Thursday, February 11, 2021

Compete -- Innovate -- Advance


"They say" that competition fuels innovation (necessity is the mother of invention, etc).
"They say" that without competition, there's no motivation to innovate.
"They say" that without innovation, societies stagnate and fail; they do not advance.

"They" may have it somewhat wrong, or perhaps it's better to say "they" may have it somewhat incomplete.

From history
Renowned historian Niall Ferguson -- in his masterwork "Civilization" -- makes the point that competition within a closed system -- where "best achievement" is measured by how well the rules of the game are applied and utilized -- does not throw off much in the way of innovative inventions or changes. 
 
Furthermore, if the closed system is dogmatically protective of norms, and will tolerate no challenge to the status quo, inevitably 'protection' becomes the reason for being.

Indeed, 'going rogue', even if successfully innovative, in a closed and dogmatic system is usually not rewarded; such may be penalized instead.

As an example -- admittedly a bit dated -- Ferguson points out that:
  • In 17th century western Europe:
    • The church was not also the State, and religious diversity was tolerated
    • Books were being printed
    • Literacy was motivated by books, and 
    • "Natural philosophers" (scientists of the day) were not bound by either the dogma of church or state
    • There was nothing short of amazing innovation in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and biology.

  • In 17th century Ottoman Empire -- essentially eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa:
    • The church was the State
    • Church dogma actually banned the printing press
    • Printed books were burned; and 
    • Philosophers who disagreed with the church were dealt with harshly. 
    • There was no discernible innovation, in spite of the fact that a millennia earlier -- before the Ottoman's -- this area was the very cradle of advanced knowledge.
And so: where is Europe today? Where is the Ottoman Empire today?

What you need to know:

  • To advance requires innovation
  • To innovate requires freedom of not only thought but action
  • To compete in an open framework is the surest way to innovation
 
 


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