Where Big Stuff Doesn’t Get Done: Neal Stephenson on Innovation Starvation


This World Policy Institute piece by Neil Stephenson runs a whole gamut of themes that collectively address the mystery of why we have gone, in a little over two generations, from a society whose engineers and tycoons seemed able to accomplish anything, to one in which we have “city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems”.  There is plenty of interest here for anyone concerned with corporate innovation, networks and organisation, risk and planning horizons, as well as broader policy issues.  There are counterintuitive points – by making information freely and instantly available the internet stifles innovation – and points which link to other themes on this blog, including “the virtues of Galapagan isolation”.  But above all there is a narrative which resonates strongly with those of us who grew up with Apollo and for whom 2000AD would mean donut-shaped space stations and tickets to Mars.

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