Are We Going to Experience Technological Stagnation?

This is a first essay on innovation. As I believe that finance and innovation are linked together, I decided to go deeper into the innovation process. There will be more about innovation. Tell me if you like it.

Is innovation over?

Some entrepreneurs (Max Levchin or Peter Thiel), and economists (Tyler Cowen) claim that we are going to experience technological stagnation. They believe that it is now more difficult to find disruptive innovation.

I do not think innovation is over. FinTech startups are a good illustration of recent tech innovation. Yet, I do not want to throw the first stone because there are actually four reasons for this theory. Let’s explore them.

1. It is easier to look at what has been done in the past

Current innovation and inventions always seem to be so simple because we are used to living with most of them. For instance, mobile phones are henceforth part of our daily life. And the way they have become part of our lives seems linear. Yet, mobile phones went through a lot of hurdles before becoming a great part of our culture.

2. By definition future is unpredictable

Before most of the innovations were discovered and implemented, they did not seem so obvious. It is more likely that people had had the same kind of opinion before Gutenberg invented printing. It is hard to conceive of something that does not exist yet, correct?

Science fiction is a way to think about future innovation. But once again, twenty years ago people were not able to predict the current Internet revolution. There were already experts willing to demonstrate the end of history and the end of innovation.

3. People like to think that they have mastered everything

As I said, future is unknown. Thus, it is likely to think that we have already discovered all the most useful inventions and that we master innovation. Most of the time, we don’t know that we lack for something when it does not exist. Although the iPad is not the biggest innovation of all time, it is a striking example showing how offer can create demand. Innovation is about happiness, namely how to make someone happy by saving time or creating a nice experience.

4. Innovation is an evolutionary process

Ultimately, it is more accurate to say that the innovation process has evolved rather than innovation is more difficult to achieve. The model of innovation has changed over the years:

  1. Luck (fire, agriculture…);
  2. Inventor alone or a team of scientists (printing, vaccine…);
  3. Companies, labs and states (Post-it, Nicotine patch, Xerox labs);
  4. Companies of specialists, startups (Microsoft, Oracle, Apple).

In a nutshell, innovation is not gone at all. It is cyclical and its process has evolved. It requires more interdisciplinary teams than ever but it is more likely to be incredible in the next decades.

Innovation is not dead. We are not going to dance on its grave soon. There are still many opportunities for us out there.

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