The great innovation debate | economist.com


The Economist

Growth

Fears that innovation is slowing are exaggerated, but governments need to help it along

WITH the pace of technological change making heads spin, we tend to think of our age as the most innovative ever. We have smartphones and supercomputers, big data and nanotechnologies, gene therapy and stem-cell transplants. Governments, universities and firms together spend around $1.4 trillion a year on R&D, more than ever before.

Yet nobody recently has come up with an invention half as useful as that depicted on our cover. With its clean lines and intuitive user interface, the humble loo transformed the lives of billions of people. And it wasn’t just modern sanitation that sprang from late-19th and early-20th-century brains: they produced cars, planes, the telephone, radio and antibiotics.

Modern science has failed to make anything like the same impact, and this is why a growing band of thinkers claim that the pace of innovation has slowed (see article). Interestingly, the gloomsters include not just academics such as Robert Gordon, the American economist who offered the toilet test of uninventiveness, but also entrepreneurs such as Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist behind Facebook.

If the pessimists are right, the implications are huge. Economies can generate growth by adding more stuff: more workers, investment and education. But sustained increases in output per person, which are necessary to raise incomes and welfare, entail using the stuff we already have in better ways—innovating, in other words. If the rate at which we innovate, and spread that innovation, slows down, so too, other things being equal, will our growth rate.

Doom, gloom and productivity figures  >>>     Leer más “The great innovation debate | economist.com”

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El libro del señor LinkedIn

La tercera avenida que teje en su red intelectual esta basada en los “seis grados de separación”: que es la idea de que toda la humanidad está conectada en una gigantesca red de personas. Basa esto en el trabajo académico de Stanley Milgram y también de Duncan Watts, quienes descubrieron, cada uno por su lado, conexiones indirectas entre personas procedentes de entornos y lugares geográficos completamente diferentes.

Al avanzar con la lógica de redes de “amigos de amigos” nadie sabe las cosas que se pueden descubrir. En el mundo profesional, dice Hoffman, hay tres grados de separación que realmente importan: quién está en nuestra red directa; a quiénes conocen esas personas; y a su vez, con quiénes están conectadas esas personas del segundo círculo. Al solicitar referencias personales, es posible aprovechar esos círculos concéntricos más amplios y saber que todos los intermediarios siempre van a conocer al menos a una de las personas que se encuentran en el final de la cadena. Pero dice también que el error que cometen muchos profesionales, es no pedir presentaciones personales y confiar simplemente en una llamada o un contacto escrito frío.

LinkedIn fue fundada en el convencimiento de que tender esas de redes de conexiones es la mejor manera de encontrar un nuevo empleo, tomar contacto con personas que podrían alimentar nuestras ambiciones o diseminar inteligencia de negocios.

Pero en la práctica se ha convertido fundamentalmente en un lugar para reclutadores y cazadores de empleos. El sitio obtiene la mitad de su ingresos de reclutadores que pagan para investigar y contactar a posibles candidatos. El resto de los ingresos proviene de la publicidad y de miembros que pagan por servicios premium. Desde el otro lado, la experiencia más frecuente que tienen muchos de sus 150 millones de miembros consiste en invitaciones no solicitadas de gente que busca conectarse, generalmente para perseguir sus propios intereses comerciales. Lejos está eso del sueño que inspiró a Hoffman a fundar LinkedIn.


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Reid Hoffman, cofundador y presidente de la red social de profesionales LinkedIn afirma en su libro que ahora que los empleos tradicionales se han vuelto menos seguros, la vida laboral depende cada vez más de las alianzas de interés. Son esas alianzas que permite la Web las que sostienen la industria tecnológica en California.

El libro que Hoffman, creador de LinkedIn, publica con el entrepreneur Ben Casnocha — The Start-up of You, habla fundamentalmente del arte de aprovechar las redes y cuenta historias personales de cómo sus “alianzas” contribuyeron a la inmensa riqueza que amasó la élite de Silicon Valley. Porque en este nuevo mundo de negocios, quienes operen las mejores redes personales serán lo que lleguen a la cima. Cuenta, a modo de ejemplo, que él le presentó Peter Thiel (un íntimo amigo suyo de los años del colegio) a Zuckerberg cuando el fundador de Facebook buscaba respaldo financiero. Así Thiel tomó una participación en Facebook que puede llegar a valer más de US$ 2.000 millones cuando la compañía cotice en bolsa.

Sobre el reclamo que muchas veces se hace a LinkedIn – que las redes de los poderosos benefician a unos pocos privilegiados y que sólo los que son lo suficientemente inteligentes o afortunados pueden sacar las mayores tajadas — Hoffman dice que todas las redes personales son beneficiosas per se; lo que ocurre es que a veces la gente no sabe aprovechar el tipo de recursos que les ponen a su alcance.  Leer más “El libro del señor LinkedIn”

Sugar Water

That’s why I’m still fond of Google, for all the flak they’ve taken of late. Love or hate their far-out projects like augmented-reality goggles and self-driving cars, you can’t complain that they’re not trying to change the world. Again. Just as Apple has, and Facebook has, and Twitter.

But Pinterest? Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great service, and may yet grow into a great business. But I can’t see them becoming something that actually matters.

Steve Jobs famously convinced John Sculley, then the CEO of Pepsi, to come join Apple with the pitch “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Well, that was then; this is now. Of course, there are still people out there trying to do more than lure a huge audience and make a lot of money. Elon Musk leaps to mind. But I’m finding it hard to shake the sense that the Valley has become a frothy sea of sugar water, interrupted only occasionally by islands of meaningful innovation.

Image credit: parl, Flickr


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Almost none of the stuff on the radar of the silicon valley echo-chamber is innovative or solves any real human needs. They won’t cure anyone of disease, feed a child, improve the environment, or radically improve manufacturing…

Pinterest? Quora? Other social apps. It’s all a big distraction, it’s entertainment…

It’s all well and fine to pursue these avenues for making money. But don’t pretend there’s anything really innovative going on, that 50 years from now someone’s going to look back like we look back at Einstein, Darwin, or Newton and say ‘thanks’.

That’s from a comment written by one Ray Cromwell, regarding a week-old TechCrunch post about Pinterest — and I have to admit, it struck a chord. And I’m clearly not alone: lamentations re the paucity of meaningful innovation in today’s Valley are growing increasingly common. PayPal founder Peter Thiel, in a recentinteresting conversation with Francis Fukuyama, actually questions “whether we’re still living in a technologically advancing society at all.” Leer más “Sugar Water”

CollegeOnly, a Social Network Just for the University Set

When Facebook arrived at my university near the end of my fourth year, I remember feeling a huge wave of relief.

Not because I had an easy way to keep in touch with my friends after college — although that was nice, too — but because the site arrived when we were nearly finished with our undergraduate careers. We didn’t have to worry about whether or not a satirical status update or photos from the weekend’s revelry would threaten our standing or ability to get a job.

But Josh Weinstein, a New York-based entrepreneur, says sharing photographs, trading gossip and obsessing about your crushes are now just part of the fun of being in college.

It’s what he’s hoping to replicate with a new social networking start-up called CollegeOnly.


By JENNA WORTHAM

A screen shot of CollegeOnly.

When Facebook arrived at my university near the end of my fourth year, I remember feeling a huge wave of relief.

Not because I had an easy way to keep in touch with my friends after college — although that was nice, too — but because the site arrived when we were nearly finished with our undergraduate careers. We didn’t have to worry about whether or not a satirical status update or photos from the weekend’s revelry would threaten our standing or ability to get a job.

But Josh Weinstein, a New York-based entrepreneur, says sharing photographs, trading gossip and obsessing about your crushes are now just part of the fun of being in college.

It’s what he’s hoping to replicate with a new social networking start-up called CollegeOnly. Leer más “CollegeOnly, a Social Network Just for the University Set”