What crisis teaches us for innovation

FT Editorial Board:

During the second world war, the US and the UK had no qualms about overriding normal competition principles. Desperate to improve their air defences, the UK compelled jet pioneer Frank Whittle to work with Rover and Rolls-Royce and then handed their engine designs on to the Americans for production in large volumes. After all, the world’s future was at stake.

That example is well worth considering today, as authorities embark on a much heralded crackdown on anti-competitive behaviour by Big Tech and other huge companies.

(emphasis mine)

This is an interesting nugget from the history. The WWII was definitely a humanitarian crisis, but several scientific foundational principles were involved (and laid down), including the business transformation – as above. I have been fascinated with the Manhattan Project, which led to the atomic bomb, but my branch owes it to the peaceful uses of the atomic energy (including radiation that zaps away the DNA). It has impacted humanity in profound manner – in known and unknown ways.

However, the emerging geopolitics and lobbying efforts prevent meaningful emergence of cooperation on a global scale. For example, will the companies donate their cloud resources to understand AI implementation for the end-users or utilise the resources for vanity exploration of space? Those are intellectual debates with no objective answers, and will fail to satisfy the techno-optimists. How does that impact society meaningfully? Autonomous cars (if they will become a reality) will significantly impact the jobs market and is a solution looking for a problem. Yet, massive investor dollars are being poured in it. Likewise, for the effects of “ageing”- I am witnessing several blog posts coming up to defend “research and VC funding” for “anti-ageing”. I can’t out argue any economics paper on the potential benefits, but it applies to those who can afford it.

Hence, the editorial board’s write up is relevant but not meaningful. The dominance of technology companies will persist unless there is a serious legislative effort to curtail them. Shouldn’t the best minds on the planet pay more attention to real problems, rather than create solutions to create more pervasive tracking technologies?

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