Alexander Lynn

I help brands build delightful digital products. Currently available for limited consulting work.

Lessig on Innovation

Here’s a snippet of a great comment Lawrence Lessig recently made during a panel discussion about open innovation at MIT’s recent 'Networks Understanding Networks' event. I believe it exposes some fundamental truths about the nature of innovation, and as a by-product reveals some of the areas of fragility of the innovation process. Lessig’s career has of course been largely dedicated to educating people about these ‘areas of fragility’ (thus effectively protecting them as a firsthand consequence).

"My former colleague Mark Lemley wrote this wonderful little piece about nanotechnology and mid way through the piece, he kind of remarked in passing that_ if you think about all the fundamental technologies of the 20th century (computer hardware/software, biotech technologies) all of those fundamental technologies were either by accident or intentionally free [ Note, as in 'unconfined by IP' as opposed to 'of no monetary cost']. So, they tried to patent the computer; the patent office rejected it. Software was not considered protectable in any effective way for most of the 20th century. Watson & Crick certainly didn’t want DNA protected in any effective way through IP. So these fundamental technologies were free and on top of these free technologies, people innovated, and they got intellectual property for the innovations on top." - Larry lessig

He later goes on to remark that this approach to innovation, appears to have dissipated in the 21st century (thus possibly harming our ability to innovate in the long run, but more importantly, potentially impinging upon our future ability to reap benefits from inherently beneficial innovations.) This is something that's worth thinking about.

This article is my 37th oldest. It is 264 words long

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