Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Innovation

theObserver has some thoughts on innovation. Lightly edited for typographical style.

Innovate. I hate that word. We even have to innovate the grammar we use to talk about innovation (mostly to hide the fact we don't actually have any new ideas).

But consider software. Usually software does not need much start-up capital, so we find a large amount of hobby groups collaborating over the internet and producing decent software under the open software model simply because they enjoy it. Or game modders who produce new content for games just for recognition in their virtual community. Or illegal file shares going to huge trouble to pirate or hack games.

Indeed, during the early days of the information revolution, software was given away free because of the culture during the late 60's and 70's. The guys who invented the spreadsheet gave it away free until Bill Gates swiped it and made billions.

So I don't think the financial carrot is necessary to motivate people to innovate or invent or create. Most writers write because they want to; most painters paint without any expectation of financial rewards. In some cases when financial rewards are offered (commissions, book advances etc), the work actually suffers because of deadlines and pressure.

Even the supermen in the Ayn Rand books don't work purely for financial profit, but because they are exceptional and cannot help themselves. Profit is their just reward, not the motivation. In Atlas Shrugged her revolutionary capitalists were portrayed as making great personal sacrifices by striking and leaving their work.

I think Marx wanted to free people from unnecessary economic labor so they could innovate and self-actualize. I've long considered most corporations parasites because they try to leech every bit of creativity possible from their staff to increase their profits. This leaves staff exhausted or even worse - content ! - at the end of their working day, fit only for the couch, their dreams put off until tomorrow.

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