Morgan Housel on the mystery of innovation pessimism

Morgan Housel in The Motley Fool today, on “Why It Feels Like We’re Falling Behind”. He takes an amusing and perceptive stab at trying to explain why media gloomsters are fixating on the false misconception that “American innovation has declined, and what innovation we have left isn’t meaningful.” He especially notes the failure to appreciate the time-lag effect in innovation…

“It always looks like we haven’t innovated in 10 or 20 years because it takes 10 or 20 years to notice an innovation.”

Another part of the problem, not addressed by Morgan, is that science and technology journalism is in such dire straits in the establishment media, as the recent ‘chocolate diet’ sting amply proved. Over the long-term this contributes to a wider problem — the general lack of knowledge about the world’s big mega-trends, which almost all point to a very positive future. This lack of awareness leads, for instance, to the sort of snickering we saw recently when Google’s Larry Page said recently at the Google shareholders’ meeting — and quite correctly — that…

“Any measure you make of the world, it’s getting better. … In fact, [by] quite a bit. We should be optimists and be excited about all the things we’re building and contributing to the world. It’s working.”

Page was also reported, at the same meeting, as saying that simply finding rational optimism on the real trajectory of the world was “exhausting”…

“It’s very exhausting to seek out constructive views of the longer term normally. I feel that is been true for a very long time.”

If that’s true for the head of Google, then what chance does a humble hard-pressed daily journalist have? Especially when faced daily with editors and audiences who are mired in pits of pessimism and cynicism?

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