I received an amusing email. It has circled the internet for many years and I don’t know if it is true. I have read it before. I am sure it will be sent to me again. After some initial amusement, it prompted a much more serious thought. What if Moore’s law could apply to other fields of endeavour. What if we could rapidly increase the rate of improvement in other elements of society. If we could accelerate the pace of innovation, how would our world change? What role would online networks and public ownership of knowledge perform in improving the innovation process?
First the amusing email …
Gates vs. GM email
“If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”
In response to Bill’s comments, General Motors issued a press release stating:
“If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash…….. Twice a day.
2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive – but would run on only five percent of the roads.
6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single “This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light.
7. The airbag system would ask “Are you sure?” before deploying.
8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
10. You’d have to press the “Start” button to turn the engine off.”“
After the initial amusement, my thoughts turned to potential. What if we did have cars that cost $25 and got 1,000 miles to the gallon. What if the Moore law rates of innovation and improvement could be applied to the world’s problems. What if Moore’s law rates of improvement applied to aircraft engines, car engines, carbon dioxide emissions, industrial pollution, cures for disease, energy and minerals usage, education and leadership. My first reaction is that Moore’s law could not apply. My second reaction is to question the underlying assumptions that make me believe that it doesn’t. Perhaps, the assumption that Moore’s law could not apply is incorrect. There may be a new way to organise to deliver solutions the key problems. Our world is evolving. Advances in technology present new ways to organise. Online networks are likely to be a positive contribution. An expansion of intellectual property laws is likely to be a step backwards. If there was a new way to deliver greater rates of innovation, we have a compelling need to solve specific global problems. We need to question that our underlying assumptions of how to organise.
A community would need to possess the following attributes before we could benefit from greater rates of innovation:
- an environment which compels decisions
- a cluster of people and countries committed to resolving the problem
- unrestricted access to community knowledge. The government could declare a global emergency and legislate free access to the specific knowledge necessary to solve the top 10 global problems
- an online network to facilitate communication, assess the unique contribution of every individual and solve the problem
- commitment to implement the solutions
These are only some initial thoughts and this is far from a comprehensive discussion. I welcome your contribution. Please add your thoughts in a comment below.