IMD IPD mind meld

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why has innovation slowed down in design?

A new discussion point that i was chatting to my friend on msn messenger included:

Has innovation slowed down looking at history?
We concluded conclusively that invention and innovation has become slower. Things that we compared from the technologies today and the past included:
- The invention of the car (from nothing to an automobile) = We havn't found a way of making a car totally environmentally friendly that can be mass produced at an affordable price (we were predicting to be having floating cars by now!).
- The first man on the moon and the technologies to go into space (from scratch)= We havn't yet been able to put a human on Mars yet and we are still confused about pluto.
- The exploration of foriegn countries (at a time with no planes/proper navigation) = We havn't even found a way to explore our deepest ocean's yet etc.

And now to the question of the post assuming that i can actually go on forever about how we are not as advanced as our predecessor's.

Why has innovation slowed down in design?
I think media and society in this day and age are to blame. Why are most NASA scientists total unsociable geeks? It is because they are not taking into account the manipulation of the mind that the media and properganda is inflicting upon us.

The media is controlling the minds to an extent that fashions and trends are no longer a personal view of the mind. Instead they are adopted as a way to stay sociable and to stay fashionable. So design is now leaning towards a more fashionable product rather than a new cutting edge never seen before product hence suppressing design into a form which conforms with the taste of today. Why not try and make a product for the taste of tomorrow?

There are many issue's concerning this and the media is just one....the main one in my opinion. I can't wait to hear jonathan's view of this....but other's must join in the debate that could change the view of designers to become more innovative and creative.

Comments appreciated


Blogger Jonathan said...

Mmm... well I wouldn't describe the 200 years of development that led to the internal combustion engine as being instantaneous, nor would I say that space exploration happened overnight (I mean, the Chinese developed rockets centuries ago!)

The perspective of time is interesting, but I for one can attest to the odd moment of 'oh my god it's all changing so quickly! So much to keep up with!' and I was engaged in an email discussion with a former student who's only 22 and he was wishing things would slow down.

I think the point about an environmentally friendly car is a good one, but you need to bear in mind commercial pressures. There has never been one to develop such a vehicle - indeed quite the reverse (conspiracy theories aside) and deep sea exploration hasn't got a non-scientific bonus to it yet. The space race was more a political thing than anything else, and JFK's promise to get a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s was entirely about proving America's dominance at a time when there was a lot of fear of the Eastern bloc and USSR/Cuba in particular.

So ask the same questions again but this time consider the role of politics in design - I think you mentioned religion in a previous post and religion/politics were indivisible a long time ago (still are in some countries and arguably so again today).
Without political pressure, is design a slower process?

7:24 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Another thing(!)
Fashion has become a much faster process in recent years - look up 'Lavers Law' or check out my explanation of the situation in this thing I wrote. The media has a role to play, sure, but they only reflect the needs of the people who fund them: advertisers.

Oh and "Why are most NASA scientists total unsociable geeks?" Right... and how many NASA scientists have you met exactly?? ;-)
Seriously, rethink that... especially as NASA, while it needs positive media to survive, is a Federal organisation that requires political capital to survive more than anything else. NASA scientists are researchers keen to explore the potential of space exploration, whether it be planetary science, physics or the advantages of zero gravity on certain processes - hardly touched, I would say, by the media except when there's an 'event'.
The occasional event boosts the support for the expense of NASA but they're not really representative of what goes on there...

7:29 PM  
Blogger Fergus Walker said...

I have also thought te thought that Imran has thought.

I think that what seems like a slowing down in innovation is due to the comparisan to the industrial revolution, where europe, nad Britain in particular, shot in about 100 years from being an agrarian society to an industrial one. I really recommend reading "The Day the World Took Off" by Sally Dugan. It examines the reasons for the industrial revolution. One of the salient points for to this comment was that British society allowed unedeucated entrepreneurs to rise up and build up a successful business. Also there was a balance between stiff competion and sharing of ideas through gentlemans clubs.

In the industrial revolution, as well as the culture which fostered inventors, most of the innovations were mechanical. People with a mechanical brain, educated or not, came up with important innovations.
John Boyd Dunlop, inventor of the pneumatic tyre, was a blacksmith
Orville and Wilbur Wright designed and built the 1st powered plane. There was no aeronautics education then.
Thomas Edison, called "addled at school", invented the phonograph and lightbulb

Nowadays, a lot of innovations are without the scope of the average Joe Bloggs, and are a lot less mechanical, simple, or obvious. Who's going to build a quantum comuter in their bedroom? Who's going to notice when an amizing new transistor is developed for the inside of a computer?

4:32 PM  
Blogger DonLobania said...

Replies: Jonathan 1:
I understand the pressures and I understand the drivers of innovation.

War is a really good one. The first and more the second WW just showed the power of the government.
(the basics of the computer)

Is it the government pressure and money in a state of war which drives innovation? I don't think it's that. I think it is becasue in a state of war everyone is concentrated on the basics. Eating sleeping and trying to kick the Cr*p out of the opposition. This focused attention and the collection of brilliant minds is what i think drives most innovation to come through in a state of war.

So how can we have that level of innovation without having a state of war? To have an Inter-national innovation showcase once every 4 years (like the olympics). The race/competition would lead to innovations of the same calibre.

1:33 PM  
Blogger DonLobania said...

jonathan 2:
The fashion industry is not fast in innovation. WOMENS fashion is. That's because again of the media's influence to persuade and package a product to women which is not needed (or does not work in terms of anti-wrinkle cream.

NASA scientists are all geeks. I don't know them personally but type in "NASA Scientist" into google images and you'll see just one out of hundreds of scientists who is acceptable looking (in fashion of some kind)

1:38 PM  
Blogger DonLobania said...

Good reply. I will check out the book "The Day the World Took Off" over christmas (that's wen i might have the time to do so).

You have an excellent knowledge and explination of the shift from the primary sector industry driven country to the secondary sector driven. But we are in the tertiary sector driven stage at the moment and hence the media. Full of "fat cat's" at the top "greedy" journalists and "manipulative" sales men. sitting on a desk on the computer does not lead to innovation as much as it did in the days when primary and secondary industries drove the land.

Again good post thanx!

1:45 PM  
Blogger Mathy (Simpson) said...

I woyld say in realtion to the origin of this discussion, concerning whether innovation has slowed that is seems very easy to compare times and yes to compare the clearly incredible inventions of the last 100 years or so and the seemingly less amount of progress. However these inventions in alot of case were as Jonathan pointed out a collection of many other inventions. Also innovation does not stop with the initial creation. a long process of small innovations occurs in eveything, the automibile did not just come along, and the automobile has had more innovations since its first form than all the innovations required to create it, so in its case innovation has increased.

Also perhaps its not innovation slowing but innovation is getting harder?

And finally you say there was alot of innovation in the past and that we are slowing down or at least maybe we are, it appears that way.
I assume when you say we are NOW slowing you mean from the beginning of the commercial digital age (lets say the eighties) we have slowed, roughly? if so then you forget we have only been in the commercial digital age less than thirty years, and the era to which we look often and say we were innovating fast was around 150 years, so there quite along time before we can say whether or not we are slowing down, innovation isnt a grpah trend.

But i agree that things need to be done to improve true innovation, to identify it more and bring it to peoples attention, to stop the over and strained use of innovation as a buzz word and make plans to promote it on a bigger scale and not just within the community that knows and loves it, thats design. to amke sure when a scientist says we have cured cancer we dont just go finally now cure aids well i doubt we will ever say that but the future is unknown

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Kempton said...

Hi Imran.

I am commenting late (on Dec 31) on your Oct 23rd entry so you may have changed your views. What you said may have been partly true but your general tone and direction, in my humble opinion, is misguided or may be even wrong. I think the problem may have been in how you framed the problem itself.

Before we jump into any sweeping conclusion, I think we need to survey the various field a bit more. I am no expert in anything but I enjoy a lot of fields and have the pleasure to check out the following sites to keep myself up-to-date on some cutting edge ways of doing things. I hope you will have as much fun in exploring them as I did when I found them.


6:43 PM  

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