This morning’s New York Times published an article on the frothy boom in “app development” for Apple IOS and Google Android devices. The four page in-depth analysis of the “app industry,” paints a very depressing picture. For all of the hoopla about this area, the statistics suggest that it is little more than a bubble about to burst. More depressing it adds to the chorus of concern from leading thinkers on entrepreneurship, innovation and technology: ” Where Have All The Big Ideas Gone?” We have lost our way with innovation and the need to solve big problems. Angry Birds is not solving any big problem, and leading people like the couple in this article, to chase the ephemeral rainbow. This morning’s story will likely ignite a vigorous online debate, as it should.
The Washington Post published an article last year with the title, “Moral Decline and the End of Big Ideas.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-innovations/moral-decline-and-the-end-of-big-ideas/2011/09/14/gIQAQntJwK_story.html The author’s point is that it is a sense of moral duty to make the world a better place that drives someone to change the World. Or at least it should be..
Another opinion piece in the New York Times by Neal Gabler, also last year, asks where are the Big Ideas? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/opinion/sunday/the-elusive-big-idea.html?pagewanted=all The Atlantic magazine had published a list of the ” 14 biggest ideas of the year,” the biggest of which, ironically was “The Rise of the Middle Class – Just Not Ours,” describing the rise of broad prosperity in the BRIC nations. The Atlantic list stimulated Gabler to predict a future of Big Data, but not Big Thought.. The implication I hear in Gabler’s editorial is that we are in a post Enlightenment time, a period of anti-intellectualism. I hope not, but I fear it may be true.
The list of luminaries who bemoan this situation keeps growing. It includes Max Marmer, founder of Startup Genome, whose Harvard Business Review blog post, “Reversing the Decline of Big Ideas,” has probably been reblogged and emailed around the World hundreds of times, and has stimulated millions of comments. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/07/reversing_the_decline_in_big_i.html. No less than Marc Andreesen, founder of Netscape and now a venture capitalist himself, Vinod Khosla, founder of Sun Microsystems, and John Doerr, my former Intel colleague, have also spoken out forcefully on the need for a deep rethink on the state of innovation in America. They are already on record that they aren’t interested in the next iPhone app.
We need more Big Thought on Big Ideas like the problem of heat dissipation and energy loss, being addressed by startups like Trajectory Design Automation, and water conservation technology, an area where Israel is the world leader. We need to regain our lead in the World of innovation by refusing to accept mediocrity and greed as the drivers of our economy.