I was reading an article by Steven Strauss on the current era being one of Diminishing Marginal Innovation – the impact of new innovations are diminishing with time. He rightly pointed out that of late, most of the innovations / inventions have been in the computing / Internet area. He mentioned that the right test for a BIG innovation is imagining life without it. Try automobiles, or trains…or electricity (shudder). Now, try Twitter, Facebook, iPad – not that dramatic, no ? If these fall off the cliff, then you will miss them for a week or two, and then life will go on. But if your washing machine conks off for 2-3 weeks, there’s a different pain in the back you are talking about.
High Marginal Innovations that come to mind are Electricity, Trains, Automobiles, Vaccination. Many of today’s innovations are Business Model innovations – moving book sales from shops onto the Internet, delivering flowers through phone orders, delivering movies to cinema halls digitally through high-bandwidth connections (a good one, according to me). Hence, many of these innovations are innovations and not inventions…and hence, are a blip on the Innovation Radar. However, innovative toilets for the un-toileted, malaria vaccine, HIV vaccines will still be block-busters, when they come out. Tele-kinesis, Tele-porting and anti-gravity belts will be also there by 2050 AD. Possibly, current decades are decades of low innovation – we need to grin and bear it.