On the Record

Who Are the Winners and Losers in the Drone Industry?

Peter W. Singer

Editor’s Note: As part of Slate’s Drone U discussion series, Peter Singer addresses questions revolving around the winners and losers in drone technology. Singer covers topics from the robotics boom, to building code, to domestic use of drones among others. Below is an excerpt, with the full discussion available at Slate.

Peter Singer: The U.S. faces a strange situation of trying to compete in a world economy where technological know-how is a key differentiator, and yet it has an education system that too often moves in the opposite direction.

American high school students ranked 23rd in science and 31st among math among wealthy nations, and 27th in college graduates with degrees in science and math. And the trends aren’t improving greatly.

In 2004, the number of American college computer science majors was 60,000. In 2013, it had shrunk to 38,000. Now, it’s not all bad news. We are graduating twice as many journalists. Of course, that’s a much far growing field than computers.

The issue of winners and losers, though, isn’t just a matter for Washington policymakers. It should have huge resonance for state and local leaders. That is, if what is playing out in the field of robotics is comparable to the horseless carriage, who is Detroit, which became the epicenter of this industry for the 20th century?

And who’s going to be like basic city, Virginia, or Jacksonville, Florida, that had early automobile companies around the same period, but didn’t benefit in the long-term. Or if the comparison is computer, who’s going to be akin to Philadelphia, a key node in the early days of computing, and who’s going to be the robotics version of Silicon Valley that ultimately wins out?