The Harvard Business Review carries an interesting opinion piece by Justin Fox where he argues that we’re not in a period of creative innovation — but rather, a moment of stagnation. Fox, who is the editorial director of the Harvard Business Review Group, says that the start of the 20th century saw tremendous changes to our lives, while the digital age has brought us minor alterations.
Electricity is still electricity, and still generated mostly with fossil fuels; cars are better but not all that much better, and still propelled almost entirely by fossil fuels. Only communication has been truly transformed, but is the transformation really as profound as the advent of telegraphs, radio, and TV?…
We have no colonies on Mars, we still can’t get by without prehistoric fuel, the dishwasher still doesn’t get all the dishes clean, and very few of us have personal jetpacks. You call this progress?
That said, he looks at how we need to take a little time to take advantage of the changes in technology around us, and says that it took folks a while to really work out how to use electricity:
…For decades, electricity had little effect on industrial productivity as manufacturers simply swapped out older energy sources for electric power but changed nothing about how they made things. It was only as new factories were built that took advantage of the unique properties of electric motors that a productivity boom ensued. Just give the digital age a bit more time, and you’ll see huge changes (and, one hopes, improvements) in how we work and live.
What do you think PSFK readers? Do we live in an era of tremendous change – or the moments leading up to such an epoch?