The right kind of change

Peter Thiel once famously observed, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” referring to Twitter. “We are no longer living in a technologically accelerating world,” Thiel said nearly a decade ago. “There is an incredible sense of deceleration.”

Despite so much happening in the world of software and information technology, there has been relatively little in the way of transformation innovation—little in the way of truly new technology. We appear to be in an area of iterative change, of mimicking, of competitive copying. But even Amazon, as Gladden Pappen notes in the talk I’m sharing today, is little more than an iterative take on the mail order catalogue, reimagined in light of changed circumstances:

I notice when it takes nine months for construction workers to replace one worn-out escalator, as it did this past year at the Brookland-CUA WMATA Metro station near my home. This is an example of Pappen’s observation that, letting alone entirely the question of new technologies, we seem to be struggling simply to maintain past innovations.

“The point, I think, that is the one I’m attempting to make in response to modern innovation,” says Pappen at the 39:30 mark, “is that for Aristotle, aiming at innovation causes destruction. Aiming at preservation, allows and requires the right kind of change, or fosters the right kind of change.”