The Tinkerer’s Apprentice

19. January 2015

Date: 19-01-2015
Source: Project Syndicate

Eric Schmidt is Executive Chairman of Google.

BERLIN – The best inventions are never finished. When the German engineer Karl Benz invented the first petroleum-powered automobile, he did not just create an engine with wheels; he set in motion an industry that revolutionized the way society was structured. Similarly, the English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee did not only build the world’s first Web site. He laid the groundwork for the World Wide Web. Neither could have anticipated the impact of what he was doing.

If there is one lesson that economic policymakers should heed in 2015 and beyond, it is this: Just as invention is dynamic, so are the industries it creates. As we learned in 2014, it is a lesson that has yet to sink in entirely.

When Google was launched, people were amazed that they were able to find out about almost anything by typing just a few words into a computer. The engineering behind it was technically complicated, but what you got was pretty rough: a page of text, broken up by ten blue links. It was better than anything else, but not great by today’s standards. Read the rest of this entry »