Tech Innovation has stagnated?

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I read a fascinating article on CNet featuring Peter Thiel’s opinion that tech innovation has stalled. When I first read the headline, I thought this must be yet another crackpot tech journalist that is spouting off some new nonsense. But after reading the article, I agree 100% with his opinions.

He is basically stating that while electronics related tech (Computers, the Internet, etc.) is still expanding at a rapid pace, the rest of the tech world is not. We are still using petroleum based fuel way too much. Space innovation is very slow compared to 40 years ago. Our governments still use ancient processes and ‘technology’ to get things done, for the most part.

Peter Thiel is postulating that we live in a society that has lost interest in science and technology. I think I agree. And I think I know why.

I think today’s people are less altruistic than in years past. People are more interested in what is happening here and now, and only in their own lives for the most part. I know I am generalizing, there are definitely exceptions. But I thing the majority of the population is more selfish than we used to be. And I’m not the only one that thinks this (The Me Generation, NY Times.)

Most scientists are not paid very well. I think you have to be interested in leaving a legacy…in helping other people on a grand scale, if you want to be a scientist. And these values are largely missing in the general population. So science is suffering.

I also believe this is happening in business. In the old days, one company would innovate and the rest of the industry would benefit. In today’s world, a company that innovates will aggressively defend their “territory” with patents and lawyers. Thus general innovation suffers.

Also, companies today are hyper focused on growth and revenue (largely due to the stock market, IMO.) Companies are very reluctant to innovate if they can’t comfortably predict a return on their investment. They are not concerned with “doing the right thing”, it’s all about money.

I think this is all sad. I would really like to see more scientific/tech innovation than we have today. I think many of the world’s problems could be solved if people were more willing to do something for the greater good, even if the result wouldn’t offer them an immediate benefit.

So what about YOU? Which attitude best describes you? “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Or, “Ask not what your [world] can do for you – ask what you can do for your [world].” (JFK)