories, private public sector industries and Start Ups, to invest and fund, as much as required, the research and development in science and technology and other sectors.

7 years ago

So it seems the government can control costs, but refuses to. Good to know there is a law on the books so politicians can be forced to do their job when it comes to publicly funded innovations.

7 years ago

is the start of this shot in the Daniel Libeskind gallery in North London? I recognise it from my brother's exhibition!

7 years ago

seems like all those tax dollars funding the 'military industrial complex' at least paid off a little bit huh.

7 years ago

I love these vpro/backlight documentaries EXCEPT for the text translation of the foreign languages. These are really hard to read. What's wrong with reading the translation????

freedom1st time
7 years ago

every "invention" comes together from a collection of life times of research by many people, the statement "we stand on the shoulders of giants" says it all.