I happen to be a fan of the government investing money into what is commonly called infrastructure projects. I strongly believe that any reasonable businessperson, even one who works for the government, should be able to invest money at 1% interest rates and get a better than 2% return on taxpayer money. But I think its time to rethink how we spend a big chunk of that money.
If it was me spending the money, I would take 100 billion of the proposed $ 1 Trillion dollars in infrastructure investment and invest it in Robotics.
I would invest it in the companies that do R&D, software, and design for robots and every other facet of the Robotics Industry.
Unfortunately, none of the companies that actually make the robotics are based here in the USA. That’s a problem that needs to be solved. We need to help develop domestic companies much like we did the electric car and wind and solar industries. Even if it means trying to help pick winners.
We have to win the robotics race. We are not even close right now.
A new report says China is spending far more on Robotics than we are. China, Korea, EU are offering billions in credits to support their robotics industry. We spend about $100mm . That ain’t gonna work.
The good news, if there is any, is that according to the report China is only spending $ 3B dollars a year on robotics. We need to quickly pass them by.
Why is this so important ? Because technological change always accelerates. It never stagnates over time. Which means we are going to face the fact that if nothing in the States changes, we will find ourselves dependent on other countries for almost everything that can and will be manufactured in a quickly approaching future.
We have to face the fact that countries are going to lose jobs to robotics. The only question that needs to be answered is which country will create and own the best robotic technology and have the infrastructure necessary to enable it.
Right now it’s not the USA and that needs to change.
Our “infrastructure” spending should look forwards, not backwards so that we can be the robotics hub of the world.
95 thoughts on “Dear Mr President , My Suggestion for Infrastructure Spending”
The problem with Trump’s “make America great again” rhetoric is that it would have to involve backwards time travel. The only way is forward. We must embrace technology and innovation. The strongest economies going forward will be the ones that adjust rapidly to the technological disruption which is surely to continue. https://edpalermo.com
Comment by Edward Palermo -
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Cuban, I know you are busy with business objectives. Start to focus priorities on commune. Please provide more leadership to your community. As you probably know after last night we all need to join up! Sry for the wakeup. Infrastructure spending is important but education in places like Mexico are more important. I think we need to abolish the gap between private and government education. Together we can build and economy not foster by profits but communal progress. Orientated around health, love, and making sure we can agree on this world. Happy to chat Cubes..
Comment by Peter Macdonald -
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Actually, people like Mark Cuban should be investing in robotics, not the US government. Trump is trying to put people back to work and investing in robotics does not do that. That is the job of the private industry. If people aren’t investing in it then it is NOT a smart investment for the government!!!
Comment by Dannikun (@NonsenseFinder) -
Isn’t the U.S. first in Drone technology?
Drones vs Robots, who wins?
Comment by Alessandro Machi -
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Robotics is the way of the future. It makes sense to invest in it.
Comment by Kenneth Ashe -
You think like Hillary (make believe world). There are arbitrage laws that prevent the government (fed, state, and local) from borrowing (at tax exempt rates) or using tax money to invest (compete with private sector that doesn’t have those same advantages).
Comment by Randy Winton -
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Mark: USA already won the robotics race, just check Youtube for conspiracy videos. Government should invest in their people, not in technologies that are already there (according to conspiracy videos) or that will never profit humanity (according to almost every sci-fi movie available).
Comment by Martin Dee Wan (@MartinDeeWan) -
I like the idea of investing in robotics – I just wonder if the US government should be doing it (in the way Mark suggests). If private investors are not investing in US based robotics companies, why should the government? Does the govt have better vision than sophisticated investors? Probably not. Instead, investments from government to boost sector growth should go where private investments don’t (because there’s no immediate return): education programs for kids, adolescents and adult training in robotics; industrial science parks; awards for innovation. Investors go after the fruit once the tree is there. The government should plant the seeds.
Comment by Jack Campbell (@JackCampbellMMC) -
I can appreciate this, Mark… Start a conversation… a starting point to consider all possibilities of the USA. I would hope to hear a conversation continued by Pres Elect.
Comment by Reggie Rossi (@reggierossi) -
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Correction of typo, would not change a “word”.
Comment by Tom Atwood -
We emphatically agree with Mr. Cuban’s comments and would not change a world. Tom Atwood, executive director, The National Robotics Education Foundation, http://www.the-nref.org.
Comment by Tom Atwood -
Controversial for sure, but needs strategic thought without emotion. I would rather have a plan and be in control now than being at another country’s mercy and reacting later.
Comment by Nick Bellavia (@NickBellavia) -
Comment by William Steele -
BLACK and frigging WHITE!!!
Comment by William Steele -
I totally agree with you. Robotics is the future. Manual intensive jobs are going to give way to Robots. The ones who will benefit are the ones who design, develop and program these robots.
Below idea is not new but a perfect example of the possibilities on a small scale:
“Students develop robot that can harvest coconuts in seconds”
Agree, the Government should help companies that do R&D, software, and design for robots. Next question: How can we help on a smaller scale? How can we help a person who has the Robotics idea, design and a prototype ready? A google search helped me find several companies which help you take your idea/design/prototype to the next step.
Mark, you should do the same i.e. have a small team that guide individuals/small companies take their Robotics ideas/prototypes to the next level.
Comment by Chetan Jaitly -
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Having analyzed the global robotics industry full time for the past 15 months at a Chinese vc firm investing in international robotics/ai companies, I agree whole-hardedly with your sentiments. China is playing the long game. They recognize that this technological transformation is coming and are aggressively investing to out innovate the future. Of course there are internal issues with respect to robotics here in China, but the overall top-down approach is moving the market forward.
It is not too late for the US to act in a decisive way. In the pure technology sense, the US (CMU, MIT, Stanford, GT, etc.) is still 3-7 years ahead of what Chinese researchers are doing – especially on the new opportunities in the collaborative robot/service robot space. That lead will continue to shrink in the short term as Chinese companies catchup and Chinese VC firms invest in US, European, Israeli and Singapore companies with the eye of bringing the company to China.
Comment by Mike Bai -
It’s all about people, Mark. Investing in robotics and other rapidly emerging technologies is a nice sentiment. But if automation, AI and advanced robotics are just going to put more people out of work, then it really doesn’t matter if we have the world’s best robot-producing industry. We will still have massive unemployment and inequality that will lead to instability and worse. Trump’s win, which you missed completely, reflects an already high level of economic disenchantment outside America’s handful of successful urban capitals. But 2016 offered merely a glimpse of what’s to come if we can’t find a way to get the economy working for a bigger share of the population.
Comment by jrok78 (@jrok78) -
We’re all wise when proposing to spend someone else’s money. Have you gotten any ideas how to save them? (And yes, I do have some.)
Comment by Andrei Vorobiev -
Mark, were you in a coma when Obama invested billions of dollars into private companies such as Solyndra, A123 Battery, etc only to see it vaporize? Let the robotics companies invest their own money in R&D.
Comment by Jason Siracusa (@Jsiracusa) -
Mark, while I think that your advice for infrastructure investing makes some good points, there are a few issues worth considering (I own a tiny manufacturing company):
1) Defining robotics in manufacturing; just by example HAAS CNC is an American company that actually owns a very large portion of the market (14% according to a 2012 survey) and is a leading manufacturer of CNC machines (essentially, machining robots) with an estimated 60% of machines being shipped to export markets. They are also not the only such company in the US, although they are the largest.
2) Governments have historically be bad at predicting both new technologies as well as companies who will succeed in the market with them. It has not worked in the past nor will it work in the future. I would suggest creating government incentives (generalized grant programs, educational assistance, tax breaks, DARPA grants) for companies in fields which are deemed critical to further infrastructure growth and letting the market take over from there. Seems to work better.
3) While we still have solid educational and research institutions at the university level, vocational training has been neglected for years (it’s expensive to run a shop-class as compared to a nursing class yet both charge the same tuition… go figure) and yet these are precisely the skills which will be required to grow the physical and technical infrastructure you’re writing about. By way of example, it’s almost impossible for us to hire people with the skills required and we find it easier and faster to simply train them ourselves while sending them to school.
Comment by tacticalpen -
Robotics ? ya know i cant stand giving a job to a robot instead of a real person. That idea Mr Cuban will plummet your ratings..
Comment by Bob Vandermark -
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I agree that investment in Robotics would be beneficial, but I think we have more important short term objectives with regard to our federal spending and dealing with our national debt. If we bring manufacturing jobs state side, I think business will take care of robotics innovation to cut labor cost, which brings us to more “re-displaced” blue collar workers. At some point we have to quit looking to government for solutions, and give businesses the incentives in the form of reduced taxes across the board to give them the required dollars invest in R&D. The government should not pick winners and losers.
Comment by brentpinkston -
Markey, youre a flip flopper. Now that Trump will be president ( the candidate you didn’t support ) youre just full of ideas for the upcoming president. Tell it to Hillary. There is no position in the Trump administration for you.
Comment by Kathy Dietrich -
BTW, I do think Robotics has a great future. The only reason other countries are ahead is because we stifle innovation with crony capitalism and regulations. America will be great in robotics once our political system is cleaned up. You may really want to invest your money in Robotics.
Comment by MindfulCritique (@aasumlife) -
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Marc, If you really think Robotics is the way to go, how much of your portfolio would you like to invest? Any investment is a RISK and with 20 Trillion in debt, asking the tax payer to assume the risk is crony capitalism. You want the US government to assumes the risk with taxpayer money and in the end you or people like you will come in if the risk is mitigated or lowered. If you are right, you and are willing to assume the risk, Government should provide an environment where you can be appropriately rewarded. This is exactly why billionaires and millionaires donate and lobby politicians. Government should never assume risk, only build systems to take care of it’s people who are living today and paying taxes today and make sure people are fair to one another.
Comment by MindfulCritique (@aasumlife) -
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MC. While I applaud the end result proposed with funding robots and AI research, the real problem, and the problem with the need for all those H1 visas, is we have abandoned our pre college educational system and hijacked our value for advanced education. College is so expensive, or so encumbering, there is no guarantee the best and the brightest will or can pursue. We have made knowing what is up with the Kardashians more valuable, more important, than understanding basic science, history and grammar. If you want to help, if you want to support, start talking about upgrading our educational system and first, upgrading teacher education and the pay for a career in teaching. You are such a grand role model, Please, emphasize how cool knowing and learning are. Talk about how much you know and how you learned it. Then, get Bernie’s idea of free JR college education happen. Please. You can do this better than most any other American.
Comment by Rita -
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Justice would be served. The uniformed elect Trump. Trump invests in robotics. Robots replace the uniformed at their factory jobs.
Comment by Matt Barnes -
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Dear American Workers. We should take $100 billion of your tax dollars, to ensure that the robots that take your jobs have a “Made in America” stamp. Because, oh I don’t know, won’t your redundancy feel so much better if it comes waving an American flag?
Comment by johnranta -
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Hm! What about Bulgaria!? 🙂
Comment by Martin Gergov -
The letter is addressed to Mr. President, so he MUST be talking to Obama. Why’d he wait until the last month of his term to write this letter?
Comment by MaryLou Chizek -
Mark Cuban makes points in his blog that are what unemployed techies have followed. When 45+ year old engineers of USA citizen origin spend countless hours attempting to find employment and fail to do so they “export” their technical expertise to the highest foreign bidder and that is EXACTLY why the foreign countries that Cuban describes is technologically ahead in the field of robotics and other fields. No unemployed older engineers do not “flip burgers” or become $9.25/hr ushers at the American Arilines Center for Mavericks games they work remotely on robotics and other engineering projects for foreign countries that value and exploit their technical expertise. The reluctance of Human Resources of USA corporations to retain and hire older engineers is the downfall of the USA economy. So Mark Cuban study up on what I am telling you and then write a more educated blog on how to invest in infrastructure. Infrastructure investment starts with the rehiring of older engineers that continue to be tossed into the streets.
Comment by Thiago Santiro -
Mark, I see your points…howeverr perhaps there was less spending bc Our President knows that there is also great caution to develop certain robots that must be taken…[ei. DO YOU want to be operated on by a robot?? these are detrimental and a waste of money already!!..look at the deaths/speaks for ‘itself’ [lol]
However also I think that we need as you say to stop spending money in other countries, which will help our economy with jobs taxes etc. A N D we know if a project is worth any money more quickly..
I have found in my long life..that there are many companies/people who use money at hand without consideration of whether it spent in a worthy manner or an ‘oh well we tried’..thus millions gone..only to start perhaps a another ..’oh well..’?? Your thoughts?
Comment by Ambra Moore -
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Companies like Apple & Microsoft must work on manufacturing their computers in the US using Robots like its done in China. Govt will need to provide incentive for getting these manufacturing back.
Comment by Techclue (@Techclue) -
Adding to that , we also need more of Solar energy as well.
Comment by mobilesecuritythreat (@mobilesecurityt) -
Agree 100%. Japan was the best for a long time and that’s shifting to China.
Comment by mobilesecuritythreat (@mobilesecurityt) -
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Just to chime in on this again, our friends at ABB are currently launching YuMi. Just trying to support my previous claim on how “parts of the robotic infrastructure” already exists. If anyone knows about he automation industry and ABB’s presence there (as well as other who coexist with in the robotic community) you can get a glimpse of my rational on this claim. Heres the recent release video of the YuMi. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KfXY2SvlmQ
Comment by Luis Marroquin (@rablm3) -
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Interesting thought. We would all likely agree that the aging bridges, roads, etc. are not just a big city issue and the overall highway system across the US needs work. While the idea of us becoming the leader in robotics technology is a valiant one, my concern would be whether or not the employees of these robotic companies would be able to safely drive to work on the roads and bridges that need the repair. Just a though of my own.
Comment by John Dorney -
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Unfortunately, way too many people think it is the government’s job to provide everything, produce everything, and invest in everything. As we have seen in the current administration (and others previously if we are being honest with ourselves), the government serves only to mess things up when it gets involved with what should be private sector investing. Leave it to the experts to develop robotics and leave the national defense and collecting of taxes to the government.
Comment by Brian Hudson (@BrianPowernet) -
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Mr. Cuban I like the attitude of this piece…refreshing and useful tone and good leadership. I also very much like the concept robotics as part of new infrastructure spend. I have a few suggestions on where to focus the $1B. Robots for the People!
Comment by robautoproject -
Please let us know Mark if Mr. trump responds, or are you using an example to encourage other business leaders like yourself to reach out to him?
Comment by Alex Roberts -
Mark, you are 100% right on. As an executive at a large Japan based industrial robot company, I see the global shift that is occurring in robotics from Japan/Germany to China. The US lost out in the 80’s/90’s when Unimate, Cincinnati Milicron, and Prab went by the wayside due to inferior technology, poor customer support, and slow to react marketing programs. The good news, as you note, new technologies allow newcomers to get into the game. But the US needs a focused approach like you recommend.
Comment by Neil Dueweke (@NDueweke) -
No fun transporting robots over bridges that fall in.
Comment by Susan Young -
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I am cracking up at some of the comments about Infrastructure and Robotics. My favorite Luis Marroquin FPV Infrastructure. I also want to comment on Robotics Science and the ever existing need for Scientific Advancement Funds. Mark as a tax write off, if you feel so strongly you should invest in the Scientific Advancement of Robotics in the USA, Scientist who dedicate their entire 24 hour day in this technology are right here in the USA waiting to hear from people like you Mark. FPV I am still laughing, I think of Drones as infrastructure.
Comment by Faith Ellis -
Mark, what are your thoughts about how robotics will affect the future job market if more and more jobs are replaced by automation? Will there be less job opportunities for un-skilled workers, especially in the area of manufacturing? If so, in your view…. how is this countered to offset the loss of human labor for automation? Also, I see a correlation with illegal immigration, and why the future of robotics and competition for jobs is even more reason the U.S. needs to stop the flow of illegal immigration. Do you agree?
Comment by Christian Vedder -
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You marginalized yourself Cuban.Can’t take you seriously after your dopey hofstra appearances, intimidating no one. Capitalist, socialist, which way does the wind blow today?
Comment by Vince Iuliano (@savingamerica2) -
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Oops, forgot the link. $900M invested by VCs in robotics in 2015: http://www.hizook.com/blog/2016/01/12/venture-capital-vc-funding-robotics-2015
Comment by travisdeyle -
Agreed… though as the CEO of a still-stealthy robotics company, I might be biased.
The good news: The private markets in the US continue to invest heavily in robotics. In 2015, it was north of $900M . 2016 already massively exceeds the 2015 numbers, though the final numbers haven’t been tabulated yet.
Feel free to reach out if you ever want to speak to a robotics expert (PhD and a MIT “35 Under 35” Award winner).
Comment by travisdeyle -
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Mark, you should be our president elect right now, not Donald Trump
Comment by Tony de la Riva -
By no one’s definition is robotics infrastructure. This is not infrastructure investment; this is industrial policy. And how many failures of industrial policy do we need before people stop calling for it? If Mark Cuban thinks that robotics are a great investment, then he should take his own money and do it. I understand that he has a fair amount.
Comment by Economic Man (@EconomicManBlog) -
The parts of a supporting “robotic infrastructure” exists in the states already. The channel, the engineering, the expertise even, it’s just not cohesive because of the lack of demand domestically. The Best robotic technology could be fostered here in the US with proper vision, in my opinion. A good example of the potential lies in the expansive recent adoption of FPV flying sourced and assembled by competitive hobbyists’ who became engaged for fun among other reasons. Anyway… I support the idea on principal. It seems to alway lead back to the need for attracting more interest and a better standing when it comes to science and engineering globally as a country.
Comment by Luis Marroquin (@rablm3) -
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My bad, I meant ABB
Comment by lbomaster -
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I’m an American living in Shanghai since 2012 engaged in commercial real estate investment banking. And let me just say the Chinese are great at attracting the multinationals like ABS to invest into robotics through creating these special economic zones, etc. Maybe we should do that? By the way the Chinese fintech industry makes US look like a used car. Maybe we should import technologies from China?
Comment by lbomaster -
Great thought Mark. If only logic could exist in politics.
Comment by Mike Gumpert (@gumpbowl) -
There is an American version of the game changing Emdrive called Cannae. NASA just announced it works and there is one heading for orbit in 2017. The Emdrive technology is no joke, no dream it is real and needs big government & private sector funding. If The US develops this tech we own the future. Watch Roger Shawyers interview in my other comment and get the big picture.
Comment by JG Bennet (@jgbennet) -
The government should not be spending money on businesses such as robotics or as we’ve learned green energy such as solyndra. Let the private market invest in those categories and let the private market profit from their investments. Government is unable to run businesses with forced customers yet someone expects them to pick winners in the free market? We have a president who can now take that trillion dollars needed for infrastructure and get the same work done for half the price. Spend that time and money on needed transportation routes, bridges and upgrades creating jobs and better delivery systems for the private sector. Also partner with the private sector on projects to offset costs. Nothing wrong with having an American Airlines Bridge or train system!! Bill Corrigan 702-545-7893 Sent from my iPhone
Comment by billcorriganfightingback -
Mark IMO you miss the definition “in·fra·struc·ture– infrastructure; plural noun: infrastructures, the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise”.
And for the one who dint like the president elect you look to lined your pockets with your suggestion.
BTW I still like you.
Comment by Mike Gutrugianios -
The other thing to invest in is the Emdrive technology. Watch this interview of the inventor. Emdrive technology is an absolute paradigm changer in energy & propulsion. Plus the technology can prevent climate change. He explains everything in the interview.
Comment by JG Bennet (@jgbennet) -
It’s somewhat surprising that this forcing a ton of money at once with infrastructure stimulus is poised to happen again though. When it happened in 2009, it was just a giant slush fund and a race for quickie pet projects tilted towards those with swing votes to pass the legislation, or in charge of doling out the dollars, that wasn’t very wisely spent. Local, county and state government would be best suited long term to spend the money most wisely. I suspect though Trump and Republicans will not allocate these funds on longer term projects, just as Obama and Dems did not in 2009, as the bulk of the GDP growth would occur when he, and they, could be out of office.
Comment by offthelows -
I like it!
Comment by Mitch (@mitttttchh) -
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