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"There's been no real innovation for the last 30 years" - Kasparov & Peter Thiel


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Great documentary with Garri Kasparov (former world Chess Champion, Russian politician, great thinker) and Peter Thiel (PayPal, Facebook Investor, overall awesome genius, great thinker).

 

http://youtu.be/2TQwAr7lysw

 

Some of it is in German but it's well worth watching I think.

 

Come to think of it, there really hasn't been much ground-breaking innovation lately. Computers aren't getting smarter per se, just faster (see Moore's law); this was basically the reason that Kasparov was beaten by Deep Blue (computer) in Chess.

 

Not much has happened in the last three decades that can rival things like the moon landing, the first flight, the creation of the internal combustion engine, the development of the first electronic computers (and eventually affordable personal computers)

 

Instead, personally, what  I see too much of (even at tech and "entrepreneurial" conferences) is just people running around developing damn "apps"... no real innovation in my eyes.

 

However, Elon Musk (and a few others) is showing some progress :)

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I totally disagree, the amount of real innovations has exploded, there is so much innovations that people don't even recognize them anymore, which is the reason people feel there are none.

 

Two young fish talk to each other and an old fish crosses them and says "Hi there young fellows, the water is very good today!", a minute later the two young fish look at each other and ask themselves "What's water?"

 

BeerBaron

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There's a ton of stuff happening, it'll just take a while before we realize how important it is, mostly because people look in the rearview mirror instead of forward.

 

Just look at genetics and biotech.. How many genomes have we decoded now? We used to dream of the day when we could do just the human one (which wasn't so long ago). And now we're learning so much about epigenetics. Synthetic life is close too (Craig Venter's one person working on that). There's groundbreaking particle physics happening, exoplanets being found, great stuff coming out of evolutionary psychology and neuroscience, etc. Great breakthroughs in clean energy, battery tech, smart grids, etc.

 

Or even look at the internet and google (software not getting smarter?) and all the tech - hardware and software - crammed in internet-enabled smartphones. There's a ton of stuff we take for granted that would look like total sci-fi to people 30 years ago (heck, even 12 years ago wikipedia was just starting out and Youtube was founded in 2006, yet we're already blazé about such marvels).

 

Just watching that documentary about the days of the dot com bubble on youtube the other day made me feel like I was watching something terribly old (all those huge CRT monitors and slow dial up modems)...

 

Someday we'll have our ubiquitous 3D printing (including 3D printed scaffolds for replacement organs filled out from someone's own stem cell line) and personalized drugs that cure cancer and alzheimer's and self-driving cars and all that and we'll look back to today as a great period for science and technology, just like we're now looking back to past decades, IMO. Though by then we'll probably be totally unimpressed by all those things and will complain about nothing new happening.

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I agree with the other posters, innovation is exploding.  Maybe there aren't the big public jump conditions that everyone talks about, but innovation is happening and it's real.

 

I like to think that the first iPhone I had in 2008 had the exact same specs as the computer I had in 1999.  In 1999 I had this massive tower that sat on the floor and was loud.  In 2008 I had a tiny little phone with a better screen that was silent that was as powerful as the tower.  I purchased an iPad in September, my iPad is more responsive and quicker than the Macbook I have from 2008.

 

Think about safety innovations.  Look up safety numbers for different industries from 25/50/100 years ago.  Industries that use to have hundreds or thousands of deaths a year have none now.  Another fact is jobs that used to take teams of people are now done by one person operating a computer in a safe area.

 

Even simple innovation is important.  I think about the trucks on the freeway that now have those plates under the trailer, the wider tires, and at times the hood thing on the back of the trailer.  All of those things together reduce costs and save somewhere between 10-15% in fuel costs.  For trucks that drive into the millions of miles 10-15% is large. 

 

Innovation usually takes small steps forward, it only looks like giant leaps when looking back.

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Just look at genetics and biotech.. How many genomes have we decoded now? We used to dream of the day when we could do just the human one (which wasn't so long ago). And now we're learning so much about epigenetics.

 

Funny, as I read this I am studying for a genetics exam that I have tomorrow morning. Apparently there is innovation every single month in this field.

 

I also happen to love chess, although I think Kasparov is a prick.

 

I agree with most of the posters in this thread; innovation is all around us, and I would even say that in many cases it is increasing at an exponential pace.

 

Now back to the slides. :(

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We are all benefiting (mostly) from Moore's law.  And as the transistors get packed on two thoughts come to my mind:

[*]Software is eating the world.  Every job and most aspects of life are touched by this, but fundamentally it is the increasing power and decreasing price of processors and memory.

[*]Because this is an exponential function, you ain't seen nothing yet, Why? just look at an exponential function on a graph. Or think about the riddle of the lily pads that double everyday and the day before the pond is covered, is only half full.

 

 

No innovation? there is innovation almost everywhere you look.  Synthetic biology, genetics, robotics, material science including all nanotechnology, and everything that software touches.

 

Thiel is smart guy and he's rich, but he is a wise guy as opposed to being wise man and he loves to throw out these bomblets. 

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Thiel is smart guy and he's rich, but he is a wise guy as opposed to being wise man and he loves to throw out these bomblets.

 

 

Thiel funds some very forward looking people, like the SENS Research Foundation (the only charity I donate to). I think he's just trying to bring some attention to the real problem of not enough smart people going into more productive fields, and encourage people to get off their butts and help move us forward, which is not a bad thing -- all this innovation doesn't just happen by itself. But it still doesn't make the general claim that there's been no innovation in decades true.

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Guest longinvestor

Thiel is smart guy and he's rich, but he is a wise guy as opposed to being wise man and he loves to throw out these bomblets.

 

 

Thiel funds some very forward looking people, like the SENS Research Foundation (the only charity I donate to). I think he's just trying to bring some attention to the real problem of not enough smart people going into more productive fields, and encourage people to get off their butts and help move us forward, which is not a bad thing -- all this innovation doesn't just happen by itself. But it still doesn't make the general claim that there's been no innovation in decades true.

 

Munger is also in the camp that hates seeing smart people getting into stupid fields like financial engineering.

 

I'd like to see innovations that bring about paradigm shifts like

 

- People work for 2 to 3 hours per day versus 8-10+

- Work for 20 years versus 40+

- Live completely healthy lives to 100+ by addressing adult health issues, (much of longevity increase in the last 100 years has been the result of the largescale elimination of childhood diseases)

 

 

 

 

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Between 1981 and 2008, the proportion of China's population living on less than $1.25/day is estimated to have fallen from 85% to 13.1%, meaning that roughly 600 million people were taken out of poverty

 

http://cdn1.globalissues.org/i/poverty/wdi-2008/poverty-levels-over-time.png

 

Boo-hoo we haven't spent an obscene amount of money to retrieve some useless rocks from a really far away place in a long time

#firstworldproblems

 

(I think space exploration is a net benefit to society and a great investment of public funds, snideness solely used for hyperbolic counterpoint)

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What they mean is that there weren't many fundamental, ground breaking innovations. What's described in this thread so far, are mostly incremental progress based on innovations that occurred more than 30 years ago. Internet was invented in late 60s - early 70s. Last major genetics breakthroughs were in the 50s.

 

It's like a Buzz Aldrin said, "You promised me Mars colonies, and all I got was Facebook."

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What they mean is that there weren't many fundamental, ground breaking innovations. What's described in this thread so far, are mostly incremental progress based on innovations that occurred more than 30 years ago. Internet was invented in late 60s - early 70s. Last major genetics breakthroughs were in the 50s.

 

It's like a Buzz Aldrin said, "You promised me Mars colonies, and all I got was Facebook."

 

lol.  Yeah, no paradigm shifts, just lots and lots of rapid iterative improvement.  Although it's a little mind blowing to think about what a paradigm shift would be like in this day of age.  Infinite energy sources?  Speed of light travel?  Dunno... All seems pretty sci-fi to me...

 

Hrm... After doing a bit of research on wikipedia, it looks like even Semmelweis, the precursor to Pasteur, was even "standing on the shoulders of giants".  Maybe all "innovation" is just iterative improvement?

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Outright invention such as electricity, or special relativity, is rare.

 

Innovation is an iterative process. 

 

I need only look at my car, my backpacking gear, my new bicycle, my IPAD to see how dramatic innovation has been in the last 20 years.  I would have been out of the game for backpacking within a few short years without the innovation in lightweight durable products.

 

The internet and wireless has been a profound innovation.  It has even changed operation of the worlds politics.  Now thats innovation!  And I think that is only in its early phases.

 

The internet enables me to buy high quality, custom goods from small cottage manufacturers worldwide.  It enables the cottage producers to make a good living from a worldwide base of customers.  That amazes me, beyond description.

 

The Lifestraw, cheap, small scale solar, wind power, cell phone banking etc, are changing the lives of the lower 50%. 

 

My Great grandfather read readers digest, and obtained the recipe for the smallpox vaccine, after it was publicized.  He fabricated it on the farm from Cowpox, and none of his kids even got the disease.  These days, these type of innovations have much more rapid development, and dissemination. 

 

I could write continuously for days on this topic, so enough said.

 

 

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On a personal note.  My own investment results have been roughly 25% per annum for 9 years, coincidentally when I joined this message board.  My learning exploded. 

 

My results never would have been remotely as good without the internet.  US trades would have cost a fortune.  Canadian trades would be north of $80 each, and I would have had to run the gauntlet of a broker saying "You want to buy that?"  every time. 

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The biggest innovation is 'application', and it is not just Moore's Law.

 

Materials science did not exist 70 years ago. The great innovation of the time was plastic, and the application was how we could use it. 70 years ago, today's plastics applications are so inconceivable they could not even have been imagined. Today we can bond ceramics to pretty much any material (including teeth!), we can bend cold glass like paper, & we routinely use carbon fiber instead of steel or plastic in many applications. 'Technology' is just a tool; it wears out & we replace it with another one. 'Application' is the process, & limited only by imagination.

   

The internet is just an enabler; & the product is 'connectivity'. The result broader and more rapid global cross-fertilization, & a explosion of hybrid new applications solving old problems, world wide. What used to be done by physical 'letter' correspondence over a lengthy time period, & actually travelling to far-away places to observe/compare notes, is now a matter of  minutes.

 

SD

 

 

 

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I totally disagree. ;) Garri Kasparov and Peter Thiel did not look at the right places for innovations. For past three decades. Our innovation activities have been focused in financial field, not the material field. Top talents from Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Stanford and etc have been all participated in the financial innovations, particularly in the derivative products.  We have CDO, CDO squared and etc. (sorry, I can name all of them.) 8)

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I guess there's a difference in definition here when we`re talking about the word "innovation".

 

I agree with what most of you are saying that there is great development in technology; no doubt about that.

I also think that quote from Kasparov is an overstatement.

 

However, I still feel that ALOT (not all) of what is being mentioned on this thread is horizontal technology & innovation (diagonal at best).

 

Software is still 0's and 1's. The newest devices we talking about (iPhones, etc.) are still just a series of logic gates at their very core.

 

I know this may become cause for controversy; but I still see our latest and greatest phones, tablets, computers as glorified Casio calculators. I don't mean to undermine these technologies b.c. I'm as amazed as the rest of us at the capabilities of these devices.

 

I think 'smarter' software and electronics would entail some higher form of self-learning Artificial Intelligence of some kind. However, I think that all of our great software, etc. of today (though undeniably better than before, MUCH BETTER) is still at the very core just an algorithm bound by the limitations of its "Software Operation/Requirements" list.

 

There is work on things like Neural Networks and Quantum computing for example which promises to radically change all that we call electronics technology, but that hasn't happened (yet!).

 

Also, I agree about the fields of Genetics, Nanotech and I guess 3D printing, have been pretty "innovative" fields but the scale of pure Innovation may be faltering, no?

 

REF: http://blakemasters.com/post/20400301508/cs183class1

 

By Peter Thiel's definition; Innovation (and NEW technology) is the "0 to 1" problem, which has lost a lot of focus. A lot of what we're doing now is "globalization"; improving and iterating; this is the "1 to n" problem. I'm not saying that the latter isn't important. I'm saying that I agree with Thiel in that true "innovation" is running low.

 

 

 

What they mean is that there weren't many fundamental, ground breaking innovations. What's described in this thread so far, are mostly incremental progress based on innovations that occurred more than 30 years ago. Internet was invented in late 60s - early 70s. Last major genetics breakthroughs were in the 50s.

 

It's like a Buzz Aldrin said, "You promised me Mars colonies, and all I got was Facebook."

 

lol.  Yeah, no paradigm shifts, just lots and lots of rapid iterative improvement.  Although it's a little mind blowing to think about what a paradigm shift would be like in this day of age.  Infinite energy sources?  Speed of light travel?  Dunno... All seems pretty sci-fi to me...

 

Hrm... After doing a bit of research on wikipedia, it looks like even Semmelweis, the precursor to Pasteur, was even "standing on the shoulders of giants".  Maybe all "innovation" is just iterative improvement?

 

Amen! :)

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I totally disagree. ;) Garri Kasparov and Peter Thiel did not look at the right places for innovations. For past three decades. Our innovation activities have been focused in financial field, not the material field. Top talents from Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Stanford and etc have been all participated in the financial innovations, particularly in the derivative products.  We have CDO, CDO squared and etc. (sorry, I can name all of them.) 8)

 

This is very true. After the cold war and the space race, our greatest of minds seem to have gravitated towards finance (Quants, Financial Engineers, etc.). Capitalism at it's finest, I guess.

 

For example; Renaissance Technologies; a HFT Fund that primarily hires PhD grads from the fields of Physics, Math, Computer Science, etc. to develop the algorithms used for their HFT Black Boxes... robbing the world a penny at a time; millions of times a second.

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moon landing: 1969

the first flight: 1903

the creation of the internal combustion engine: early to mid 19th century.

the development of the first electronic computers: 1946 (ENIAC)  with the first microprosesors not arriving until the early 1970s.

 

It doesn't seem like major completely new innovations happened all that frequently in the past either.  The thing is none of the above happened out of the blue.  The internal combustion engine was built up from innovations starting as far back as the Romans in the 3rd century using crankshafts and connecting rods in saw mills.  (Hierapolis_sawmill)

 

The digital computer was built on mathmatics done in previous centuries. And the hardware itself is simply built upon the same principles of mechanical computing machines, which have been envisioned as far back as Liebniz.  Vacuum tubes (and later transistors) serve as the valves in the machine.

 

Nothing ever springs forth from nowhere. Technology builds upon itself in small steps (and sometimes leaps or bounds), but always built upon what comes before.  Sometimes a purely theoretical idea can sit around for centuries before we are ready to put it to practical use.  Right now we are in the process of connecting everyone and everything together.  This will lead to things we can't yet imagine when the process is finished.

 

Thiel is a smart guy, but that is an asinine statement if I ever heard one.

 

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Peter Thiel's comment is firmly backed by economic data. The ways how technology affect productivity and growth are very counterintuitive.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Productivity_paradox

 

For example, many very simple technologies that are not in the headlines, like the container, had a much bigger impact in our living standards than anything that Apple has done.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Box-Shipping-Container-Smaller-Economy/dp/0691136408

 

And to reinforce that point, the main impact that PCs had in the 90s productivity, some would say the only impact, was in retail and wholesaling through the Wal-Mart effect. Not in the cool applications that we read every day.

 

The "Power of Productivity" is an excellent book for a deep dive in these issues.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Power-Productivity-Wealth-Poverty-Stability/dp/0226476987/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369412691&sr=1-1&keywords=power+of+productivity

 

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Science and technology don't only exist to grow the economy, though. The James Webb space telescope* won't have the effect of containers on GDP, but it might help us better understand the universe.

 

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Webb_Space_Telescope

 

No argument there, knowledge and technology can be beautiful and so can be art.

 

But technology can also have bad effects. For example, the invention of the printing press had no economic impact at all, and instead was a trigger of religious wars.

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Science and technology don't only exist to grow the economy, though. The James Webb space telescope* won't have the effect of containers on GDP, but it might help us better understand the universe.

 

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Webb_Space_Telescope

 

No argument there, knowledge and technology can be beautiful and so can be art.

 

But technology can also have bad effects. For example, the invention of the printing press had no economic impact at all, and instead was a trigger of religious wars.

 

Plan, I would have to disagree on this one...printed press is and was also a great vector for education, no? Difficult to assess the overall impact of a technology..

 

But I really like your container remark versus Apple products!

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But technology can also have bad effects. For example, the invention of the printing press had no economic impact at all, and instead was a trigger of religious wars.

 

No economic impact at all from the invention of the printing press? That's a pretty bold claim that would need some very solid data to support, IMO, unless you mean in the very short term. Almost all technological and scientific innovations that happened after the printing press depend on its as a way to spread and archive information.

 

As for religious wars, those always found some excuse to happen... It says more about religions (which all claim to be about peace) than about the printing press.

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No economic impact at all from the invention of the printing press? That's a pretty bold claim that would need some very solid data to support, IMO, unless you mean in the very short term. Almost all technological and scientific innovations that happened after the printing press depend on its as a way to spread and archive information.

 

http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/home.htm

 

Except if 300 years is short term.

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