The Future of Human Innovation

Barri-01By Barri Gurau, Corporate Energy Initiatives
Lockheed Martin

How long do you think it took for the world’s population to reach 1 billion? It took more than a century for the world’s population to double to 2 billion, which we reached in the 1930s. Since then, the population has grown at an incredible rate to more than seven billion and by 2050, an estimated nine billion people will inhabit the earth.

So how do we meet the demand for energy, food and water?

The world needs new and different solutions to support the growing population and to continue to drive amazing new technologies. Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is, as Albert Einstein said, insanity.

That is where American’s greatest resource comes in, human innovation. Human innovation can come from anywhere to create anything. Marrying ideas to technology is how human innovation takes flight. As an example, an amazing technology, Lockheed Martin’s Mobile Fish Pen -recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the Top 25 Inventions of 2012- is a drifting fish cage that results in a minimal ocean footprint. The technology solves potential impact problems for water quality and the seafloor, and even appears to improve fish health and growth.

As the lead of the corporate energy initiative at Lockheed Martin, I have the privilege of working with incredible technologists, scientists and engineers to help identify and develop solutions that can help address these global challenges and demands.

But we cannot do it alone. Luckily, with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), everyone can fuel human innovation.

Every student has the ability to study and enter STEM fields. However, it is up to every person to instill in students the awareness, passion and desire to dream in technical terms. This is one reason why Lockheed Martin is the founding and presenting sponsor of the USA Science & Engineering Festival. The festival is one of many avenues we share our passion for science, technology, engineering and math. I hope to see you there.

Continue the conversation with Barri on twitter @bsgurau.

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This is eloquently written, but it reflects a kind of technological triumphalism that's increasingly failing to hold up in real life. Human ingenuity cannot "create anything", or at least, it cannot create anything we like at any scale and duration we like, for any price we can afford. Though finding less energy- and material-hogging ways of accomplishing a task will allow us to circumvent some physical limits, there will always be others that cannot be exceeded at all, or not without serious consequences. Believing in the godlike power of "innovation" encourages people to behave in environmentally destructive and self-destructive ways because they assume some clever person will come up with a gizmo, pill, or free energy source to save them from the consequences.

I give this author props for acknowledging that human innovation can come "from anywhere" and not just from the favored few. However, it's really not true that all students have the abilities and inclinations needed to succeed in formal STEM fields. Nor should we wish that every person could be a STEM worker, as there are many other roles that contribute to human quality of life; encouraging "every student" to go to college in a tech field becomes in many politicians' mouths a way of washing their hands of society's responsibility to ensure that those who can't or don't, and end up mopping the floors for the tech guys, still get treated like human beings.