Economist Robert J Gordon gave an eloquent speech at Ted back in February 2013 on The Death of Innovation and the End of Growth . He also published a book called The Rise and Fall of American Growth . In the book he says
Advances since 1970 have tended to be channeled into a narrow sphere of human activity having to do with entertainment, communications, and the collection and processing of information
He attributes this “stagnation” in innovation to rising inequality, stagnating education, an aging population, and the rising debt of college students. He gives several examples to these in the form of household necessities such as television, refrigerator, automobile and medicine all of which have not progressed any further since 1970s, albeit being slightly different in form factor or shape.
He is also very true about the information technology advances, in the form of personal computers that revolutionized the 1980s, the iPods that took the music industry by storm in early 2000s, the iPhones and the smartphones that followed in 2007 changing the way people stay in touch. There has been an immense change in the way news is broadcasted, in the form of the current social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter. Today a person can know what is happening around the world and communicate with anyone across the globe by sitting on his couch at home. With that comes the feeling of being too comfortable with lives. Back in the “golden” era as mentioned in the book, between 1870 and 1970, comforts were limited and handwork was the key. Innovations came as a natural consequence of a quest for a more comfortable living.
But something that the book does not consider as a factor for slowing down of innovations – have we reached a point where life is way too comfortable to stop thinking about innovations that can make it even better? Just a food for thought on a Monday night….