We are not nearly as innovative as we think we are. That, at least, is the view of Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason university and the author of The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History,Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, a book which argues that we are failing to invent technology (like flushing toilets) that radically changes the world.
I caught up with Cowen yesterday at David Kirkpatrick’s Techonomy conference in Tucson, where he conducted an excellent debate about the impact of technology on jobs with Race Against The Machine, author Erik Brynjolfsson (moderated by TC’s Erick Schonfeld). And he didn’t pull his punches in dismissing most of today’s supposedly innovative technology.
Yes, the Internet might be “fun”, he acknowledged, but it isn’t having the same positive impact on society as the invention of the flushing toilet, or television or the automobile.This is my first interview from Techonomy. We’ll also post an interview today with Race Against the Machine’s Erik Brynjolfsson and his co-author Andrew McAfee. And later this week, we will broadcast interviews with Microsoft Chief Strategy Officer Craig Mundie, Intuit co-founder Scott Cook and Elevation Partners co-founder Roger McNamee.