What Nassim Taleb Misses About Technology and Innovation | Innovation & Institutions, Will it Blend? | Scoop.it

"What Nassim Taleb misses about technology and innovation is that its purpose is not to entertain the delicate tastes of the chattering classes, but to improve the lives of us all.  ...What’s more, most of technology’s black swans are positive ones."

Excerpts: The Usefulness Of Useless Things

What Mr. Taleb fails to understand is that technologists are supremely aware that most of their efforts will come to nothing


What, I wonder, would Mr. Taleb make of Edison’s 9,999th try?


...They are, in fact, searching out black swans (to use Mr. Taleb’s own parlance), in full knowledge that they will spend most of their time rushing up blind alleys.  

What, I wonder, would Mr. Taleb make of Edison’s 9,999th try?

The truth is that useless things often end up very useful indeed.  Modern information technology did not originate with engineers, but has its roots in an obscure academic crisis, whose major figures, such as Cantor, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Gödel and others never dreamed that their work would have important practical consequences.

...What Mr. Taleb seems to miss is that these are ...people dedicated to following their dreams and willing to put their own skin in the game to do so.

What’s more, most of technology’s black swans are positive ones. 

As [Greg Satell] recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Innovation is a particularly sticky problem because it so often remains undefined.”  You can’t simply focus on the technologies that are sure bets, but must take into account the entire matrix (pictured in the article, four quadrants.)


... the logical consequence of his argument) is that we should remain in the upper right quadrant, where both the problem and the domain are well defined and he would presumably assign the lowest value on basic research and disruptive innovation, which have no clear applicability.

Yet it is there that we break truly new ground.