Lately, I have been thinking about innovation. Over the course of a few dozen STEPS to Value podcasts, we’ve asked our guests to discuss their favorite inventions or innovations and what impact it has had on our culture. We have received a wide variety of answers. Some are technologies that we immediately identify as “technology,” because they are relatively new and have a big influence on our daily lives.
Indoor Plumbing and Sanitation Technologies
An example of this is the mobile phone or smart phone. I think my favorite answer, though, came from Karen DeSalvo, MD, who mentioned the public health benefits of indoor plumbing and sanitation technologies, and the incredible impact that has had. We don’t think of plumbing and sanitation as technology anymore, especially when we read about artificial intelligence, bockchain and their applications in public health and security. Like electricity, it has become commonplace in most parts of the world. We take it for granted.
Since we get to ask the favorite technology question to others, I often think about what my answer would be. No one has asked, and as result, that seems like a great excuse to tell you anyway. After all, the internet is full of opinion.
It is the telescope. This amazing instrument changed our view of the universe and our place in it. The telescope changed our civilization’s idea of scale. And the telescope, whether refractive, reflective, or digital, has changed our concept of time and just about everything we thought we knew about the universe.
That is what I like about the telescope. It changed our perspective while, at the same time, exposed thousands of unanswered questions.
In a similar vein, I have been thinking about the impact that electronic communications have had on the world. For me, it starts with the invention of the transistor, which allowed us to create an almost invisible universe expressed through the difference between +5 and -5 volts. Ones and zeroes. Positive and negative. Transistors evolved from vacuum tubes to bits of silicon that obediently switch on and off billions of times per second.
Global Communication Networks
From that innovation, we have built global communication networks in which information moves instantly. We live in that world, and benefit from its efficiencies. However, we have also created a world we did not imagine, as evidenced by the amount of energy we now spend protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of our data.
- What will be the next big information technology innovation?
- What will change our perspective as completely as the telescope?
- Will the next innovation provide more security, trust, or control?
- And will it, like the telescope, expose fascinating, new and unanswered questions?
We may already be there. I welcome your thoughts!