New Scientist Breaking News – Entering a dark age of innovation: http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7616
The instant and rather glib answer is that the USPTO is single handedly trying to reverse the graph by granting ‘trivial’ patents, but I don’t think that’s quite it.
The analogy to the Dark Ages is great for column inches but the more interesting aspect is the talk about the move from current computing to nano-tech as the next major point for growth, which could perhaps be compared to past major social shifts: such as from steam to electricity, or from physical post to electronic communication. Rather than view the current ‘twig infill’ as the only action and worry about the lack of other major branches, perhaps we are just filling out one tree. Once another, more interesting, tree appears then that will become the new focus: we don’t have a single tree with all human innovation in it, but rather a smallish copse with a main focus on each.
Yes, computers depend heavily on electricity, but only in this world/timeline/point in history. Take a read of The Difference Engine (Gibson and Sterling) for an alternative idea of what the world might be like if coal, steam and mechanical engineering prevailed. The trouble with prediction is that only small changes are typically considered acceptable and anything major is considered crackpot: sifting through those ideas is probably the best way to try and guess what might be coming next.
Maybe I’ll set an iCal alarm for 2024 to see if this one is right afterall…