Technology is Feral

" takes teamwork to wangle it and patience to master it, and yet even in the best of circumstances, it runs away. That's why getting invention right is hard and getting commercial innovation right is hard, and doing both practically impossible..."
Derek Thompson, 2017

Two examples are Bell Labs and Xerox PARC

i) Bell Lab
"...the pre-eminent science organisation in the world during the middle of the 20th century. From 1940 to 1970, it gave birth to the solar cell, the laser and some 9 percent of the nation's new communication patents. But it never merchandised the vast majority of its inventions..."
Derek Thompson, 2017

Other inventions include the transistor.

It was the research arm of AT&T (monopolistic, telephony communications organisation based in USA)

ii) Xerox PARC
"...another sundry band of scientists and engineers who laid the foundation for personal computing. Just about everything one associates with a modern computer - the mouse, the cursor, applications opening in Windows - was PARC..."
Derek Thompson, 2017

Xerox did not appreciate these breakthroughs. It was people like Steve Jobs (Apple) who turned some of these inventions into innovations, eg computer-mouse becoming an integral part of desktop computers.

NB It is thought by some that the decline in productivity since the mid-1990s could have been partly caused by the lack of breakthrough inventions in recent times and the slowing pace of benefits from older technologies. This is further highlighted by corporate R&D (especially in the USA) focusing more on the D than the R, ie
"...triumphal short-term innovation over long-term invention..."
Duke University (2015) report as quoted by Derek Thompson, 2017

"...many of the commercial breakthroughs of the past few years have depended on inventions that occurred decades ago, and most of those were results of government investment..."

MIT report (2015) as quoted by Derek Thompson, 2017

An example of this is from 2012 to 2016, the USA was the world's leading oil producer.
"...This was largely thanks to hydraulic fracturing experiments, or fracking, which emerged from federally funded research into drilling technology after the 1970s oil crisis..."
MIT report (2015) as quoted by Derek Thompson, 2017

Another example are the new cancer drugs and therapies that can be traced back to the War on Cancer announced in 1971.

"...companies are really good at combining existing breakthroughs in ways that consumers like. But the breakthroughs come from patient and serious scientists, not the rush to market..."
Jon Gertner as quoted by Derek Thompson, 2017

" is a tall tree......planting the seeds of invention and harvesting the fruit of commercial innovation are entirely distinct skills, often mastered by different organisations and separated by years..."
John Fernald as quoted by Derek Thompson, 2017


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