Friday, January 9, 2009

Why Innovation Sucks

Yesterday on Bloomberg I heard a speech by a member of the Senate about how to improve the financial system. One of the comments was a strategy to "encourage more financial innovation" ... !! ?? What ?? Financial Innovation is what got us into the economic trouble. We don't need more "financial innovation" we need simpler financial structures. Basic borrowing and lending, not derivatives and complex "instruments" only financial wizards with 10 phd's understand (or claim to ... ).

This got me thinking. In my Day Job were being pushed to abandon "legacy" mobile devices and the programming styles and languages which supported these and adopt to "new" devices. Many of which actually don't even exist yet. It took 7 years to get our software running really good on the existing devices and now we have to abandon them and in a rush to please the market write all new software in an entirely different way for a plethora of new devices in new languages. Due to market forces, were not being 'allowed' to actually get good at anything. By the time a technology finally starts getting good, companies are forced to drop it and get on with the "Latest Thing" ... and start over. Innovation. It sucks.

Look around your house or office. How many things actually work well ?
How many business actually work well ?
It takes time, years, decades, to refine technology or business practices. Every time a new Innovation comes along and the market ("sparkly eyed consumers who want the newest hottest thing") we have to start over. We never get time to make things work well.

What works really well ? Cars, land-line Telephones, electric utilities.
Those have all taken up to 100 years to get right. TV is finally decent and now in Feb we have to throw it out and replace it with the new HDTV which almost nobody has and those who do complain of compatibility problems.

In the computer world, whats great ? Mainframes and Unix.
They are not "exciting" but they have been allowed to improve for 30-50 years by slow incremental progress until they are now the backbone of our economy.

What sucks ? Cell phones, Windows, "Innovative" financial markets.
Cell phones last about 1 year max, and while they last they rarely work.
Windows almost starts to get good when it is forced to rewrite itself from scratch every 5 years or so for "new features". Financial markets ... cant say enough about them.

I hate to think I'm a Luddite ... but I really think we should slow down a bit and forgo the "World 2.0" craze and just let us focus on making what we have work better, slowly, the hard way. Be a lot more cautious about tossing out the old and replacing it with today's shiny new toy. But with each new innovation, each fancy new feature, quality goes down, not up.

Unfortunately society is addicted to new toys, and as I say this my eyes are gleaming at my new iPhone ... damn it all !!!


Chris said...

But innovation brought us computers!

Oh, I see your point. ;)

Unknown said...

sounds like there should be a degree, or profession called MI, or Manage Innovation.. There has got to be a skill set to manage new innovation into existing technology. In nature innovation happens on top of older established norms, but as humans we often times dont look backwards to see what worked in the past to develop future. We seem to running like ship without a rudder, and as soon as we get a rudder, those who want change, make a new shinnier ship.
Oh well, I fell your pain