Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Coming Dark Age for Innovation

"A provocative view from Jonathan Huebner, a physicist at the Pentagon's Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California, holds that technological innovation has actually been slowing down for more than a century. Huebner, whose paper will appear in the September issue of Technological Forecasting & Social Change, came to this conclusion by studying the number of patents issued per person and examining a list of thousands of innovations." -- Rob Hof, BusinessWeek
I would strongly disagree with Huebner's conclusion since I do not believe that the number of patents is an adequate measure of innovation (although I cannot suggest any alternative methods of measurement at the moment). But what about the many (and increasing number of) popular and successful open-source projects? I consider these to be innovative but seem unlikely to be considered in the study. I'm sure there are many other examples.

The second variable of measurement employed by Huebner is his examination of a list of thousands of innovations, which is likely derived from those innovations with patents, a further limitation of the study in my view.

But for now we can merely speculate, and as Hof notes, we'll need to see the paper to examine the arguments and draw our own conclusions.

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