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Innovation: Shoes and the Internet

Today at work we were discussing innovation and how fast things happen these days.  It was brought up that although shoes as old as 3500 BC have been discovered it was not until the mid 1800’s that left and right shoes became popular.  That means that the world went over 5,300 years without a simple innovation that we totally take for granted today!  Based on how much we travel on foot everyday it is almost impossible to imagine how you would do this without the quality footwear we have today.

The topic came up when were discussing the distances that Civil War solders had to march and the weight of the items that they carried.  We came back to the concept that innovation is always spurred by necessity.  Over 5,000 years ago if you had everything you needed nearby you would not have to travel far and therefore not need a decent pair of shoes.  By the end of the 19th century folks were traveling much more and needed decent shoes to facilitate this.

This led me to speculate – what will people talk about in a few thousand years regarding our innovations of the 20th century?

Will future generations look back on us and comment on the fact that we created digital computers in the 1940’s but wonder why we did not create the Internet (as we know it today) until the 1990’s.  In the year 4000 they will look back on a 50 year span as an eternity when it comes to innovation.  Just as we look back on 5,000 years without a left and right shoe as an eternity.  Will folks in the year 4000 wonder what we could have possibly done with computers without the Internet (or the cloud)?

What would we tell them?  We used to type letters and create spreadsheets to do simple math.  We used to be able to send each other files and messages – but only within our own company.

Oh yea…and we used to print stuff.

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