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Adversity and Innovation. - Ed's journal
Adversity and Innovation.
OK, so I was pondering something earlier.

Wars. Specifically, wars and science and technology. The Second World War, served as a major catalyst for new technology, a large fraction of which has civilian applications. (Wikipedia WW2 weapons

Is it reasonable to say, that mankind is driven to innovate through adversity? When times are hard, when there's a problem that's got to be solved, then... well, that's when R&D goes through the roof. When every idea, that might save the day gets funding, in the hope of finding the ultimate weapon.

So have we got too soft? Have we, in the western world, got entirely too comfortable, and happy to settle for mediocrity? And wasting too much time, effort and money on trivialities, and wastefulness. The disposable lifestyle, the playstation culture.

But is there a solution? I mean, adversity means ... adversity. And the obvious adversity on the kind of scale necessary, is a large scale war. I'm not sure where we live in a world where war can be anything other than short and lethal. I mean, weapons being as they are, entire citys are the targets. There's been a move to control nuclear proliferation, but it's still the case that even conventional bombs are sufficiently large as to cause large scale devastation (and causalties).

So are we left with our comforts, when the 'rest of the world' out innovates? I think China is showing that it can do it, and it's rapidly bootstrapping an industrial revolution - there's a lot that can be done, if you're prepared to mostly disregard inconvenient things like pollution, and human rights.

But perhaps we have a new one on the horizon. Climate change. No longer a question of 'if?', nor 'when?' but 'how bad?'. It looks like we'll get an increasing amount of 'problems' with temperature, weather, and flooding to deal with. Shortages of oil, which has frankly, been this milennium's crutch.

Whilst the price for our wilful damage caused to the world around us may be high, might it not be the case that this is exactly the kind of thing we need to drive forward science and technology by leaps and bounds once more?
3 comments or Leave a comment
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: May 2nd, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your premise is flawed. Technology has advanced more rapidly in recent times, not less rapidly.
jorune From: jorune Date: May 2nd, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

As we get closer to the singularity only a minority of people will develop the information coping skills and others will be left behind, some of their own free choice and most because of their inability.
anchiale From: anchiale Date: May 2nd, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
In answer to the question does adversity drive technology, I think the answer is certainly, yes. I would also posit, though, that it's not the only thing that drives innovation -- curiosity, expansion, creativity, and commerce are all driving factors also.

For a great read on this exact subject, check out Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel.
3 comments or Leave a comment