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No More Next Big Thing?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the but-i-like-big-things dept.

564

CthuluOverlord writes "CNET News.com is reporting that Nicholas Donofrio, Big Blue's executive vice president of innovation and technology, made a declaration on Tuesday in an interview with ZDNet Asia. 'The fact is that innovation was a little different in the 20th century. It's not easy (now) to come up with greater and different things. If you're looking for the next big thing, stop looking. There's no such thing as the next big thing.'" Donofrio goes on to explain that he sees innovation as being services or social changes nowadays, rather than simply a better moustrap. What's the verdict? Is tech innovation dead?

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564 comments

Yes Next Thing (5, Insightful)

denissmith (31123) | more than 8 years ago | (#14934980)

The idea that tech innovation is dead implies that we will now recycle the same tech in slightly modified form, because we have discovered every useful thing. I THINK NOT. What is more likely is that Mr. Donofrio suffers from failure of the imagination. Usually, when someone make a claim this outsized and this ludicrous, the next big thing is literally right around the corner. Mr. Donofrio can't see it - maybe none of us can. But it will come, and its implications may be good or may be bad - tech is like that, but it won't stop until we can control matter directly with our minds :-D

Re: Yes Next Thing (5, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935070)

The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our
credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period
when human improvement must end.

Henry Elsworth
US Patent Office, 1844

Exactly. (3, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935128)

Everyone thinks that progress is going to come to an end, because they can't imagine what the next big thing could be, but that's their failing, not progresses.

Re: Yes Next Thing (3, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935143)

Oh yeah, and this one too:
Everything that can be invented has been invented.
Charles H. Duell

U.S. Commissioner for Patents
1899

Re: Yes Next Thing (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935090)

Changes/innovations have always first come in increments, followed by rapid periods due to some (relatively) disruptive technology.

Maybe "the next big thing" in public internet is going to be mesh networks. It's essentially an incremental technology, but it has potential to be massively disruptive to certain businesses.

I definitely agree with you that Mr. Donofrio suffers from failure of the imagination. It might take a lot of failures, but the next big thing will show up.

Re: Yes Next Thing (0, Offtopic)

onetwentyone (882404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935110)

That kind of imagination failure reminds me of a certain Richest Man on Earth (TM): "No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer." - quoteth Bill Gates.

Re: Yes Next Thing (3, Insightful)

BongoBen (776302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935304)

It is preposterous to claim that everything has been invented. And as an engineer, I find that slightly insulting. I personally think that robotics and nanotech are coming up pretty quick. Nanotech especially, given another 10-20 years, is going to be VERY big indeed, and if it lives up to what the researchers and dreamers today think it will, it will likely revolutionalize the way we live.

Everything that can be invented... (5, Informative)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14934982)

Sounds like the "Everything that can be invented has already been invented" myth [findarticles.com] .

Re:Everything that can be invented... (2, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935046)

Yeah, you often see this from people who come up with a good idea but then are stuck trying to come up with another. Instead of the obvious: "I can't think of anything good", they make an ass out of themselves and proclaim that "Everything has been invented already, there's nothing left!"

Re:Everything that can be invented... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935132)

Yes. Yes.

But what happens when it turns out to be true someday?

There is no mathematical proof that everything can be invented hasn't been.

For hundreds of years, people kept saying flying machines were right around the corner. People who claimed they could build one were ridiculed. Until finally someone did.

My point is simple .. don't say something, anything, won't happen when it's could merely be delayed. Especially when you haven't contrary evidence.

Historical trend is hardly proof or evidence. People make this mistake all the time. Just because the Sun has shined for the past millenia doesnt mean the Sun won't nova someday.

Re:Everything that can be invented... (4, Informative)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935248)

don't say something, anything, won't happen when it's could merely be delayed.

Yep. One of my favorite quotes on science is from Arthur C. Clarke:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

People said the same thing 100 years ago... (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#14934983)

Around the turn of the last century, people used to say basically this same thing. I think this is going to be one of those quotes that people laugh about in a hundred years.

Re:People said the same thing 100 years ago... (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935038)

I wouldn't mind saying something stupid if it ended up being one of those quotes that people laugh about in a hundered years.

We already got one such quote about everything being invented already, there's not really much room for another.

Re:People said the same thing 100 years ago... (1, Flamebait)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935181)

Would it be flamebait if someone told him "STFU n00b"?

Re:People said the same thing 100 years ago... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935204)

We already got one such quote about everything being invented already, there's not really much room for another.

I'm sorry, were you trying to be ironic?

*small* amount of truth to his claim (1, Insightful)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935261)

But just a teeny tiny bit. People who claim innovation has ended because "we've invented everything already" are inevitably wrong, because future knowledge cannot be predicted (or it would be present knowledge). However, we do need to keep in mind that people solve the easiest, most beneficial technological problems first. So you necessarily see a progression where it takes more investment to achieve "wow" technological breakthroughs. (I hear a lot of PhD students on Slashdot talk about how $PHYSICS_GREAT's dissertation was ~15 pages, while theirs is 150. This is an example of the above effect.)

We *may* have passed the point where one person working alone can come up with great ideas, but even that is far from certain. So yeah, this is just another necessarily false prediction, but it's true innovation keeps getting harder.

Oh yeah, I've seen predictions like this before... (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14934986)

From the sound of this article, they should add another one to the list [wikiquote.org] .

This is just like Albert Abraham Michelson announcing (in 1896) that physics is dead and complete with nothing left to discover. Since then, I think there have been some shocking advancements.

I tire of articles [slashdot.org] that basically say, "Look, look, we found a person who holds an important position in the corporate world and they said something without thinking (possibly just to make shock value news)! Let's all point and laugh."

Re:Oh yeah, I've seen predictions like this before (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935107)

That's not necessarily a bad thing. If we keep up the pointing and laughing, perhaps they'll stop doing it.

Re:Oh yeah, I've seen predictions like this before (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935251)

Perhapse you haven't noticed the breadth of history presented by that list?. This kind of thing has gone on for a long time... and isn't likely to stop any time soon.

How Ridiculously Shortsighted... (2, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14934996)


Nicholas sounds rather like the legendary Charles H. Duell, former Commissioner of the U.S. House of Patents in 1899, who was reported to have urged then-President McKinley to close down the Office, saying, "everything that can be invented has been invented".

Now, I know this particular story is apocryphal, but it's interesting that we're hearing basically the same line a little over a century later. Odds are real good it will be wrong this time, too.

Nick ought to know better...but he seems to be suffering from a serious lack of imagination. Not a good thing for the 'executive vice president of innovation and technology' at IBM...

Say It Ain't So, Donofrio! (2, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935008)


Is tech innovation dead?

Let's examine that.

The World Wide Web was hailed as a big innovation in the late 90's. Initially Bill "The Genius" Gates (III) didn't give it much thought in his ground-breaking (if you dropped it from a great enough height it could break some very brittle flooring) book, but the bandwagon was suddenly moving like a conestoga wagon with a super charged 426 hemi under the hood. Problem was start-ups and pundits alike predicted a massive and sudden revolution. A shame the infrastructure it would depend upon was like those old wooden wagon wheels when 500 ft-lbs of torque hit them, so the whole thing flopped. Now, it's actually gaining traction and moving because infrastructure is better and even old infrastructure was found to support high bandwidth with better technology to support it (this was actually a BIG THING, but most people didn't even notice it. Boy, I knew people working all over the place on ways to up the bandwidth of last-mile copper.)

So, you see, sometimes the NEXT BIG THING isn't so obvious. It's also, IMHO, heavily dependent upon social change, like Cell Phone adoption and use (once only for the elite, now any idiot can have one.)

Re:Say It Ain't So, Donofrio! (1)

maccalvin5 (455879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935093)

don't forget about all us elite idiots.

we were the first ones!

First A-duh-pters. (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935282)

don't forget about all us elite idiots. we were the first ones!

Sure. I had a bag-phone (still have that thing) which you really pretty much needed all that transmitting power for, because towers were few and far between. It was also a big thing to spend $35/month on fees.

Now? Now people shell over $100/month and are talking about The Bob-knows-what in the pub, on the road, in the store, on the sidewalk, etc. and The Bob-knows-why have to be connected all the time or their lives will come to a halt the same way a cow does after a 10,000 ft plummet.

Douglas Adams made a lot of fun about Dominant Life on earth being Cars (hence the name Ford Prefect) and people's fascination with digital watches. What do you think aliens would think now? Cell phones are the dominent life form and these gangly things are their servants.

Re:Say It Ain't So, Donofrio! (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935246)

Cell Phone adoption and use (once only for the elite, now any idiot can have one.)

I seem to recall it mostly being idiots who had cell phones when they first came out. Maybe that's just me.

Ugly Writing 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935253)

Help! I'm drowning in a flood of bad metaphors!

Is that so? (2, Informative)

hajo (74449) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935011)

Everything that can be invented has been invented.

In 1899, then Patent Commissioner, Charles H. Duell reportedly announced that "everything that can be invented has been invented."

Re:Is that so? (1)

CottonEyedJoe (177704) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935146)

Exactly... this guy should be fired or moved into some a department where he cant do any damage. If he truly believes that innovation is no longer possible then he has lost the ability (if he ever had it) to recognize innovation when he sees it, which is not what you want from the guy in charge of technology and innovation at your company. Give him a raise and move him into "Accounting" or make him a Microsoft liason or something.

Re:Is that so? (1)

hkgroove (791170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935214)

Everything that can be invented has been invented.

Things are more like they are right now than they've ever been before.

what an incredibly dumb thing to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935016)

yeah, it's certainly true that without the incredible newness of the intarwebmotron things are gonna slow down for a little while, but still, come on.

Sorry, I patented it. (1)

Jim in Buffalo (939861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935029)

I have a patent on The Next Big Thing, whatever it might turn out to be, so whoever invents it can expect to hear from my attorney upon producing said invention.

WTF!? (5, Insightful)

cataclyst (849310) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935032)

::cough::


BIOTECH!?!?!
What about the up and coming functional genomics?!?

Re:WTF!? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935103)

Thats the next 'Small' thing is it not? ;)

Re:WTF!? (1)

hahiss (696716) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935212)

Dude, biotech is SO old:

We've had agriculture for millennia, and, really, what are all those biotech startups doing that Gregor Mendel didn't already do in the 19th century?

Abe Simpson was right: the fax machine is nothing but a telephone hooked up to a waffle iron. (Mmm, waffles.)

Modern methods, intensive training... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935033)

...Poppycock!

well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935048)

...Considering the number of rediculous patents being filed, it looks like he's mostly right. The only thing left is for Netcraft to confirm it. :)

Innovation stifled (5, Insightful)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935050)

Innovation may be stifled but it's not for lack of ideas. The coporate influence in copyright and patent laws are the choke point.

Voicing my opinion (2, Interesting)

Quirk (36086) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935052)

There is one killer app to come. Voice recognition, especially, subvocal input is the next big tech innovation. Lots has been done but no one has come close enough to nailing it to create/capture the market.

More generally biomimetics and innovation from molecular biology will eclipse the innovation that has followed upon the IT revolution.

Segway (2, Funny)

Locarius (798304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935054)

Oh come on... how can he claim innovation is dead? There are tons of innovative [segway.com] products that have flooded the marketplace.

Re:Segway (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935286)

how is "IT" in any way innovative? It's a human-sized stick-balancer that serves the function of an electric scooter, only less comfortably. The concept is obvious to any competant engineer or researcher in the field of control theory. and not obvious as in, "Oh that's neat i could'a thought of that." but obvious as in "hey i remember learning about just that exact thing in my introductory control systems class twenty years ago"

Very Stupid and Shortsighted (2, Interesting)

CatWrangler (622292) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935058)

Cold Fusion could happen by 2099 no? We could also cure cancer, AIDS, and a whole host of other things. Yes, alot of "invention" right now is actually synergy more than anything else, but there still is progress out there. Biotech, human genome project, robotics, etc. Now with current leadership in place, we might be enjoying these things on beach front property in Topeka, Kansas, but all the same, invention will continue.

A funny quote (4, Interesting)

Bull999999 (652264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935062)

"Research ! A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, and will never achieve any results of the slightest value."
-- Benjamin Jowett (1817-93), British theologian.

Re:A funny quote (3, Funny)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935157)

"Research ! A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, and will never achieve any results of the slightest value."
-- Benjamin Jowett (1817-93), British theologian.


Especially ironic, if you compare its track record to that of most theological studies...

Re:A funny quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935184)

A theologian commenting on research. That's good for a laugh. No Bias there...

The Next Big Thing Is... Already Here... (5, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935079)

As one of my college instructor told me, the next the big thing has already been around for at least ten years before anyone bother to take notice. The Internet been around since the 1970s but no one noticed until the web browser and general access became available in 1995. The concepts for a lot of late 20th century technology (i.e., TV, radio, radar and microwave ovens) that we take for granted today was developed in the 1900s through 1940s. The next big thing may already exist right now, we just don't know about it until it appears on Slashdot. ;)

rediculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935080)

i really think he needs to rephrase "If you're looking for the next big thing, stop looking. There's no such thing as the next big thing," to "If you're looking at IBM for the next big thing, stop looking. There's no such thing as the next big thing at IBM". than it would make sense. otherwise this man has the ability to see into the future and read the minds of all engineers worldwide, which i doubt. this sounds more like an excuse for not having results than anything else. i can't believe he said that, was he drunk? maybe not, but it certainly doesn't sound like anything is going to come out of his department.

social side of life (1)

invader_allan (583758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935087)

I think in many ways his commentary is right on the money. We will continue to have technological advances, such as our lack of development in battery technology improving, but they will be for social reasons (no more petroleum and less pollution). The focus from now on will be on how we live and what technologies we incorporate, not new technologies to replace aspects of our life. People are starting to find ways to live like a human being again, thanks in no small part to the irony of ironies: technology demonstrating and, in many ways, striving to overcome the alienation created in industrial living.

Innovation is difficult (1)

RunFatBoy.net (960072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935091)

If he the foresight to state that "innovation is alive" he would be inventing the next big thing now.

His statement is simplistic and is a cop-out. If anyone could foresee the-next-big-thing, they'd be making it. All others just throw their hands up, say it can't be done, and move along.

--Jim http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net]

typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935096)

its mousetrap, not moustrap damnit!

Same old, same old (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935098)

As others have already pointed out, the guy's statement has been made before. Perhaps he wants to leave a legacy, and as he is saying that IBM has pretty much collapsed as an entity for innovation, perhaps he wants to get into a book of stupid quotes from the early 21rst century. By recycling idiotic comments others have made in the past, he only proves he can't even come up with an original saying. If he was my head of tech innovation, he would be looking for a new job tomorrow.

Patent lawyers killed the Next Big Thing (2, Insightful)

Phantom_24 (416231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935105)

As long as innovation is crushed at the patent level, then yes, the NBT is never going to happen.

Things like planes, computers, cars and phones all happened because someone took something, and made it better. Now we have scum sucking lawyers fighting over simple lines of code, and even now our own DNA.

the opposite (4, Interesting)

opencity (582224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935121)

Got it exactly wrong. The curve, whether or not you like Kurzweil, is headed up. The interesting part is the next 'fracturing of the equilibrium' will, as usual, be military. It took from 1905 to 1944 for the last one to reach the common man. Now we're at the mercy of Moores' law so instead of 39 years ... 39 minutes?

(please excuse the mixed buzzwords)

Probably never been easier to innovate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935125)

Considering anyone with access to a computer is capable of innovating new things (langauges/programs/software driven services).

I wouldn't be suprised if the 'next best thing' is a very clever piece of software, or service provided by one.

no way (0, Redundant)

Madman (84403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935133)

A while back the head of the US patent office declare it closed because according to him all possible inventions had been thought of, there was no room for any more innovation. The office was re-opened shortly after that moron had been removed. We're millions of patents past that now. It's an attitude of small-minded people, I'm looking forward to the future.

Say What? (1)

p!ssa (660270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935135)

Nicholas Donofrio, Big Blue's executive vice president of innovation and technology WHAT?!?! V.P. of Innovation and Technology?!?!!! Holy Shit what moron, good choice for your innovative thought leader IBM.

The Ego Astounds Me (1)

MetallicPlastic (530293) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935139)

That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. What kind of ego must the guy have if he thinks humans have already "discovered everything important" and "invented everything?"

At the beginning of the 20th century, most physicists thought physics was "nearly complete" and just the finer details just had to be tended to. And then quantum mechanics turned the entire field on its head. Nobody expected such a development, and it completely changed the way we look at everything. I realize that's not explicitly "innovation," but quantum theory yields a ton of innovation every day. (Price check, aisle 3!)

I'd love to see his face when virtual reality becomes real reality, and innovation becomes anything that can be envisioned. Or when (if) we discover a multiverse, or interstellar space travel. The computer revolution -just- happened, and it was completely that: a REVOLUTION. Don't be so asinine as to assume it can't happen again, Mr. Donofrio. I, like, totally wouldn't be friends with you.

Come on!!! (4, Funny)

3770 (560838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935141)

We haven't even invented faster than light travel, time travel, teleportation or cloaking devices.

We haven't even invented a self repleneshing beer can.

Re:Come on!!! (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935291)

We haven't even invented a self repleneshing beer can.

We have if you drink Budweiser, Miller, or Coors. Just unzip and replenish!

The Next Big Thing is ... (0)

malraid (592373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935147)

... that there won't be a Next Big Thing (tm). There, I said it. This comment is stupid. Why is inovation so slow? Because we've been trained as consumers. We consume products, ideas, jobs, social changes. People are beign force fed ideas by a few entities (the government, some large companies, some influential individuals). This is not the age of informacion, this is the age of consumism. Get off your couch, log off the latest online game. Go write something, go paint a picture, go create something. One of those things is going be a Next Big Thing (tm). Leveling up in WoW is not going to be it. Playing DnD improves your imagination, playing a computer game most of the times kills your imagination.

Probably not (1)

nikonshot (955861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935151)

It would seem to me that there are still a bunch of stuff to be invented or discovered. However I understand where he is coming from. He looks at the industry and thinks that we have a basis for everything that we will ever need and it is now just a matter of pushing it to its limits. More than likely we will need to "re-invent the wheel" to get where we want to be however.

I'd agree with his result (5, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935155)

And I'll even go so far as to say the reason why there will be no next big thing - it's our broken-ass patent system.

Someone, somewhere out there has part of your brilliant idea buried in a vaguely worded submarine patent. Soon as you hit the big time - wham. Some greedy patent grubbing jerk will sue you for daring to make use of "his idea" that he's been sitting on not using for the last half a dozen years or so.

Only big business has enough lawyers these days to explore uncharted waters. Which means that business will be in charge of innovation. Which means that no product/idea/whatever will get the green light without a financial analysis conducted by a committee of people who will 99.9% of the time tend to be conservative, or maybe even just plain clueless as to the new idea's implications.

The days of the solo guy in the garage coming up with the thing that changes the world are over.

looking for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935163)

If there really is no next big thing then IBM wouldn't need a Vice President of Innovation anymore, would they?

Warning... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935165)

If you're looking for the next big thing, stop looking...

...because IBM has already patented it.

He goes on to say, "we are looking for more IP lawyers, though."

The only left open to innovation is making money.. (1)

harshmanrob (955287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935173)

The real problem with inventing things today is most everything is "invented" or "improved" upon already existing products.

Large multinationals are the only organizations left with resources to make and market anything.

The only left open to innovation is making money...

The Patent Office agrees with this (0, Redundant)

paiute (550198) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935179)

"The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end."

Henry L. Ellsworth, Commissioner of the Patent Office, 1843

This man will lose his job within a week. (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935183)

This man will lose his job within a week. Pretend you're IBM, a tech company that just got done telling everyone it could in the last decade that it's not a dinosaur. Then this guy opens his big fat yap and undoes three years of work in Asia.

(Yes, I'm also an IBM stockholder. Don't laugh; I've made money.)

Well, then.... (1)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935189)

Well, then if there is no point in looking for The Next Big Thing(TM), then maybe we should start looking for The Next Big Thing After The Next Big Thing(TM).

Riiight (1)

dedazo (737510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935193)

I remember a certain Patent Office official saying that he was no longer needed because "everything had already been invented" [1].

This is the kind of thing that will probably be proven wrong next week when the next next big thing will be announced.

.

[1] Actually an urban legend [about.com] , but close enough to the feeling at the time.

It's like MJ (2, Insightful)

silverbax (452214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935209)

It's like Michael Jordan - the Chicago Bulls did not know they were drafting the greatest NBA player in history, who would create massive revenue for the business and revolutionize endorsements and salaries for players.

The Next Big Thing will happen in part because nobody really knows it's going to catch lightning in a bottle. If everyone knows about it, speculation and hype erode profitability.

IBM's comment is just ridiculous. There's the famous patent comment from the last century which others have pointed out. Then there's the Web, which both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates thought was a waste of time at one point. Video game consoles were considered a fad, and not a viable big business. So was digital music, broadband, online shopping, mobile phones and small-scale stock brokers.

There are always things which can be gigantic market and economy changers, even if they aren't The Internet or Radio or The Combustion Engine.

I can think of quite a few items that might completely change huge sections of business in the next ten-twenty years:

Wireless everywhere - 'nuff said
Hydrogen or other alternative fuel vehicles - no commodity driven marketplace for Middle East interests.
Digital Ink (e-Ink)
Droids/Automatons (we already have Roomba and Asimo - I am already preparing to be crushed by the first robot rebellion)

Don't Stop Looking... (1)

greysky (136732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935215)

...but rather change where you are looking. This quote would only come from someone in a huge company, since that's not where most the great tech innovations came from. Odds are, the next big thing is already out there, and two guys in a garage, basement, dormroom, etc are looking at it right now trying to figure out exactly what to do with it.

What the heck are you talking about? (0)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935221)

What do you mean "no next big thing"? That reminds me that someone in the 19th century (I don't remember who, though) wanted to cancel patent law in the U.S., saying that everything that can be invented has been, so there is no further need for a patent office. Would you say that a few worthy things have been invented since the 19th century? (Although it would have been good if the patent office had been canceled, as that would have prevented the patent abuse that goes on today.)

It also reminds me of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, where this enormous empire of billions of planets is going to fall apart, in part because scientists, engineers, and other technical people believe that everything that can be invented has already been invented, and the empire begins to wane as a certain ennui sets in.

It is always a bad thing to think that we already know everything. How do you know that someone won't invent warp drive ten years from now? Or maybe there is a force we can harness, say, like electricity, that we don't know about yet but will discover fifteen years from now. Or perhaps some kind of antigravity device will be invented that allows cars to fly. Or maybe GM will put the finishing touches on their automatic navigation system they've been testing near San Diego for 15 years, that allows cars to drive themselves with the help of a huge network of computers controlling every section of road and each car, and an array of sensors in each vehicle that prevent collisions, so that cars can go 100 mph on the freeways at a distance of inches between them, making traffic officers, traffic tickets, traffic courts, traffic jams, traffic accidents, and other traffic things a thing of the past. I'd say that all of these potential things would change a lot of things.

Who's to say that innovation is over?

Oh, please... (1)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935257)

We're in fact seeing a rapid pace of technology development - I could wave my hand at the past 20 Slashdot news stories alone for an example. It's strange to hear this coming from IBM, who has become so friendly to Open Source these past few years. If the innovation in software isn't coming from Open Source these days, it ain't coming from nowhere.

Sure there are big things (2, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935262)

What has come out in the 21st century?

The Ipod and the mp3 player market, much more advanced 3d video cards, composite 3d accelerated desktops, new video players and microized computers that are pda in size (blackberry, Ipod video, Orgami, etc), a shift from dynamic cgi websites to interactive ones wiht complex javascript and ajax, and the $100 computer that is quite feature filled.

Whats in the futre? Better wifi and other internet technologies that are wireless, physics accelerators in 3d cards, 3d interfaces, and seemingless networked clusters or SSI(single system image) where you can hook up several computers that act as one whole computer image rather than the traditional cluster.

Also phones are going to take off as well with bluetooth and other technologies. The europeans already have it because they are not under monopolies who like to sell trusted drm midi ringtones for $3.

Sell your IBM stock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935263)

I think he thought he was in a quarterly stockholders meeting and was speaking just for his company, which is fast becoming a services only company.

There are new science discoveries all the time which will eventually lead to new engineering applications.

If you've been to a single sci-fi movie or read a sci-fi book once in your life, you'll know that there are so many crazy ideas that are just waiting for the technology to progress enough. Ideas that are not only 'the next big thing', but technology that has the potential to change the world.

It's sad to see such a lack of vision in a person that should be a leader.

The sad thing is that he seems to be right (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935266)

Seriously... Who's producing truly innovative technlogies anymore? Nowadays, the entire technology industry seems to be about:

1) Making some small and/or insignificant improvements to an existing product
2) Bumping up the version number, or adding something like "XL" or "GT" the product name.
3) Charging 10% more for it, and using some slick marketing to convince users that this is the Next Big Thing(TM).

I haven't seen any real major innovations in the computer industry since the start of mainstream Internet adoption about 10 years ago. Everything else was evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Give the guy a break (4, Insightful)

rcastro0 (241450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935277)

He is quoted out of context, and is hard to know what exactly he meant
by "stop looking for the next big thing" quote. As far as I know, he may be saying that his job is not to hold a crystal ball in hand and try to predict the next big thing (neither should you). And he does *not* say there is nothing new to be discovered. He only says it is harder to come by these things in the tech world today. Elsewhere in the article it stands out clear that he is busy seeking to enable innovation, instead of getting worried about what the "next big thing" will be. So clearly he does not discard the power of innovation.

One cental remark he makes, that "innovation today is more about services, process, business models or cultural innovation than just product innovation" sounds *very* well put, IMHO. Let us not forget which sort of innovation Google, eBay, Yahoo, Amazon, Orkut, LinkedIn, Napster (the original), iTunes, and even Slashdot itself, among others, brought to the world -- hint: it is not technical.

83 Comments thus far.. (5, Funny)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935284)

and not ONE proclaiming that they have the "next big thing".... in their PANTS!

C'mon people, you can do better than this.

My grand father ... (1)

denisbergeron (197036) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935287)

When he saw people walking on the moon, don't said that it was a big thing.
He saw the automotive, telephone, radio, movie, television, color photographie, plane, sound-breaking plane, x-ray, H-bomb, home tape recording, etc. been invented !
When men walk on the moon, it say "Oh well, just sometime a little more than a supersonic plane!"
This Nicholas Donofrio is just a old grandfather next to be retired.
Why I should care ? My self, I saw tv from b&w to color, Electronical time keaping wrist-worn, calculator wrist-worn, GPS wrist-worn, tv wrist-worn, camera wrist-worn, when I saw the first Linux wrist-worn computer in 2001, it was a big thing, the one that made a Slashdot article this week wasn't a such big thing.

A author, a lot of years ago have write "Everything has been say!" a lot a people talking about that :-)

Stop looking (4, Insightful)

john82 (68332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935296)

...and you'll certainly stop finding.

How did this guy get that high up in an IBM research org?

If Big Blue Wont Do It.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935309)

Pretty self centered of IBM to say that. Just because they have chosen not to innovate and concentrate on services and social changes, this guy feels there will be no further innovation. So, if Big Blue doesn't do it, nobody will.

next big thing? (1)

skam240 (789197) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935311)

yeah, fusion power or the space elevator (both likely to be developed this century) won't be big by any standard...

I'm sure slashdoters could name off a number of other items that will have very big implications that are likely to be developed in the next century.

ORLY (5, Interesting)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14935317)

I would like to throw my weight out there and call Donofrio an idiot, at least in relation to this statement. There are still many Next Big Things that we have yet to achieve (though the ability to achieve such may or may not exist, but we won't know till we try.)

A short list:
- Hovering vehicles
- Anti gravity (which is probably related to the above)
- hand held energy weapons
- teleportation
- economical space travel (think "to mars", or, at the least, consumer viability for going to the moon)
- curing cancer
- controlling computers with our brains
- mechanical prostetics that respond either to brain waves or nerves (we're right on the edge of this one- I believe someone had a really basic, bulky unit working, it just has to become available for the common man)
- growing of artificial organs for transplants (goodbye organ donors!)
- interactive holographic interfaces
- solar energy that's +60% effecient

Okay, maybe that list isn't so short. Sure, many of those fields are being worked on, but nothing concrete and ready for mass use has been created (to my knowledge.) All of those items will help to advance the human race in terms of how we live and effect our environment, as well as populating into space.

Also, I'm still waiting for my damned hoverboard. Back to the Future Part II is full of lies, I tell you, lies! (I realize that the events in BttF2 don't occur to 2015, but we should be seeing regular hover technology by now if we are to meet the deadline of mass production for hoverboards that can be used by everyday kids.)

Of course, there is a "next big thing" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935318)

Of course, there is a "next big thing".

Saying that there is no next big thing is saying that we know everything in the entire universe.

The very nature of "next big things" is that they just seem to come "out of blue", without much prediction.
The more unpredictable, the bigger the "next big thing" is.

I would say that we don't even have any idea how much we have no idea about the entire universe.

Innovation feeds on new technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14935330)

We have seen huge innovation because computers became cheap. Everyone could play or, using slightly more technical jargon, the barriers to entry were quite low. Personally, I don't see an end to innovation any time soon. We have nowhere near tapped out the potential of computers to change the way we live. All we need is for someone to crack a couple of tough nut problems and we'll be off like crazy. My own favorite vision is the 'Santa Claus machine' postulated by Don Landcaster. Pop in a design and out comes a product. That would change the economy more than a little bit.
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