Stumbled across this inspirational keynote by Douglas Adams he gave at a Microsoft Conference back in 1996. This guy is so amazing at thinking about the future, talking about biology and applying this knowledge to technology.
“The computer is a modelling machine not a calculator or a typewriter.”
“His fundamental belief was that an “institute of creative technology” like his own needed a “critical mass” of talented people to foster a busy exchange of ideas. But innovation required much more than that. Mr. Kelly was convinced that physical proximity was everything; phone calls alone wouldn’t do. Quite intentionally, Bell Labs housed thinkers and doers under one roof. Purposefully mixed together on the transistor project were physicists, metallurgists and electrical engineers; side by side were specialists in theory, experimentation and manufacturing. Like an able concert hall conductor, he sought a harmony, and sometimes a tension, between scientific disciplines; between researchers and developers; and between soloists and groups.” … “But he gave his researchers not only freedom but also time. Lots of time — years to pursue what they felt was essential. One might see this as impossible in today’s faster, more competitive world. Or one might contend it is irrelevant because Bell Labs (unlike today’s technology companies) had the luxury of serving a parent organization that had a large and dependable income ensured by its monopoly status. Nobody had to meet benchmarks to help with quarterly earnings; nobody had to rush a product to market before the competition did. “ … “The conflation of these different kinds of innovations seems to be leading us toward a belief that small groups of profit-seeking entrepreneurs turning out innovative consumer products are as effective as our innovative forebears. History does not support this belief. The teams at Bell Labs that invented the laser, transistor and solar cell were not seeking profits. They were seeking understanding. Yet in the process they created not only new products but entirely new — and lucrative — industries.”
“So why do we talk about the Norden bombsight? Well because we live in an age where there are lots and lots of Norden bombsights. We live in a time where there are all kinds of really, really smart people running around, saying that they’ve invented gadgets that will forever change our world. They’ve invented websites that will allow people to be free. They’ve invented some kind of this thing, or this thing, or this thing that will make our world forever better.
And this is the problem with our infatuation with the things we make. We think the things we make can solve our problems, but our problems are much more complex than that. The issue isn’t the accuracy of the bombs you have, it’s how you use the bombs you have, and more importantly, whether you ought to use bombs at all.”