Running out of new ideas

This morning’s Observer column.

We’re now at the stage where we should be getting the next wave of disruptive surprises. But – guess what? – they’re nowhere to be seen. Instead, we’re getting an endless stream of incremental changes and me-tooism. If I see one more proposal for a photo-sharing or location-based web service, anything with “app” in it, or anything that invites me to “rate” something, I’ll scream.

We’re stuck. We’re clean out of ideas. And if you want evidence of that, just look at the nauseating epidemic of patent wars that now disfigures the entire world of information technology. The first thing a start-up has to do now is to hire a patent attorney. I had a fascinating conversation recently with someone who’s good at getting the pin-ups of the industry – the bosses of Google, Facebook, Amazon et al – into one room. He recounted how at a recent such gathering, he suddenly realised that everyone present was currently suing or being sued for patent infringement by one or more of the others.

How have we got ourselves into this mess?

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