Jane Wang

A dive into the world of startups, science, and technology

Welcome to the Cambrian Explosion of Innovation

Charted used with the permission of Peder Olesen Larsen

Welcome to the Cambrian explosion of innovation that is happening before our very own eyes. The pace of the technological innovation has been accelerating. The Web — current humanity’s store of information — is growing at an exponential rate. More research papers are getting been published (see above). Industries are being disrupted.

Most important, the winner of this exciting change and uncertainty is the individual. The access to various forms of technology — Web, cloud computing, bio-hacking, 3D printing, hardware hacking, etc. — has been drastically lowered. The laws of economics will hold that the lower barrier costs, the greater numbers of participants.

What does it mean for the future of innovation? It means a 15-year-old boy, Jack Andraka, with limited training in science, could discover a both powerfully accurate and incredibly simple diagnostic methodology for lung, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer.

The bigger picture? Jack Andraka couldn’t have stumbled on this methodology without the context and the environment of our time. He is an harbinger of an incredible explosion of innovation from lone inventors — individuals in unlikely places with unexpected backgrounds, inventing using low-cost equipment, instead from well-funded university labs, research institutions, and R&D departments from Fortune 500 companies.

The tide is turning. Institutions that require heavy financial backing and have a legacy of methodologies to follow, by design, will focus on low-risk experiments that lead to incremental learning. In other words, these institutions are optimizing over the local optimum, not the global optimum. Outsiders untethered by a past, such as students and hobbyists, purely experiment for the sake of experimentation and on high-risk/high-return projects. Once these lone inventors meet some level of success, crowdsourced funding options are becoming robust and mainstream. Perhaps, in the long term, these higher-risk, smaller-seeded experimentation presents a better model for innovation.

Futurists call our time the moment approaching singularity. We had seen something in parallel to our time during the Industrial Revolution. This rapidly changing social dynamics will potentially disenfranchise people who do not necessarily have specialized skills, but present incredible opportunities for those who are playing with technology, experimenting and seeking answers.

Think about this and rejoice.


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This post is originally published on The Huffington Post.

"Everyone else in the world is working on the next 10%. If you can be the one that delivers at 10x improvement, you have a chance to really change things." Believing in the impossible - all real creators / makers believe. Change your thinking. Change the world.

“Big ideas, Johnson explained, are almost always discovered in the “adjacent possible”, a term borrowed from the complex-system biologist Stuart Kauffman, who used it to describe the spontaneous formation of complex chemical structures from simpler structure…We like to think of innovation as striking us in a stunning eureka moment, where you all at once change the way people see the world, leaping far ahead of our current understanding. I’m arguing that in reality, innovation is more systematic. We grind away to expand the cutting edge, opening up new problems in the adjacent possible to tackle and therefore expand the cutting edge some more, opening up or new problems, so on.”

—   Cal Newport

The democratization of space is a positive and it requires us to participate in the process. I really love the literary reference here historically to Baudelaire and to the upcoming web innovators, such as AirBnB and others. 

"Space is always a social product - is a result of how people image space, how they use space, how they represent space, and how they appropriate space." - Henri LeFebvre