I’ve asked this question before, many times in fact in the last few decades. What happened to invention and innovation in the last half the last century? Think about the fading days of the 19th and the first half of the 20th. Unprecedented progress exploded, the kind that built the foundation of our current world. Electric light, engines, airplanes, cars, telephones, you name it. Think about it. Almost everything that we count on to live our lives today was conceived, developed and commercialized during those few, golden years.
Then came nothing. Yes, since 1950 the PC and the internet have changed our world. Problem is, both were conceived prior to 1950. The last half of the decade merely refined those concepts and made lots and lots of money on them.
Which brings me to the Dan Gardner question of all time. What happened to the heady race to progress that spurred on the later 19th century and first half of the 20th century? My thought is that capitalism, the very thing that egged on brilliant minds to create brand new life-altering inventions in the first half of the 20th century, became the ‘bottom line’. In other words, greed and caution forever replaced daring and risk.
That’s an awfully simplistic way of looking at it. So I pose to you dear reader, just what happened in the 50’s to stifle progress until now? Was it WWII? No, wars stimulate not stifle. It has to be capitalism itself. A plateau was reached where we all grew so fast, so inhumanly comfortable, that a curtain was drawn. In other words, the lust for progress ended on a dime.
In the last half of the twentieth century up until today, innovation is secondary to profits. We live by the bottom line and we will die by the bottom line. ‘Research and development’ have become dirty words, relegated to dirty fucking hippie scientists in PBS back rooms and government war rooms.
Nobody has been able to satisfactorily answer my question. What happened to invention and innovation in the last half of the 20th century? Don’t get me wrong, I admire capitalism greatly, even if I don’t practice it like I should. Maybe that’s the problem. Not many people do anymore, at least in its most pure, creative, productive form. Sure, the 1% makes a lot of money making it look like we are progressing. But we’re not. We’re treading water at best.