When we stand on the shoulders of giants…
It’s like the feeling you get when you look down from the plane as you arrive back in New York City. Or any other city for that matter.
Bridges, highways, rail lines, buildings. Tons of infrastructure. And people and vehicles all milling about below. All moving around for some intended purpose and to some intended destination. Organized chaos is a term that comes to mind.
I get the same feeling whenever I take a moment to step back from my day job and take a hard, however brief, look at how we as humans go about advancing the boundaries of our current 21st century technology perimeter. So many people, research institutes, universities and commercial interests — all milling about, looking for the next big thing. Or a worthwhile incremental advance, at the very least. Organized, and often disorganized, chaos.
We are way past our industrial era beginnings and knee deep in the technology and information ages. It’s a great time to be alive — for technologists anyway. Thanks to institutions like Bell Labs and its commercial offspring, Silicon Valley, with its own offsprings, we have this wonderful technology infrastructure upon which we, and future generations, can build. The bridges and highways for future innovation, if you will. I wrote about this in an earlier post after a recent trip to my alma mater at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey.
But it’s not just bridges and highways we get when we bring new technology into existence. We get traffic congestion, accidents, and unintended consequences too. Data breaches, network hacking, cyber attacks, and modern warfare are part of the deal. As a species, I think we all wish we could “un-invent” nuclear weapons for example. And there are other, more subtle consequences to our evolving world of innovation. Consequences like the impact social media has on various generations, in particular the very young.
So what to make of all of this? How do we do justice to the brilliant minds and hard work our predecessors put in so that we could have this wonderful technology platform upon which to stand? How do we “stand on the shoulders of giants” without unbalancing the giants themselves, and see as far as they intended us to see? What can we put in place now for future generations, so that they may look back one day and have this same conversation about us?
As I mentioned I would in that earlier post on Bell Labs referenced above, my colleagues and I at the MIT Enterprise Forum NYC have organized an event around this very topic. We will be honored to have Jon Gertner, author of the book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, as our Keynote. We are also very excited to have Ben Lerner (Google), Aaron Iba (formerly YCombinator), Domhnaill Hernon (Nokia — Bell Labs) and Scott Kerr (Silvertone Consulting) as our panel experts. This should make for a very interesting and engaging event with the kind of insightful and lively conversations our members have come to expect from the MIT Enterprise Forum NYC. So come along and bring a friend or anyone interested in technology, innovation and the exciting future that lies ahead.
It will take place this coming week in midtown NYC and all are welcome to attend — as long as we still have tickets available. Our events do tend to sell out fairly quickly in many cases. Registration details can be found here.
About the MIT Enterprise Forum New York City:
Throughout the year, we host events with some of the world’s leading experts in AI, Blockchain, Drones, Nanotechnology, Healthcare, Robotics and many other exciting technology areas. You can learn more about the organization here and see our past and current roster of events here.
About Daniel O’Sullivan:
Entrepreneur, Technologist, Founder, CEO. NYU, Bell Labs alum and Director at MIT Enterprise Forum New York City.