Innovation and Invention in the Current Age

I’m sure you all might have sensed something wrong as soon as you would have read the title of the article- Invention is the mother of necessity. Well, to go by conventions there is a proverb which goes like –Necessity is the mother of Invention. My English teacher used to elaborate this one by explaining that, it’s the necessity or paucity of something that leads to an invention. To cite a few simple examples- Telephones, mobiles etc. The telephones and mobiles were invented because it was a necessity for people to get in touch even when they are miles away. So that is how the proverb- Necessity is the mother of Invention goes. But, the technology traits today converse the proverb in entirety. In today’s mind-bogglingly advancing Technology Universe, it’s the invention of something that evolves its necessity.

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We need not be Marketing Experts or Trade Analysts to understand this simple yet cunning gamble of Technology vendors. I will begin justifying my topic with one the latest Tech-trends- The Tablet PCs. I’m sure you all might have seen the recurrently flashing endorsements of Tablet PCs, most popular of them being Apple’s Ipad. Let’s go in deep waters. The Tablet PC vendors in their advertisements claim that Tablet PCs are a vital necessity for professionals in the Corporate World. Corporates have lots of work, to be specific important work, and if they want to carry it with them, they can just do it via Tablet PCs. Hence, this would increase the response of the corporates towards events and thereby increasing a firm’s productivity. This is the most clichéd explanation a marketer for Tablet PC would provide. But, I would make a simple question here.

Were Microsoft, Apple Inc, Hawlett Packard and other Big Daddies in B-World making losses when Tablet PCs weren’t invented? Or did their profit graph break the charts after the Tablets were invented? Obviously not ! Then why the Tablet PCs? Answer to this is simple- Profits. If we try to understand the marketing strategies, we would come to a conclusion that a company cannot sustain profits with a single product. You cannot keep on selling the same thing every day, because people already have it, their necessity is quenched and they wouldn’t want to buy it again. Hence, why not create something new? Once a new product is made, the demand for it can always be created. People are always in hunt of new gadgets, not out of necessity but out of curiosity and voracity. People would always want to try something which they’ve never tried. That too, if the target audience is the Corporate World, sell them anything in the name of profit and they would buy it obliviously. As a result, now you see the corporates going GAGA over the Tablet PCs, some of them have even started equipping the creamy staff with IPADs and stuff in panic for high profits.

Another example is Facebook. Facebook was created under the pseudo motive of Social Networking. I feel like laughing when I hear the term Social Networking associated with Facebook. The reason being, there is everything else happening on Facebook except Social Networking. Spying, Virtual Relationships, Corporate Deals, Advertising & Marketing, Gaming, Celebrities but Social Networking is something with definitely seems absconding. It was invented to get people ( rather strangers ) closer socially. But I’ve a question to ask, did people have no friends before Facebook existed? I bet people had better friends and better relationships before Facebook. Now, the scenario is that, we would see the newspapers reporting breakups and divorce due to spying issues over Facebook.

We would find people’s privacy violated and hence misused. 3 out of 7 days in a week, the news fader on Yahoo! homepage shows issues posed due to usage of Facebook – A couple got divorced due to suspicious wall posts, an employee was sacked for writing ill about his boss in his status updates, celebrities digging at each other and what not. In the name of a bliss pertaining to Social Networking and Togetherness it proved a jinx! Not only this, it made the youths so fervent about it, that its mania affected their academics. Facebook now has become an indispensable part of almost everybody’s life. It was never a necessity, but its invention made it a necessity, to be more explicit-an ADDICTION.

If you look around, you will find so many things which logically hold negligible prudence in our life, still we have got hooked to it, rather we have been made to hook to it. Sometimes, we are hooked to a particular thing not because we find it necessary or important, but just due to peer pressure. Ipods, Ipads, Smartphones have become a STATUS SYMBOL today and hence many people use it involuntarily to show off their lofty stratum. Marketing Strategies have cast such a robust spell on our mind that it hardly sees the vitality of anything and just makes it a part of our life. It’s difficult to get out of this conjure but not impossible. It’s time we contemplate about the things we’re using, and about the things we’re addicted to. To conclude, “Invention is the Mother of Necessity”- is the Mantra which Vendors and Marketers follow today. We being mere mortals fall an easy prey to this hoax. Yet, if thoughtful approach is given precedence over Peer Pressure, Greed for Profit and Class Conscious Approach, it can be tackled with.

As soon as people need something, they invent it. For example, when ancient people felt hunger – they went on hunting and for that they invented the bow and arrows. When they needed to carry heavy cargos to large distances – the wheel was discovered. In fact, every day the humanity faces new challenges that can’t be met using only the existing technologies. And that’s why new inventions are made every day.

Actually, there are people who would challenge even the seemingly obvious statement that “Necessity is the mother of invention”. They say that inventions were not inspired by the necessity alone. Curiosity was, and still is, a powerful stimulus for explorers, researchers, and inventors. Besides, I have heard more than once, sometimes as a joke, the idea that laziness is the mother of invention, as the man by nature has always been trying to make his life easier by all possible means. Laziness combined with ingenuity, inspired the man to boost his strength by means of the lever, the wheel and axle, and the pulley. For the same reason, the man discovered the sail which enabled him to move fast across the seas without putting any effort into it. But the most obvious proof of this statement is the invention of the remote control for the TV set. Only a very lazy person could have invented a way to avoid having to stand up from a sofa or a recliner to press a button of the TV set manually.

Moreover, there is another point of view that jealousy is the mother of invention. It’s known that the man has only invented the wings because people had long envied the birds their ability to fly. The envy of the fish’s ability to breathe under water has encouraged the man to invent the aqualung. So, those who say that envy gives the start to any progress are not far from the truth. But still, whichever it may be: curiosity, laziness, or jealousy – all of them are nothing but substitutes for necessity. It was necessity that forced the man, almost half-ape, to start… The meaning of the proverb is self-evident. We invent what we need; unless we feel the pressure of needs, we are not likely to invent anything. The fable of the thirsty crow which collected pebbles and threw them into the jar to raise the level of water to the bird’s reach of lips is well-known. Mere necessity would not help us much if we are not moved by thought. Animals have their needs but because they lack the power of thinking and ingenuity, they cannot invent anything. They act on instinct and follow a beaten track.

Hence, the correct formula should be necessity is the mother of invention but only when it is supported by the power of thinking. This, of course, is obvious. When man feels the pinching need of anything, he begins to think how he can satisfy his needs. He then sets his mind to the task of invention. Necessity gives the first impulse; the rest is the work of the intellect. In primitive times men lived by hunting. It became necessary to shoot and bring down the bird flying or the beast running beyond the reach of man. Hence, the bow and the arrow were invented. Clothes were devised as protection against cold, houses for shelter. Implements were invented for production of food. In this way, various instruments were made to secure a better standard of living.

Man is not only the slave of his needs but their creator as well. He not only seeks to satisfy his necessity but also his desire for beauty, his lust for power. Culinary skill has been invented to please the palate. Ornaments were invented to add to female beauty. Man has spent millions trying to invent guided locomotives to the moon and other planets like Mars, not because there is any crying need for the same, but because it gives the thrill of doing the outwardly impossible. The mere satisfaction of needs can never be the sole motive for exercising man’s faculties for inventiveness. The proverb tells us not to be passive in our attitude to life.

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