Why do we keep innovating?

Does perfection exist? When is a product or an invention considered to be good enough? Humans have been inventing and re-inventing since the dawn of time. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should stop innovating. As a part time developer, I not only understand the need for innovation, but I also frequently partake and enjoy it. More often than not I find myself redoing an old project to make it run quicker and be more efficient overall. My question is more about asking when is it enough? If I run a program that I wrote and it finishes within 0.01 seconds should I carry on improving it until it finishes within 0.001 seconds and then innovate it again until it runs in 0.0001 seconds?

Let us take cars for instance. In 1886 an engineer by the name of Karl Benz drove a machine powered by a one-cylinder four-stroke gasoline engine. He reached a top speed of 16 km/h. This machine is considered to be the very first car. The car had no doors, no windows, no aircon, no radio, no gauges and it was quite slow, but it was a start.

Fast forward till today and now look at cars. You have the Tesla that drives and parks itself. You have the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport that can reach a top speed of 304mph or 490 km/h. We have all of this and yet people are still pushing boundaries trying to get the fastest and smartest car.

Another example of innovation would of course be the computer.

There have been many inventions that could be defined as the first computer but due to several debates regarding the definition of the word ‘computer’ the exact start date of computers, as we know, them is still unclear. That being said, most people consider the Z1 to be the first electromechanical binary programmable computer and the first functional modern computer.

The Z1 was created by German Konrad Zuse in his parents' living room between 1936 and 1938. A few years later In 1956 IBM released the first computer with actual memory. The computer was the size of a refrigerator and weighed over 250kgs. The IBM 305 RAMAC computer came with 5 MB of storage space. For comparison sake the average size of a digital picture is between 1 and 5 MB and the average size of a full length HD video is between 1500 and 4000 MB. The computer’s price ranged from $81 000 to $142 400 or R1,360,143 to R2,391,166

Looking at modern day computers. You can have a fairly high-end desktop computer costing about R15 000 and weighing around 15kgs and you will easily have over 1,000,000 MB of space available to you. So what’s next? A computer that’s so small that you can hold it in your hand and more powerful than the computers we used to send astronauts to the moon?

It is clear that we as humans have a want, even a need to improve. Innovation is built into our design. We want to innovate as part of a survival of the fittest mindset. If we have faster cars when we get to work faster and ultimately get more work done. If our computers are smarter we can use them to be more productive. But when should we stop? When is good enough, good enough? Well, quite honestly, good enough well never be good enough. People will constantly strive for perfection and unfortunately they will always fall short.

So here’s my two cents. Innovation will ALWAYS be a part of our society and that’s a good thing. If my program runs in 0.01 seconds then why should I not try to make it run in 0.001 seconds and then further improve it to run in 0.0001 seconds? Faster is better so why not? BUT, this drive and need for perfection needs to be tapered with logic and self-awareness. At 0.000000001 seconds I should really stop and say to myself “I have improved and done a lot but this is good enough”.

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