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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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Technology accelerates without discrimination

Imagine an innovation that cut your travel time to work in half. Impossible? One breakthrough of the 19th century was the clipper sailboat. Larger, faster, and more maneuverable, it reinvented cross-Atlantic trade and revolutionized the economies of entire nations. Until the 1830s, it took five weeks to make the crossing, but the Clipper could do it in 12 days. It was a great innovation, accelerating many good things, but some bad ones as well.

In 1845, the Great Potato Famine began in Ireland, leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of people. It's believed that the potato fungus that destroyed Ireland's crops came from North America. [169] One theory is that the famine hadn't occurred sooner because the five-week journey across the Atlantic was long enough for the fungus to die in transit. However, the shorter 12-day itinerary left the fungus alive, so it was only a matter if time before it infested the clipper's destination. [170] There were other major causes, political and economical, but had the innovation of the clipper ship not taken place, the Great Famine might never have happened.

Most innovations have similar stories. Personal computers, which can be programmed to do anything, created the possibility of computer viruses. The Internet, designed to accelerate and distribute information, hastened the spread of those viruses, as well as spam, scams, and misinformation. Automobiles speed the police to crime scenes, but they ...

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