Remarkable things can happen. Or not.
Can we solve climate change, food shortage, limited healthcare, and other global stresses – all with TikTok videos?
Innovation is unpredictable and astonishing – it can address the world’s most critical issues today, from hunger to efficient energy, to devastating diseases. It is also too often misguided, inefficient, and meaningless – creating nothing more than distractions and wastes of time cloaked in an image of technological wonder.
Misguided and manipulative business plans sit side-by-side with the groundbreaking disruptions that may address society’s greatest problems.
We don’t have time. Even though there is no clear argument for resources going to a new video-sharing platform or immersive game, that is beside the point. Technology delivers something, nothing else can. It is the only way to find solutions to otherwise intractable and potentially devastating global crises.
Technological breakthroughs are the only way to make a difference. Targeted legislation, encouraging speeches, and meaningless protests won’t do anything. Unfortunately, many people think that throwing a pie in front of the Mona Lisa somehow helps. None of this makes a difference – only technological innovation will.
The problem is that the future of technology faces increasing interference and inefficient policymaking and regulation. Innovation must ultimately win, but it is certainly going to be more difficult than ever.
Looking to the past and understanding the present rarely grasps the future. The future is not a simple trajectory from what we know. The most impactful developments few could have predicted.
Examples abound, ranging from the transistor leading to the microprocessor leading to distributed computing power globally. Another is the mobile phone leading to the smartphone leading to a communication and computing platform impacting the global economy.
That simply was not on Dr. Shockley’s mind in the 1950s when he developed the transistor at Bell Labs, nor was it likely on Martin Cooper’s mind when he made the first mobile phone call in 1973 or even fully understood by the team at Apple developing the iPhone in 2007.
The technology that changes the world is the one we didn’t see coming, and after its development it’s indispensable.
As Arthur C Clarke stated, technology can sometimes be indistinguishable from magic. But, unlike magic, it’s real. It’s not hidden in some mythical dark lab isolated from society, an ivory tower, or even a nondescript garage in Silicon Valley. Innovation belongs to the world quickly. It does not stay on the island with Gilligan and the Professor.
…and also, luck
Timing, opportunity, and location are more impactful than most innovators are willing to admit. Constraints are not simply the laws of physics, but communities, capital, ecosystems, and entrepreneurs combine idiosyncratic perspectives with visionary quests, and innovative technologies burst forth.
But there is a need filled, a desirable new product or service, or a more efficient way to accomplish important tasks. It’s not a smooth line, many products are distractions more than anything, simply delivered in a more efficient way (TikTok), but essential innovations are dramatic and positive.
More than ever, that unpredictable brilliance and innovative spark are needed. Quite simply, our future is dependent on innovation.