Entering a dark age of innovation

I came across this report on a study by Jonathan Huebner showing that the rate of technological innovation is slowing down, and that by this rate we will be down to the Dark Ages level by 2024 (a curiously precise prediction, but presumably by comparing the technological advances of the millennium 500-1500 with the current trend).

There is no doubt this study is seriously flawed, the data picked can be seen as arbitrary and even misleading, but it is no more flawed than the other hypotheses and studies around. Self-styled futurists tend to be highly myoptic. It is a natural phenomena, you are highly aware of the changes happening to you, but less to to your parents and their parents’ parents. In particular I admit a strong scorn of the singularitons claiming our world will enter a technological apocalypse in the near, but conveniently distant, future. My claim is that revolutionary, paradigm shattering, Oedipal changes are getting rarer as we live a longer productive life. Of course that is far from the whole story, but over time extrapolations always fail.

In a particular area the field may be stable or stagnant for a long time, experience rapid technological growth, and then fade into the background. This can be seen in the ages, we have had the non-starters of the Atomic Age followed by the Space Age, with the more successful Information Age which too will fade. The myoptic bias is to count the changes that are important to us now, and discount the changes that were important to us then, or will be in the future. We will have no greater problems living in our future than our predecessors have living in our present, as long as we can adjust to that change in focus. All that changes fast now will change slowly in the future.


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