To start, here are a couple of wonderful quotes: 

640K of memory should be enough for anybody. Bill Gates, 1981

(Note: Bill – I call him Bill – later refuted the quote, but it is still good… )

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." Charles Holland Duell, circa 1900 

(Again, some say that Duell never intended to say this, but …)

I love how backward looking they are and how much they focus on the limitations of past world views, in order to make a “grand pronouncement” about the future.

So imagine my thoughts as I pulled my January 12 edition of the Economist off the stack of magazines on my desk (yes I am reading it late AND I still receive hard copy magazines) and I noticed the cover story:


If you are familiar with the Economist, there is a brief “editorial” of the cover story at the beginning of the magazine and then the full cover story farther back. In this particular case, I began reading the editorial of the cover story and just couldn’t believe my eyes … Innovation is dead because nothing as elegant at the flush toilet has been invented since 1880. The full cover story includes the following “reasons” that innovation is dead:

  • Lack of “intensive” growth (what I would call revolutionary) vs. “extensive” growth (evolutionary) in the past 40 odd years.
  • Lack of actual innovation in the past 40 years. Not necessarily in the form of patents or ideas registered with the various patent offices, but true innovations.
  • Lack of a true rate of progress compared to that of the late 1900s and early 2000s.

While I am not in a position to debate the numerous studies and research findings inside the Economist article (much like I would be hard pressed to argue with the analytical models and/or data that “proves” that the temperature in Toyko has a direct impact on the value of companies on the NYSE), I am prepared to debate the premise that innovation is “dead.” Innovation might be “sleeping,” but it is not dead.
The cover of The Economist touts the indoor toilet as being that last great innovation. However, it took the development of concepts that began with the Roman Empire to mature to create that toilet. Yes, the article gives credence to this “sleeping” concept and says that Big Data might be the next great innovation. But those “historical” looking studies don’t see that Big Data, analytics and the NoSQL storage and processing power (Apache Hadoop or otherwise) are only in the barest of infancies and that the next great leap associated with machine to machine (M2M) has yet to emerge into our everyday lives.

Perhaps instead of offering up that “innovation is dead,” The Economist should have focused on the levers of innovation that are present and those we should look toward in the future vs. the levers of innovation that existed in the past ...

What say the readers?

Is innovation dead? Should we give the era of Big Data just a little more time? Is the toilet the last great innovation?

Provide your comments below and/or ping me via twitter at @JohnLMyers44 with the hashtag #noodlingNoSQL.

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