Three weeks ago I went to a lecture by Gary Kasparov, one-time world chess champion, on "Reviving the Spirit of Innovation". A video of this talk is available here.
A key part of his argument was that innovation had slowed down since the 1970s. But the evidence he presented for that seemed pretty weak to me.
One can hardly generalise from commercial aircraft speeds, which have actually gone backwards since the Concorde stopped flying. Firstly, there are physical constraints here which one can't necessarily innovate around. Secondly, the example is somewhat cherrypicked - as the friend sitting next to me pointed out, a comparison of improvements in DNA sequencing technology would suggest there had been more innovation in the last ten years than the preceding fifty...
Kasparov also displayed a Google ngram chart, showing the rise of references to "risk" (compared with "investment" or "profit"). This seems backwards to me, however, as I consider improvements in our undersanding of risk and the development of tools for dealing with it to be (potentially) one of the most important innovations of the last thirty years.
And the entire approach seemed rather too upbeat. Kasparov complained at one point that his grandchildren couldn't fly any faster than he could, but said (addressing the 20 year old students in the audience) that he was sure that our grandchildren would be able to. Frankly, I think it's quite likely that my grandchildren won't be flying anywhere much at all, between fossil fuels becoming scarcer and global warming concerns.