What happened to funding real innovation?

apps

Is real technological innovation being overshadowed by gimmicky social media sites and apps posing as real advances in technology?

A post from the Red Shoe Agency asks the above question and then follows with the following statement: Now, before you answer this, think about it. Everything works in cycles and eventually leads to a bubble. The tech industry is no different. It seems, per media reporting, that all you have to do is create some silly app (like send a fart to your enemy or something of that nature) or set up the next Facebook killer social media site and you’re a tech darling who’s innovating and getting tons of VC money thrown at you. But are those really “tech” companies?

I can understand why this would make some techies a bit resentful. Granted, Facebook is one of the creations that changed the way we communicate. But if it shut down tomorrow, lives would not be lost (I hope). There are some real companies creating real products that qualify as tech. 

Will technology ever shift back to innovation and creation that actually contributes to changing the world, situations, lives? Why does it seem that VC is willing to continue throwing money into gimmicks?

My response: 

Yes, technology has jumped its own shark and instead of being a boon to humanity, we have become caught up in the “development” of toys (apps) which cater to the venture capitalists need to make money without actually providing society with any useful developments.

Yes, technology developers will say I am avoiding the most important part of this idea, which is the making of money. And to them, I say, nay, you are missing the most important part of this equation, innovation which moves the species (humanity) along the path toward actualization.

I suspect in this, the final century of humanity we will have to make difficult choices. One of them will be to decide what we want to develop in terms of our technology. We can continue to fritter away intellectual capacity (which seems to be stagnating overall) on toys, apps and gadgets which, while often profitable, using social conditioning to create need, do not address any real issues in our society.

We have no problem finding money for gadgets and less useful software but true research, of the kind which once allowed NASA to create a variety of technologies we use without even being aware of it, becomes harder and harder to secure. (NASA’s spin-off technologies - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies).

Venture capitalists will say the creation of money is the most important endeavor humans can make today and software development of the kind we are seeing may certainly be profitable, but in a world with a plethora of problems, what people are focusing their time and energy on will only be significant if we resolve the greater technological and sociological issues surrounding our society first.

What issues? Here is a quick and dirty list:

  • reasonable and affordable health care,
  • a collapsing economic structure that needs a complete retooling,
  • reducing military interactions in foreign countries,
  • feeding and caring for the disenfranchised members of our societies,
  • our failing education system and improving its quality,
  • economic disparity between the rich and poor,
  • the digital divide all over the world and in all layers of economic strata,
  • effective socio-economic relationships with other sovereign nations,
  • global climate control and management,
  • toxic waste and overall waste management,
  • desertification of our food producing areas on our planet,
  • destruction of our planet’s rain forests at 20 square miles a day,
  • eradication of cancer,
  • HIV, AIDS, and management of growing list of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, 
  • renewable energy development,
  • loss of fossil fuels and what that means to our lifestyles,
  • failing infrastructures of power and roads and
  • corporate malfeasance just to name the few I could think of in about 30 seconds. 

There is nothing wrong with making money. Except when making money overshadows making anything else. As sea levels rise, 200 million people all over the Earth will be forced to move, causing the greatest mass migration in human history. Find any shoreline or island, find a city within 25 miles and you can see the scope of just this one thing (climate change, rise of the seas) can cause. I can assure you, there is no app for that.

Technology can solve problems or cause them. It’s how you use it, develop it, adapt it, utilize it and innovate it that makes the difference. Choose wisely.

Thaddeus Howze
A Matter of Scale

2 responses to “What happened to funding real innovation?

  1. You bring up a lot of good points. Keep in mind, technology marches forward no matter what. Man can only hope to avoid being trampled upon. I think whether or not someone makes a buck with technology is only a short term issue. Technological applications will only survive if they provide some amount of meaningful efficiency. It would be nice to think that investors would be compensated for the degree that their efforts help improve human society, but that is just unrealistic. It’s more like a chaotic mess, where the last man standing yells, “wopeee!”

    That said, we don’t need to be the victims of capitalistic mob rule. There is and always will be a lot of regs to help keep things under some degree of control. Now, before you yell at me and claim that gov. regulations are good, bad, fair, horrid, etc. Let me be the first to say, it’s not a perfect system. I will NEVER be a perfect system. We can only do our best to help make things better. I for one think things do get better, but in such small amounts that it is often hard to see.

    I can’t prove this. Maybe I can say that I feel happier living in 2013 rather than 1013. Does that make sense?

    • Your base point is true, Saul, it is better to be alive today in 2013 than a thousand years ago but part of the problem is the incessant drive to make money superseding the urge to create real solutions to real problems. I am not opposed to people making money but lately I see more technology being made without any thought to long term issues as a result of the creation of said technology.

      We keep making the same mistakes again and again. How many times will profit change the choices we should have made for the ones we currently make only to regret them later?

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