When I was 15 years old our history teacher told us the following, “Anyone who has become anything in life, studied history at school”. Since we had to pick our subjects for the following year this was an attempt by him to sway us to continue taking his class for the remainder of our school years. If memory serves me right I think about 80% dropped the class the following year. He eventually left the teaching profession and opened up a hardware store.
I was one of the 80% that dropped the class and decided to rather stick with science and biology in the hopes of making more sense of the world we live in and possible the ones we don’t. Still, his words stuck with me after school and I developed a keen interest in how history served the world from a progressive perspective.
We are all to familiar with how world wars had a positive influence on the advances of technology alongside the global space races that introduced various products into our homes. The mad men of science always intrigued me. Where we mostly raise Albert Einstein as a hero I prefer modern leaders like Elon Musk because I am able to see how the work they do influence the world I live in now.
In the case of Elon Musk I like how he looks at the past and uses it to develop his vision for the future. Cars use expensive gas to operate, let’s use electricity and produce a more environmental friendly car. NASA is burning money with space exploration, let’s develop reusable rockets and drop the cost.
When I was 15 most of what we consider to be everyday appliances and gadget weren’t even on the road map considering functionality or even their existence. They did however exist in a less mobile and smart version that was improved upon over the last 20 years. This trend of looking at the past to build the future has left us in the position where we are seeing less innovation and more improvisation. I have often had discussions where the argument has been made that there are no more original ideas left to discover, we are simply focused on working with what we have and trying to draw more blood from the stone.
Even when we are looking at the field of environmental green energy do we find that researchers are simply looking at the past and trying to see how technology can help us get back to a period where the earth was green and clean.
We seem to be stuck in this endless loop where today we are looking at the past to improve our futures. There is another popular saying that our children are the future. I call bull on that since I see it as an excuse for the current generation over 20 to shift the responsibility for our failings to truly innovate and improve what we currently have. In the last 20 years we have become a society that is content with corporations providing us products and services that simply add more features to a baseline of capabilities that have remained the same. A camera on a mobile phone was innovative yet for the last 10 years it simply increased in pixel size that can be captured and nothing more. If it could take thermal images or provide doctors with a mobile solution for taking x-rays, I would consider that impressive.
We need to escape the loop it order for us to progress with true innovation. That is the only way we can challenge the past.