Nicholas Carr on why innovation seems to have stagnated: The innovation being rewarded is for improvements at the upper levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. Invent new ways to connect to friends? You win. Invent new technologies that don’t directly impact people’s inner selves? It’s a tough slog.
Some points here: First, the argument is obviously overdrawn, given that innovation in other areas is still occurring and still being rewarded. However Carr’s point is on the *relative* rewards and attention to different areas, and I think in this sense his argument is plausible: Mark Zuckerberg gets on the cover of magazines and has a movie made about himself, while (for example) the folks who invent new energy technologies don’t.
Second, this ties in to my previous comments about Edward Conard’s “we need to direct increased fractions of total income and wealth to innovators” argument. If we take Carr’s argument as true, this would simply cause the “popular” forms of innovation to be even more highly rewarded than they are now, while the “unpopular” forms would still receive less attention.
Finally, Carr’s argument applies to the U.S. and other countries at a similar level of social and economic development. We’d expect it to be less salient for developing countries like China, India, etc., and thus we’d expect to see more attention paid to and innovation occurring at the “lower” levels of technology in such countries, especially with respect to what Carr calls the “technologies of prosperity”. Arguably this is indeed the case.