Innovation and invention
In the 18th century, water power dominated in Britain, most power came from watermills and canals were built to transport coal and other goods around the country. This age of water power was followed in the 19th century by steam power, railways were build the length and breadth of Britain. The 20th century saw railways become less fashionable and road transport dominated. Now in the 21 century we see recession, not just in the UK but around the world.
The innovation and invention are there, we have smart phones, computers and the internet, but nothing very new has come out in the 21st century. We even seem to be struggling to maintain what we did have in some areas. The economic system appears to be at fault too, money is the unit of exchange for wealth and it’s value seems to be constantly eroded. We do seem to be reluctant to change though. Should we accept that we have to travel less? Have business meeting using technology rather than all descending on the same conference centre? Are conferences where people actually go there in person, a thing of the past? Do people really need to commute into office every morning or could they work at home. I’m sitting in my kitchen, typing this and pausing occasionally to drink tea. Do I do less because I’m at home? No, I think I do more, or least stop less and there are fewer distractions.
Do we need to view things differently in the 21st century. Do eBook readers need to be cheaper and do we need to accept them in preference to printed books? Are newspapers and magazines now out of date? I read most of my news and views online now. Do we need to encourage the use of computers, tablets and smart phones for keeping up with the news?
The problem is that these products aren’t designed in Britain, most servers for the internet aren’t here, the technology isn’t being built here. So what can Britain do? We can provide content, we do have writers, singers, programmers, film makers and so on. Are there enough people with talent and are they being encouraged enough? Is education available to all that need it or just to those from middle class families who can afford the higher fees?
Can the tax system and other government systems be changed to encourage invention and innovation? Could the BBC encourage film making and other talent? Could the whole system of government be made more efficient with less departments? Do we need so many taxes?
Innovation isn’t just about making things. When ABBA was at their most successful as a super group they brought more foreign currency into Sweden that Volvo cars. Innovation and invention is about producing something that people want and are prepared to pay for with their own money. This can be goods or services. It can be the services of a plumber or a gardener or it can be music that has been recorded. It might even be art, but art is often bought for us with tax payers money. The art experts think that they and their class of experts know what we will like. When people choose for themselves, it appears to promote innovation and creativity more.
I can remember when pop music was scorned by the older generation. It was absolute rubbish, that was the generation that listened to light entertainment and scorned what was being produced by the likes of Elvis, then later the Beatles and many others. They innovated and entertained millions. They were richly rewarded, some might argue they were rewarded too much and others were denied opportunities as a result.
Innovation and invention comes out of education and freedom. We need to have the freedom to be creative and the education to understand science, technology, computers or music. We need to invest more in better, easier, faster and more creative educational opportunities for all. Then have more opportunities like talent shows and try to get away from the idea that the winner takes it all. Do we want one pop star worth hundreds of millions or hundreds of pop stars making a million?
There are more amazing blogs on the home page. Please comment – any ideas for innovation, invention and creativity?