Source: The New York Times
The most important word in the technology industry is “innovation.” It is also the most dangerous.
Silicon Valley companies lobby for relief from government regulation and tax so they may innovate profitably. Privacy intrusions by social media or online advertising are seen as a cost of innovating, and a way to learn how these powerful new tools will fit in our lives.
It is not just that “innovation” is a word worn smooth from overuse. We treat innovation like an impersonal force, and a ceaseless outcome of entrepreneurship in tech. If we displace people or distort our culture with innovations that, say, wipe out local bookstores or measure every moment in a warehouse worker’s day, it is the price of a generally beneficial force.
Increasingly, however, economists and social thinkers are challenging the conventional wisdom on innovation. …
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Along with fueling privacy concerns, of course, the mainframes helped prompt the growth and innovation that we have come to associate with the computer age. Today, many experts predict that the next wave will be driven by technologies that fly under the banner of Big Data — data including Web pages, browsing habits, sensor signals, smartphone location trails and genomic information, combined with clever software to make sense of it all.
Proponents of this new technology say it is allowing us to see and measure things as never before — much as the microscope allowed scientists to examine the mysteries of life at the cellular level. Big Data, they say, will open the door to making smarter decisions in every field from business and biology to public health and energy conservation.