Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why Kondratiev doesn't Compute

Kondratiev theorists always dust off the basic "innovation comes in long waves" argument when times turn. The new wave (or "tool") cycle has run its course; it'll be 50 years (or whenever ) until the next one. New tools? Try genomics (largely an effort in computational analysis -- not wet-lab stuff). Or nanotechnology (see above), or, semantic analytics, or human factors, or financial engineering (I know, bad words just now; just wait a couple of years). Wondering about Clean Energy? While I'm sometimes skeptical, algae and other oil substitutes offer promise. Want to solve the energy conundrum? Figure out how to put well-heads on a few "black smokers" under the sea. Tie that with distribution and a big part of the problem is solved. Paying attention to clean, potable water? You better be. What about space? Try quantum mechanics at zero-G, then talk to me about new tools.

The simple fact is, we have never lived in more exciting, promising times. And we would realize it if we weren't so glued to the 'disasters of the day'. I am as guilty as the next; too many train wrecks vying for our attention; easy to become disillusioned about our sorry state.

Still, technology is - and has always been - about the application of new tools to old problems, whether solving Maslow's hierarchy of needs, or anything else.

Think about it for a half hour, and you will come up with many more great opportunities. We're still a lot closer to the primordial swamp than we are to Star Trek, no matter how much we wish it were not so.