Innovation and the money

Earl has a good post about innovation and myths about it. He quotes Marco Rinesi:

But for all of its undeniable power, the printing press wasn’t the source of large fortunes for the engineers, investors, and businessmen involved in this industry. Profits were made, yes, sometimes significant ones, but nothing quite proportional to the influence of the technology. The bulk of the benefits came to the organizations that leveraged this technology for their own ends like modern states, which would have been logistically impossible without the printing press, or the myriad business that cannot be conceived without a superbly well-educated (for pre-modern standards) source of workers and consumers.

The same pattern can be seen in many other technical advances, specially those that impacted society the most. Contraceptives, telecommunications, refrigeration: they are often overlooked foundations of the contemporary world, each of them enormously disruptive, yet none of them, over the long term, a gold mine of extraordinary returns.

The initiator of disruption is not likely to be the big beneficiary. Interesting. Some people argue that you incentivise innovation but I’m a sceptic. It sounds like successful disruptors are driven by something other than financial reward.

3 thoughts on “Innovation and the money

  1. Dorai Thodla

    It is true that the innovators do not always reap the financial rewards. Two examples are Doug Engelbart (the inventor of mouse and co-inventor of hypertext) and Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of web.


  2. Sunil Malhotra

    Thank God disrupters are driven differently. Perhaps the reward is in the disruption itself. If they were after financial reward, they wouldn’t be human beings – only bankers!


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