Surplus of Innovation

Everything is the tech world is rapidly changing. People chanted “the death of email” with Slack two years ago, only to quickly change to “the death of the death of email” less than a year later. The past 18 months have seen more and more communications apps (all with their own proprietary contact list), which we all need to be on to reach everyone. And of course there’s a newer and more expensive iPhone every other day.

Innovation is great. It’s what propels humans forward. Innovation is, simply, making something better. The telegraph was innovative for communication, only to be made better by the telephone forty years later in 1876. Popular copper dial-up internet of the 1980s was replaced by fiber twenty years later. Twitter, an incredible innovation for communication, was born in 2006 and ten years later is on life support. Innovation is accelerating. And this acceleration overwhelms people.

Surpluses can have strange effects in an economy. The first global superpower, Spain, starting in the 15th century, created a surplus of money – silver and gold, in their case, from the New World into Europe. The effects of a larger supply of money made prices go up and, thus, people felt poorer. With contemporary technology, the surplus of innovation – literally, too many new technologies – creates frustration from being overwhelmed.

Apple’s recent iPhone 7 clearly displayed a surplus of innovation when there were large amounts of criticism on the removal of the traditional headphone jack. As well, it seemed no one desired to update their new (and expensive) recent iPhone 6S. Unlike previous iPhone release, many people decided to wait to the next iPhone release.

Innovative surpluses are not a bad thing. It is, however, a bubble that could lead to negative outcomes. For example, if revenue does not keep up with companies, then those innovations will find themselves elsewhere, perhaps in the banking industry instead of the tech industry. In the meantime, enjoy this period of excess innovation: it’s a sign of a golden age of technology, no matter how overwhelming it may feel.

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