Given the pace of technological change, we tend to think of our age as the most innovative ever. But over the past several years, a number of economists have argued that increasing R&D efforts are yielding decreasing returns.
Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?, a recent paper by economists Nicholas Bloom, Charles Jones and Michael Webb from Stanford and John Van Reenen from MIT, shows that, across a wide range of industries, research efforts are rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply.
Moore’s Law, the empirical observation that the number of transistors in a computer chip doubles approximately every two years, illustrates these trends. The paper points out that the number of researchers required to double chip density today is 18 times larger than those required in the early 1970s. In the case of Moore’s Law, research productivity has been declining at a rate of about 6.8% per year.
The authors conducted a similar in-depth analysis in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. For agricultural yields, research effort went up by a factor of two between 1970 and 2007, while research productivity declined by a factor of 4 over the same period, at an annual rate of 3.7 %. For pharmaceuticals, research efforts went up by a factor of 9 between 1970 and 2014 while research productivity declined by a factor of 5, an annual rate of 3.5%.
Since we recorded this interview, the Wall Street Journal published a short article discussing the strong demand for tech skills around the world. Apparently the area with the greatest gap between supply and demand is Big data/analytics, where 39% of IT leaders feel there is a shortage of people skilled in this area, the highest of any tech field in the survey.
The shortage makes this podcast interview particularly timely because you’ll hear from Dr. Dimitris Bertsimas, Co-Director of MIT Sloan’s Master in Business Analytics, and we discuss this brand new program in depth.
When it comes to technology, the mass market for the most part ignores senior citizens. This is a mistake. Despite the common misconception, today’s senior citizens have a greater familiarity with technology and own more devices than ever before.
With over 46 million people aged 65 or older in the U.S. as of 2014, seniors comprise nearly 15% of the total population. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, as of 2013, 59% of seniors reported using the Internet, while 47% had broadband access in their homes. And the senior technology market is expected to exceed $42 billion by 2020.
Despite this rapidly growing and untapped market opportunity, building technology products for older adults isn’t easy. Companies face design and monetization challenges. But if they can overcome these obstacles and start targeting tech products and services to seniors, it will be worth the effort.
The world’s population is expected to increase from 7 billion today to 9 or 10 billion by the end of the century, according to the United Nations. We also can expect more pressure on the food supply as people in the developing world adopt middle class lifestyles, which usually involve eating more meat. To satisfy global demand, we will need to roughly double today’s output, which means getting smarter about how we produce and manage food.
The good news is that innovation is coming to the farm. Advanced information technology, improved communications systems, robotics, drones, and other new technologies have the potential to boost agricultural yields and reduce waste while tempering environmental degradation.
MIT Sloan Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst
I recently attended the second annual Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago, IL. In the opening keynote presentation, Wim Elfrink, Cisco’s EVP of Industry Solutions and Chief Globalization Officer, referenced Gartner’s latest version of its“Hype Cycle,” noted that IoT (the Internet of Things) has climbed over the past year to its peak. Yet, on closer inspection, the enviable place IoT is enjoying within this technology-evolution framework is actually named the “peak of inflated expectations,” a precarious high point where individual dazzling success stories of early adopters and visionary speculation are outshining wider market reticence and slow early adoption. In the model, this magical time is usually followed by a “trough of disillusionment,” then — if the market responds favorably to second and third-generation tech — the “slope of enlightenment,” and finally — if wide market adoption takes place — a “plateau of productivity.”
The conference certainly provided many vivid illustrations of success and the potential of IoT, but will this fledgling industry make it through the inevitable coming trough, and climb “high and right” on the chart with predicted tens of billions of connected devices, as was enthusiastically espoused by Elfrink in his opening remarks?