Lofts. A sort of museum for narcissists, aren’t they?
I clambered into mine the other day and spent half the afternoon reading my own mouse-eaten exercise books. After additional hours staring longingly at my mouldy but youthful photo-album face, I came across one book that, remarkably, had nothing to do with me whatsoever. Obviously I quickly tossed it aside, but one sentence caught my attention: By 1983, man will have landed on Mars and by the year 2000 will have colonised the planet.
This ‘non-fiction’ children’s volume on space travel was published in 1970 during the huge rush of optimism, excitement and bravado that encapsulated the Apollo 11 years. State-funded, Cold War competition in science and technology resulted in a burst of innovation that lasted nearly 20 years. It ended, not because the engineering passion ran out but because the political objective expired and with it, the funding.
Ultimately, space-race innovation was motivated by the very specific objective of displaying national strength through military might, rather than one designed to relieve population pressure and ultimately let us pick our home planet. That doesn’t necessarily make it hollow – an objective, albeit one that many people may have misinterpreted, was met – but it does raise questions about innovation and the purpose it serves.
Surely, the most meaningful form of innovation is not undertaken to prove a point, but to solve a problem. Theodore Levitt, who coined the term ‘globalisation’, said innovation means putting creative ideas to work – and that’s how we try to approach things here at Pegasus. Our recent experiments with 360° virtual reality were born out of playful creativity – now, they’re about to help people understand more about diabetes.
We know when innovation has been successful after the results are measured and a goal has been achieved: has the innovation solved the problem? It’s the only way to be sure we don’t end up self-serving or – worse – dumped in the loft with my fiction space book.