“Today’s belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation-killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems—climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation—like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.”
A really pressing issue these days. Is this how some of the scifi empires that I read about, the stagnant ones, emerged? Management and individuals were able to access too much information, depressing risks? Or was it the immediacy and publicity of the access that causes “minority shareholder lawsuits” at the smallest drop in earnings/profits? Could it be that too much real-time transparency has led to the development of a shared sense of infallibility directly crushing any risky gambits for success in the future? I just don’t know…
I also like this quote from earlier. I’m not sure, but this ties in to some ideas I have about the need for “translation layers” or people that can help create and transmit these shared narratives. Star Trek (especially TNG) showed voice controlled computers that anyone could use. Now we have google voice search, Apple’s Siri, and Nuance. There’s more too! Scifi directly inspires people to reach, to make these things come true. This is what he’s calling the Hieroglyph Theory.
We need better and more of these, else we risk falling into the same stagnation that afflicted the Imperium of Man (W40k), numerous progenitors, and even Asimov’s Galactic Empire (Foundation).
Researchers and engineers have found themselves concentrating on more and more narrowly focused topics as science and technology have become more complex. A large technology company or lab might employ hundreds or thousands of persons, each of whom can address only a thin slice of the overall problem. Communication among them can become a mare’s nest of email threads and Powerpoints. The fondness that many such people have for SF reflects, in part, the usefulness of an over-arching narrative that supplies them and their colleagues with a shared vision. Coordinating their efforts through a command-and-control management system is a little like trying to run a modern economy out of a Politburo. Letting them work toward an agreed-on goal is something more like a free and largely self-coordinated market of ideas.