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  1. #1

    Default The end of innovation?

    It's been almost 3 years since I first saw this, but I was thinking about it again.



    Note that the above graphs are per capita. What do you believe to be the case of this data?

    I have my own theories. But I'll hold off on expressing them for a while.

    Entering a dark age of innovation - opinion - 02 July 2005 - New Scientist

    So who is right? The high-tech gurus who predict exponentially increasing change up to and through a blinding event horizon? Huebner, who foresees a looming collision with technology's limits? Or Modis, who expects a long, slow decline?

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  2. #2
    desert pelican Owl's Avatar
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    I like the analogy likening technological development to a tree, but I don't think we've discovered all the major branches. Our physics aren't yet perfect, (e.g. there is still much work to be done at the quantum level), and there are many recalcitrant anomolies.

    My theory is that there aren't enough people interested enough is physics qua physics--the goal of most contemporary science is economic, not intellectual--in order to ask the right questions and design the research programs that would lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of physics.

  3. #3
    The Eighth Colour Octarine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    What do you believe to be the case of this data?
    I have an interesting suggestion: intellectual property laws are too restrictive.

    Besides the biases in the selection of 'major innovations and scientific breakthroughs', the real bottleneck is the complexity of natural phenomena compared to our computational capacity. The low hanging fruit has already been picked, so to speak. Beyond that, the limitations will be the levels of natural resources, and the distance of separation between habitable regions of the universe.

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    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    It's been almost 3 years since I first saw this, but I was thinking about it again.



    Note that the above graphs are per capita. What do you believe to be the case of this data?

    I have my own theories. But I'll hold off on expressing them for a while.

    Entering a dark age of innovation - opinion - 02 July 2005 - New Scientist
    Whenever you see scientists or analysts saying that everything has been discovered, you can tell that a major breakthrough is about to happen. I wonder what it will be next time.

  5. #5
    will make your day Carebear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Whenever you see scientists or analysts saying that everything has been discovered, you can tell that a major breakthrough is about to happen. I wonder what it will be next time.
    Nano and DNA seem to be in their infancy yet... I think they'll develop in surprising directions once they learn to walk.
    I have arms for a fucking reaosn, so come hold me. Then we'll fuvk! Whoooooh! - GZA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    The low hanging fruit has already been picked, so to speak. Beyond that, the limitations will be the levels of natural resources, and the distance of separation between habitable regions of the universe.
    This does seem to be a big part of it, a lot of the medium and big unsolved questions today in science in general seem to relate to things like weather/climate, how life works, chaotic systems in general, and other things that cannot be expressed as just a few mathematical equations, and a lot of these need computers to model effectively.

    Population growth may also be a part of it, although a higher number of people may be getting into science and technology related areas, a lot of population growth is occurring in areas without good educational systems or other resources to get good innovation and technology per person. (Of course, this may have been true in previous periods of time as well, so this may not have anything ot do with it at all.)

  7. #7
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    The first graph show says the highest peak was before the 1900s.
    I find that extremely dubious.
    Last edited by Magic Poriferan; 04-17-2008 at 03:36 AM. Reason: clarification
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  8. #8
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    I have a theory that would be very unpopular and roughly follows these graphs. I won't mention it because it would be unpopular.
    I 100%, N 88%, T 88%, J 75%

    Disclaimer: The above is my opinion and mine alone, it does not mean I cannot change my mind, nor does it guarantee that my comments are related to any deep-seated convictions. Take everything I say with a whole snowplow worth of salt and call me in the morning, if you can.

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    Wannabe genius Splittet's Avatar
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    This is a very interesting topic, and I must say I do indeed feel innovation is slowing down. First of all I want to say that since the Enlightenment people have become a lot more open-minded, an open-mindedness that has lead to many of these breakthroughs. But just like an open-minded attitude towards music will lead you to discover many different styles of music, the number of very different styles is limited, and at some point it becomes difficult to discover something very different and new. I think open-mindedness intellectually and in innovation is not very different. I think humans since the Enlightenment already have discovered many very elementary principles, and that we have discovered many of the most obvious uses of these. Some sciences are more complex than others though, and I think definitely the potential for innovation is much greater in complex sciences. I think for example a lot has yet to be discovered in psychology, as humans are very complicated systems. Music is not a science, but a relatively simple art form, and I have a hard time imagining much innovation in music at this point, honestly. Electronic music might have been the last big thing, and it made a lot of new things possible, but where to go from it? The open-minded attitude I talked about has lead to all kinds of music being mixed and experimented with, and I just don't know how many more styles there is left to mix. Film is a more complex art form though, relying on more elements, and I do think there is more room for innovation there. Still of course the complete effect of computer technology is to be felt, so I think we will see some innovation there, and there are some other highly interesting technologies. The universe is very complex, so even if innovation might be slowing down, it's far for stopping up in the sciences. I think maybe the arts might be worse off...

  10. #10

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    Perhaps there is actually a limit to how much technology there is as Heubner says, and perhaps innovation per capita is declining due to that as people have mentioned.

    But I think scientists freely admit there are a lot of open problems, even in an old science like physics.

    To me things like the germ theory of disease, the automobile, electrification, and the radio, out-weigh any of the more modern inventions, in terms of what it means to people.

    Since then we had many inventions/innovations, but the big ones that stand out in my mind are: nuclear power, the transistor, and the internet.

    Of those, nuclear power's novel effects on society has been largely negative. The non-novel effects are to provide electricity, which is good.

    Electronic gadgets (TVs, computers, iPods, cell-phones) becoming cheap and plentiful (made possible by the transistor), have had a pervasive effect, but mainly on our leisure time. They make our schedules more flexible and/or give us more things to do during our leisure.

    The computer (one of those electronic gadgets) didn't really have much of an impact till the invention of the internet protocols. IMO, the novel effect the internet had on society was to proliferate the "open" nature of it's design into popular thought. People could already talk to each other over the phone, and broadcast on the radio or print. But these forms of media were controlled by the few. The internet was open to the many (thought still the affluent many) and was extensible. So we get things like the World-Wide-Web, and on top of that social networking, and other things.

    Biotech is very powerful, but it's novel effects have yet to pervade society, and people are afraid of letting it happen. We do get better drugs and such, but I would not really point to it as life-transforming for the many.

    Nano-tech is in its infancy, we'll see what effects it will have.

    So my theory is that people have more than a little comfortable. There is just not as much need/demand these days for technology (at least on the surface). Necessity is after all the mother of invention.

    The great needs of today, have to do with resource conservation. Getting a fairly clean, renewable (and/or abundant) energy source is our biggest technological hurdle.

    Perhaps damage control or reversal is another one.

    But these things are really only affect society by the absence of affect. That is, we know our lifestyle is not sustainable, but we may yet find ways to make it so.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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