Hundreds of thousands of Asian university graduates in both the the U.S. and China are opting for startups and business ventures, not finance or industries, as the path to riches.
BUENOS AIRES — Half of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs were born in India, while 40% of university students on the U.S. West Coast are Asian. Why is this significant? Because technological frontiers are changing in this advanced phase of capitalism, and the economy now revolves on an axis that incorporates Asia and the U.S.
The new economy has also given rise to an emerging labor division that supercedes global production chains, and it's fueled by the autonomous creativity of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs inside the U.S. and Asia, — predominantly, but not exclusively, China.
This technological frontier means new patterns of capitalist accumulation, beyond the transnational production processes and global money movements that have developed over the past 20 years. The protagonists in those processes have traditionally been multinational companies (88,000 of them in 2014) and their affiliates and partners (600,000).
But since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the world has seen the rise of an extraordinary impulse toward decentralized and bottom-up innovation, in which advanced technologies are being adaptated and modified. The new entrepreneurs — more than 4.6 million in China last year alone, generally between 25 and 34 years old — exist in a sophisticated digital culture, innovating through a constant process of reciprocal imitation and exchange of ideas.
There are an estimated 290,000 Chinese university students in the United States this year, and since 1978 the number of graduates has exceeded three million. Given the West Coast's concentration of Asian university students, it's unsurprising that 16.2% of high-tech U.S. patents issued last year were in the names of people living in Asian countries. That's double what it was in 2000. In many ways, Silicon Valley is more closely linked these days to Bangalore and Shenzhen than to U.S. cities.
This level of innovation among Chinese entrepreneurs is a deliberate investment choice. Every year, about eight million university students graduate in China, which spends $250 billion through 2,409 universities — 25 of them world-class institutions. It has gone from having no PhD graduate in hard sciences in 1978 to having 25% more than the U.S. last year.
The United States is an exceptional country. The leaders of the new global frontier become global actors (Apple, Amazon, etc.). In fact, the defining trait of American society is its openness to the world, and the world responds by turning toward it. Last year the country received four million migrants, and the U.S. population born abroad today is 56 million, the highest figure since the country's inception. It is a compressed version of a global society.
What we're experiencing is the exponential growth of information turned into knowledge. The quantitative has become qualitative.
Information is a kind of energy, and its derivatives are initative and ability to act. This is the core of the human phenomenon, as French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin argued. The new technological frontier is not so different from the way one Argentine president perceived local U.S. democracy in 1847: "something wild, anarchic, full of life."