Technology May Have Advanced, But Lacks Innovation
It is not anything surprising when we say our entire world revolves around technology and innovative products. Every aspect of our life is dependent on technology, be it medical, educational, in smartphones or any other. However, as useful as it may be, science in general is hated by the society. There is no actual innovation seen nowadays, innovated features are now enhanced instead. In short, technological progress has come to a halt.
Co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, is one of the challengers of innovation and technology. The graduate from Stanford University delivered a talk at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo regarding how technology has come to a constant bar in the progress graph. According to Thiel, people have a very staunch belief that too much of technology is harmful to the human race. To elaborate his point, he referred to the image of technology Hollywood movies portray.
Movies “all show technology that doesn’t work, that … kills people, that it is bad for the world,” said Thiel.
“We live in a financial, capitalistic age, we do not live in a scientific or technological age,” Thiel continued. “We live in a period were people generally dislike science and technology. Our culture dislikes it, our government dislikes it.”
By mentioning movies like The Terminator, The Matrix, Elysium and Gravity, he said people were being fed with the fear of technology for years, which has now instilled in their minds as facts. However, the movie industry isn’t at blame here, he clarified. It is basically reflecting the public bias towards science. So the cycle of hatred of science keeps going on and on.
Moving on to the general view of technology now, compared to the 1950s and 60s, Thiel said technology back then was considered “computers and rockets, underwater cities, new forms of energy and all sorts of supersonic airplanes.” On the other hand, technology is limited to just information technology nowadays, which is pretty saturated.
Peter Thiel was not completely against the level of advancement technology has taken place, though. He does say it is enough to create new business opportunities and improve existing businesses. However, he believes, “it’s not clear it’s always enough to take our civilization to the next level.”
His thought pattern matches that of economist Robert Gordon, who in a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research (download here) hypothesized there is lack of the kind of innovation that advances civilization in elementary ways: “True innovation is something like air conditioning, the combustion engine or the telephone.”
In the last decade, argued Gordon, “attention has focused not on labor-saving innovation, but rather on a succession of entertainment and communication devices that do the same things as we could do before, but now in smaller and more convenient packages.”
Thiel believes that this negligible progress is the result of lack of conviction. A “well defined plan with complex coordination” is the answer which existed before, as Thiel gave examples of the Manhattan Project (nuclear bomb made in 3.5 years) and the landing on moon in 1960s. These technologies were achieved because of proper definition of the problem and insight.