Why has tech innovation slowed? Is it because of free market capitalism?

There are a number of reasons why technology innovation has the appearance of slowing down — and in some cases really is slowing down. Among them are:

1. Much of the low hanging fruit (technological solutions to universal human challenges) has already been invented, developed, and refined.

2. Much of what remains is more complicated, takes more time, and costs more to research and develop.

3. There are efforts by well-established industries that dominate a given sector to discourage or constrain innovation — the most obvious example being the petroleum industry’s funding of climate change and alternative energy skepticism.

4. Over the past fifty years, commercialism has created tremendous downward pressure on technology costs while generating extremely high expectations of technology benefits. That’s simply not a winning formula.

5. Complexity and massive interdependence across complex systems in modern technology itself is interfering with both rapid development and disruptive innovation. It just takes longer to ensure integration, compatibility, and even moderate levels of future-proofing.

6. Another consequence complexity is a lack of extensibility, and how that impacts costs. A simple example of this is writing a piece of software that is backwards compatible with several iterations of hardware. At a certain point it becomes too difficult to accomplish in a profitable way, which in turn places an increasing cost burden for innovation on consumers — not just monetarily, but also in new learning curves. Buying a new smartphone or laptop every year is a pretty hefty expectation. Therefore a balance has to be struck between rapidity of innovation based on technology, and rapidity of deployment based on consumer acceptance and willingness to bear all of the costs.

Hope this helps.


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