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03 July 2005

All The Cool Things Have Already Been Invented

Via Dienekes. It should be obvious that we are not growing technologically like in the old days. People living between 1830 and 1910 saw the invention of trains, powered ships, telegraphs, telephones, photography, phonographs, motion pictures, automobiles, and airplanes. Aside from computers, everything else since then is just an improvement on these (well, spacecraft were invented, but none of us gets to use them).
A new study backs this up with facts, and proposes that we have reached a point where we get diminishing returns economically and that perhaps we have reached a cognitive limit.
I think there is an alternative explanation. The peak is said to be 1873. This is also when mass immigration (from the old world to the new world) began. The reduced economic gain from innovation is probably true, but this results from the easy flow of labor geographically. Innovation must now compete with cheap labor, of which there is an infintie supply (for all practical purposes). Ironically, it's the great innovations in transportation, communication, and computation that have made cheap labor more and more exploitable.

9 Comments:

Anonymous jimbo said...

I agree that nothing in the last 50 years or so matches what went down back then. But, the advances gained by computer technology should not be understated.

As a musician, at home I now have 10 times more studio recording capability than the Beatles did when they made Abbey Road. Also, in my current nightly show, there is no need for a drummer, and that´s big.

Still, I haven´t yet found a product that includes a talent button.

July 06, 2005 7:03 AM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

Ziel:
Seems a somewhat wacky post when you are doing it in a medium that allows people all over the world to read your comments and share their own. I can see where Jimbo is playing Barcelona in just a few key strokes and can see videos of news events around the world in much more depth than our news provides. And let's not forget Naked News, The Onion and too much deviant porn to mention.
What about microwaves, alternative fuel vehicles, recordable DVDs, cell phones that send pictures, in vitro fertilization?
Is not the auto just an improvement on the wheel? Photography an improvement on the drawing?
Technology is amazing and continues to advance.
Jimbo is too humble. While I'm not sure I welcome the absence of the drummer, he is right about the incredible advances in music technology. It has allowed him to do what he loves, successfully, on a small scale for decades now. Much of that is attributable to dedication and drive but it also incorporates talent augmented by technology.

July 08, 2005 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

And we are anxiously awaiting "Barcelona Road" now that we've got the technology.
Harlem

July 08, 2005 8:12 PM  
Anonymous jimbo said...

It´s in the oven.

July 09, 2005 5:10 AM  
Anonymous Mr. Mojo Risin said...

Is not the auto just an improvement on the wheel? Photography an improvement on the drawing?

Harlem, that is brilliant!!!!!!! DOWNRIGHT GENIOUS.

July 12, 2005 8:12 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Harlem, I clearly wrote "Aside from computers, everything else since then is just an improvement [on previous inventions]" I didn't say that computer technology is just an improvement - I rate it as a major innovation. Do you really think that microwave ovens and alternative fuel vehicles rate with airplanes, telephones, photography, and automobiles as major innovations?
At any rate, the post referenced a study that claims innovation has been steadily declining - my contribution was to suggest that the mass movement of cheap labor is likely to exacerbate this situation, as innovators in advanced countries will have to account for an unlimited supply of low-wage workers in cost justifying their products.

July 13, 2005 7:34 AM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

Ziel:
I wasn't suggesting that you completely dissed computer technology but that you didn't give it its just due. If I had to chose between trains and the computer, I'd go for the computer.
The proposition that we are purposely slowing technology in order to allow enough jobs for the masses of unskilled labor (am I reading the analysis correctly) is fascinating.
Could it be that we are doing a poorer job of educating our children so that there are less "brillant minds" out there to come up with the big ideas?
It does seem as though there are opportunities for great technological advancement that are being missed. Being in a hurricane prone region, I've mused about the potential to create some man made method of weakening or disrupting the formation of hurricanes through man made means, since so much of it is water temperature and/or land mass driven. Then I get the munchies and eat some ice cream.
The big question is "What big thing is left to invent?" Of course, if you know the answer to that, you are half way there.
TIVO is a pretty cool "improvement" on TV as is satellite radio on radio.
Let's all just hope that we have innovative kids out there looking for new frontiers.
Harlem

July 15, 2005 6:55 PM  
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