Mass Innovation: Hype or Happening?

There is a typically scattered and contrarian debate going on over at Slashdot about some recent comments about “mass innovation” from the new head of MIT’s Media Lab. Here is the precis that started the discussion:

The new head of MIT’s Media lab argues that societal advances,
previously the domain of a small group of individuals, will now become
the product of millions of people due to changes in education and
technology. He also offers advice to would be start-ups and
entrepreneurs, including an argument against instrumentalism: ‘The successful will look for fundamental disruptive change.


  1. Franklin Stubbs says:

    ‘Mass innovation’ is a very poor choice of words. True innovators will always be a tiny fraction of the population. The good news re proliferation of technology is that, as the total population connected to technology gets bigger, so does that tiny fraction.
    If you increase the pool of technology-enabled folks from, say, 300 million to 1.5 billion, you will also see a quintupling of that 0.05%, or whatever the number is, of world-beaters–folks doing really great stuff. Because the innovators exert such a massively disproportionate amount of influence relative to their small numbers, this type of thing really does throw the doors wide open. While excitement is warranted, this phenomenon isn’t “mass” anything. More like a second or third derivative of some sort.
    Another way to look at technological proliferation: consider the strong possibility that the next Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein is, at the moment, a third world baby in a tar paper shack somewhere. (Newton himself was a destitute farmboy–and a sickly, fatherless one at that.) So the proliferation of technology also helps us play the ‘genius lottery’ with better odds… the more third world kids with computers, the less chance that the next would-be world-changer is resigned to herding goats all his life.