January 25, 2013

When Incremental Improvement Isn't Enough

One of the things that I love about the Intelligence Community (IC) is that they think future and they think big. 

Noah Schactman in Wired Magazine (12 December 12--great date!), gave a snapshot view of 2030 as provided by the National Intelligence Council (NIC). 

Some of the predictions (or aspirations) include:

Bioprinting such as creating 3-D printed organs (how's that for your orchestrating your own organ transplant?) 

Retinal implants for night vision thermal imaging, seeing the distance without binoculars, or even one-upping Google Glass by providing augmented reality in your eye instead of over it

Brain chips for superhuman thought and recall (those without remain doomed to brain farts, in comparison)

Bioweapons where DNA is used to target and take out people by genetically engineering viruses to attack them, specifically, without leaving any markers

People embedded in machines--reminiscent of when Ripley in the movie Alien enters in an exoskelton robotic suit to kick some Alien butt!

Other predictions include: megacities, climate change, big data clouds, aging populations, and more drones

While some of these advances are incremental in nature--for example genetic engineering and bioweapons are incremental steps from DNA sequencing of humans.

However, other leaps are more dramatic.

An article by Stephen Levy in Wired (17 January 2013) discusses how Larry Page (one of the Google founders) strives for inventions that are magnitudes of  "10x" (often actually 100x) better than the status quo, rather than just 10% improvements. 

Google has many examples of leaping ahead of the competition: from its transformative search engine which has become synonymous with search itself to Gmail which came out with 100x the storage of its competitors, Translations for the entire web from/to any language, Google Fiber with broadband at 100x faster than industry speeds prototyped in Kansas City, Google Books providing a scanned and searchable archive of our global collection of books and magazines, Google+ for social media (this one, I see as just a Facebook copycat--to get on Facebook's nerves!), Google Maps for getting around, Android their open platform operating system for mobile devices, and even self-driving cars--many of these are developed by Google X--their secret skunk work lab. 

I really like Google's concept of going for the "moon shot" rather than just tweaking technology to try and stay ahead of the competition, temporarily. 

And as in space, there is so much territory to explore, Google believes it is attacking just .1% of the opportunities out there, and that the tech industry as a whole is attacking maybe 1% in aggregate--that leaves 99% or plenty of opportunity for all innovators and inventors out there.

To get to 2030 and beyond--we're just at the tip of the innovation iceberg! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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