FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Are We Entering an Innovation "Dark Age"?

On the surface, it seems like a silly question. Advances and disruptive technologies are all around us, and Moore's Law appears to be holding fast. However, one researcher claims that, far from being in a golden age, we are actually entering an innovation dark age.

Jonathan Huebner, a physicist at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California, based his analysis on the number of key innovations in relation to world population growth. Using that figure, Huebner determined that innovation peaked in 1873 and has been declining ever since. When analyzing the number of US patents in a similar manner, he determined that US innovation peaked in 1915.

Huebner bases his contrarian view on the fact that many promised innovations have been slow in reaching the marketplace. "I wondered if there was a reason for this," he says. "Perhaps there is a limit to what technology can achieve."

Assuming that Huebner is correct -- and there are many who would say he isn't -- the next step is to determine why innovation is slowing. Have we indeed exhausted the capabilities of our knowledge and resources? Or are economic, political, regulatory or social barriers in place?

Sources: Eurekalert, GeniusNow