Vain Notion Confirmed as Hurdle*

Geoffrey Dutton


in-no-va-tion: the act or process of inventing or introducing something new [from Latin innovare "to renew"] -- Encarta World English Dictionary


How does technology's march tread on your toes? Have you had to reinstall software that went autistic? Are you barraged with idiotic email messages? Has your friendly bank officer been replaced by a robot? Are your health insurance premiums going up 13% next year? These are but a few of a thousand points of pain that advances in technology inflict, allegedly for our benefit. Once a great notion, innovation now runs amok like an over-indulged child.

Innovation is the current politically correct way of saying "progress," a notion now negatively associated with do-gooder liberalism, even though the industrial revolution birthed it and Social Darwinism made it respectable. It's a much simpler concept than progress ever was, because measuring it doesn't depend on vague assessments of public welfare, only on the volume and novelty of inventions. Whether any particular innovation is good, harmful, useful, irrelevant, or actually new is left for the marketplace -- and should it fail, the courts -- to sort out. And even in contentious areas such as genetic engineering, stem cell research, and surveillance technology, rarely is the social imperative to foster innovation seriously questioned.

*Title is an anagram, referring to a classic computer science paper by Edsgar Dijkstra, an anagram for which is "undoes forced algorithm".


Copyright © 2001 by Geoffrey Dutton. All rights reserved.

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