We need to find our Mother

  • August 18, 2009
  • Feature
August 18, 2009 by Rick ZabelThere's an old saying, "Necessity is the mother of Invention." A number of experts have said that the United States has lost its edge – its ability to innovate. According to Wikipedia, "An important distinction is normally made between invention and innovation. Invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process, while innovation is the first attempt to carry it out into practice." Based on this definition, has the United States lost its ability to invent or its ability to innovate? Or, is it simply that the U.S. lacks the desire, or need to innovate? In other words, has the U.S. lost its necessity?Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST and the Segway, recently participated on the Industry Experts Panel: What Inspires Innovation?, at NIWeek in Austin Texas. Kamen believes that inventions in the U.S. have not slowed down. However, Kamen says, "Our society has become more cautious and we don't accept new innovations as quickly."This year, the United States turned 233 years old. If you think back to the time of our founding fathers, there were new opportunities everywhere. Those opportunities were fueled by necessity, and that necessity resulted in inventions that we quickly transformed into innovations.The U.S. society has matured and, I believe, has reached a certain level of complacency. Necessity has been replaced by frivolousness. We take too much for granted. The children of many upper and middle income families are born with a high level of entitlement; in other words, they feel that "things" are just owed to them. The middle-aged Americans, along with their parents and grandparents, work hard for the lifestyles they achieved. For better or for worse, those lifestyles will be handed down to our children, without any hard work on their part. As parents, it's up to us to instill those hard-working values (and necessity) in our children, or we risk losing our society's competitive edge.There are a number of other developing societies and economies around the world that are in the same situation that the United States was in a few decades ago. Those societies have much more to gain and they are willing to work harder and take risks by adopting new innovations more quickly.I continue to hear and read about the failing school systems in the United States. The U.S. work ethic is degenerating. The next generations of young Americans are not being raised with a sense of necessity. In order to change, we have to think differently. We must consider the entire world and all of the emerging economies.This is why programs like FIRST and STEM are so important to our future. The United States has a numbers of issues ranging from energy, to health care, to environment – issues that can be addressed by technology, inventions and innovations. The needs are there. The needs must now become necessities. Time is wasting – we need to find our "Mother."

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