Long Term Innovation vs. Exponential Innovation

Ray Kurzweil is a famous author and futurist. One of his most widely reference works is a book that is now six years old, but which discusses a theory with startling ramifications. The book is called The Singularity is Near, and theory is actually fairly straightforward.

It goes like this: throughout human history, the rate of innovative progress has increased. It took centuries to go from handwriting to the printing press, but going from the landline to the cell phone was much faster, and so on into the future.

The main point is that the future is being invented much, much faster than most people expect, and the time we need take to invent it is shorter every year.

So if the pace if invention and innovation is ever increasing, do we need to be worried about a drop in long-term R&D investment? Or is it just that formerly long-term innovation is now happening in time frames we consider short-term?