Interesting theory, but I don't buy it. If they were "mining the past" there would be a steady supply from just one or a few sources. (number of mined sites) I do follow changes in technology, in fields that affect me and my job, in addition, I have been watching the progression of solar for many years, as they fight for small gains in efficiency. Most of the original ideas, and innovative design changes have come from over seas, and even from kids. I am not seeing ANYTHING that doesn't have a hard fought fight to gain, or an idea that is out of left field. It was an Indian KID, who figured out a biofilm added to an existing solar cell caused it to dome slightly, allowing for better capture of light with less tracking needed. They are working on 3D cells, double sided cells,(to catch reflective light wasted on roof installations) Inferred cells for more of the light spectrum, Heat sinks to produce power from the waste heat that restricts solar cells, ect.... There are too many sources, from too many directions, for this to ring true. Reverse engineering is more like copy the parts, to understand what they do, then study what they do to figure out why. Innovation is this is what I think, can I prove it?, Can I improve it? what happens if I do this?It is tuning one variable at a time to get closer to an ideal, and that progression shows in products, tools, design ideas, There are dozens of different paths in solar alone, and they are all taking baby steps in labs, instead of finished product ready for sale. If it were a reverse engineered design, it would have been long done, standardized, efficient, and street ready. That is NOT happening. Take the Molten Salt Reactor, we built it, run it for years (in the 50's or 60's off the top of my head), found a few small flaws, (easily corrected by today's materials), and we will not use it. China will. They are building it, and they will claim it, even though we invented it. Because we are dragging our feet, because we are afraid of reactors. So no, we are not mining the past, we are giving away the future.