Charted used with the permission of Peder Olesen Larsen
Welcome to the Cambrian explosion of innovation that is happening before our very own eyes. The pace of the technological innovation has been accelerating. The Web — current humanity’s store of information — is growing at an exponential rate. More research papers are getting been published (see above). Industries are being disrupted.
Most important, the winner of this exciting change and uncertainty is the individual. The access to various forms of technology — Web, cloud computing, bio-hacking, 3D printing, hardware hacking, etc. — has been drastically lowered. The laws of economics will hold that the lower barrier costs, the greater numbers of participants.
What does it mean for the future of innovation? It means a 15-year-old boy, Jack Andraka, with limited training in science, could discover a both powerfully accurate and incredibly simple diagnostic methodology for lung, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer.
The bigger picture? Jack Andraka couldn’t have stumbled on this methodology without the context and the environment of our time. He is an harbinger of an incredible explosion of innovation from lone inventors — individuals in unlikely places with unexpected backgrounds, inventing using low-cost equipment, instead from well-funded university labs, research institutions, and R&D departments from Fortune 500 companies.
The tide is turning. Institutions that require heavy financial backing and have a legacy of methodologies to follow, by design, will focus on low-risk experiments that lead to incremental learning. In other words, these institutions are optimizing over the local optimum, not the global optimum. Outsiders untethered by a past, such as students and hobbyists, purely experiment for the sake of experimentation and on high-risk/high-return projects. Once these lone inventors meet some level of success, crowdsourced funding options are becoming robust and mainstream. Perhaps, in the long term, these higher-risk, smaller-seeded experimentation presents a better model for innovation.
Futurists call our time the moment approaching singularity. We had seen something in parallel to our time during the Industrial Revolution. This rapidly changing social dynamics will potentially disenfranchise people who do not necessarily have specialized skills, but present incredible opportunities for those who are playing with technology, experimenting and seeking answers.
Think about this and rejoice.
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This post is originally published on The Huffington Post.