[dropcap]W[/dropcap]he attached article asks a good question about where the all of the innovation is in our country. We seem to be failing at pushing the boundaries in many sectors. There are monumental improvements out there in what is called the “Adjacent Possible”. This means that only some incremental change is out there on the horizon, ready to be unlocked and in turn unlock other complete new realities. The metaphor for the adjacent future is that of a room that when opened, unlocks a set of doors beyond it.

The article discusses the fact that in many fields innovation has really dried up, even though there is a lot of potential. We obviously need some sort of paradaigm shift from our purely profit driven model. I’m not saying anything against capitalism, but the fact is when money is put upfront in the form of contests and guaranteed investment, people become more motivated. We need to gamify our society and our economy in the right ways to stimulate the growth where it is really needed. I blame some of this on our culture prizing profit so highly against everything else. It’s pretty sad to me when the smartest people in our country from MIT and Ivy Leagues schools end up going into consulting and finance. We need our rocket scientists actually building rockets, not creating algorithms to trade stocks a millisecond faster.

[pullquote_left] We need our rocket scientists actually building rockets[/pullquote_left]

We need people dreaming about how to solve the problems of society, not of brokerage houses. Our country is being robbed of it’s greatest minds so that they can go to Wallstreet and other profit-intensive industries. There are many other industries that offer a good life, however the payment isn’t so direct and gaurenteed as it is in the finance world and we as a society should be working on this problem. I am not a pessimist though, and I belive the inventions we need are only a matter of time because there are smart people out there working on these problems, but not nearly enough. The more people we have solving the real problems, the quicker we can all benefit from that reality.

Outside of a select group of sexy technologies, innovation is almost entirely absent

Eliminating these innovation black holes could do more to improve our lives and the economic future of our country than the latest Web-based social-networking applications. These long-standing problems are not sexy. But they exist in critically important sectors of the economy, such as chemical refining and automotive technology. Imagine a cleaner, more efficient alternative to the internal combustion engine. Unlike battery-powered-car start-ups and solar- and wind-power companies, the internal combustion engine has been almost entirely ignored by venture capitalists. This has remained true even while gas floats above $3 per gallon. Over the past 50 years, innovation to improve fuel economy has only occurred when the government has called for it. In the same period that solar- and wind-power companies have pulled in billions in venture capital and government loans, automotive transportation start-ups focused on internal combustion engines have received little attention or financing. This, to me, is a shocking market failure. Both wind and solar technologies require tremendous capital expenditures before they can be brought to the market and scale up to production. In contrast, a radically improved internal combustion engine could be easily produced with existing industrial capabilities and quickly dropped into the global car production cycle. This technology could also do more to quickly reduce carbon emissions, national oil dependency and general transportation costs than wind or solar.