Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Great Stagnation

Tyler Cowen has a kindle single (a small e-book) out called "The Great Stagnation". I haven't read it but hope to soon and will report on it once I do. That said, it appears one of the basic premises is that innovation has stalled or declined. It's an interesting premise because I think it is a very debatable premise. I look at my life at almost thirty and if I were to bisect my life into two 15 year terms the second term appears to me to be the one where a lot more amazing things have happened.

I recently purchased a smartphone (I don't know how I ever lived without it). 15 years ago I had a cd player. If I wanted to carry my music collection then I needed to transport a book of cds. I had a desktop that had dial up and internet was glacial compared to what it is now. I had just started emailing and surfing the web but the notion of doing that while riding the metro or waiting for my coffe was unimaginable to me. I didn't have a navigation tool other than a map book (I was either unaware of mapquest or it didn't exist yet). My go to basic reference guide was encyclopedia brittanica. Video chats was not something I was aware of then (I am guessing it existed but was probably exorbitantly expensive and probably unreliable). Voice recognition, I doubt it. If I wanted a book for leisure reading I needed to bring that with me (a choice of books, had to of course bring those too). Amazon existed so I could buy stuff readily. Cell phones were rare and to the extent they existed were massive and expensive. Now, I have this little thing that is 3"x6" has a beautiful display (AMOLED) and barely weighs anything and can carry more music than I could have, has as much data at my fingertips than I could have dreamt of, access to thousands of books, phenomenal connectivity and speed, and a million other things for a pittance. The functionality that this little device I would have, or more accurately, begged my parents to spend thousands of dollars for. My guess is that such a device if it had existed then would have cost over $10,000. Now it can be had for maybe $500 without signing up for a plan and as low $0 with a cell plan. The marginal cost over what my parents paid for dial-up and long distance is negative. I am sure that my cell and data plan today costs less than their landline and dial up did back then. That is amazing to me. To me that sounds like a lot of innovation.

1 comment:

Don Taylor said...

I agree that lots of the innovation has been reduction of size and cost of info accessing technology. And there has been lots of these innovations.