The article puts up a set of questions about productivity growth and technology innovation. But the title is very meaningful: there is such a thing as a machine for the production of ideas? Well, in a sense, yes. There is a system – science, technology remixing practices, venture capital, media relations, market – that is meant to create ideas and innovations. But it makes ideas that are sort of expected. Which is why, in a way, that kind of innovation can possibly seem to be slowing down.
Human imagination creates a different kind of innovations. The Apollo project, which the Economist quotes, was an imagination masterpiece, with money and organization to make it come true. And imagination doesn’t come as a feature of any known machine or system. It goes beyond expectations. And creates visions and experiments that are concentrated on entirely new possibilities. With a touch of poetry.
This kind of human imagination is on stage today and Edge is the place to go. Reading the great thinkers answering the Annual Question 2013 is a sort of renewable energy source for ideas.
(I thank a lot John Brockman for having accepted a piece that I have been writing: it is a great honour and an immense pleasure)