A Christmas wish list for innovators


Here’s what we want. (Stephan Witte/EPA)

The new year is already shaping up to be another exciting 12 months for innovation, with the expected arrival of much-hyped products such as Google Glass and the promise of exciting new scientific discoveries, like those made possible by the recent launch of a billion-pixel camera to map the Milky Way. But there’s always room to wish for more. So, here’s a brief wish list for 2014. Santa, are you listening?

1. A solution for our collective information overload

Now that “the stream has crested,” we’re all looking for ways to make the seemingly non-stop flow of updates in our social media accounts somehow more manageable. After a five-year period in which “the stream” became the dominant paradigm for how we process information (in real-time, in reverse chronological order), now’s a good time to consider how we can create a new approach to the taming of the chaos in our social media lives. JWT has even referred to this as JOMO, or the Joy of Missing Out, to differentiate it from what has been the bane of the current social media experience – the Fear of Missing Out.

2. An app to prevent outrageous and insensitive comments on social media

If there are now apps to prevent “drunken Facebooking,” there should also be an app to keep us from making the kind of racist and sexist comments that continued to dominate social media headlines throughout the year. If you’re going to have wildly inappropriate Twitter thoughts about AIDS (such as Justine Sacco, the latest victim of the Internet’s full fury) or tell everyone that you think Santa and Jesus are white (such as Fox News’s Megyn Kelly), there should be an app to help you keep these thoughts locked inside your head so that your thumbs can’t text them or tweet them to the world.

3. A shockingly new mobile device that will cure us of our addiction to the latest Apple iPad or iPhone

While it’s always fun to see what’s next in Apple’s product offerings, the whole show-and-tell approach used by Apple to get us excited about the next tablet or smartphone is getting a bit worn around the edges. With the iPad Air and the iPhone 5S this year, it sometimes seemed like Apple just wasn’t trying hard enough to bring a truly breakthrough product to market. Unfortunately, even the newest Samsung gadgets – such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch – didn’t prove as exciting as we originally thought. What we need is something so far off the beaten path — like the new Russian YotaPhone (a device that Tech Crunch called “delightfully kooky“) — that we’ll rethink everything we thought we wanted in a mobile device.

4. A new site like Chatroulette that makes us remember how charming and random the Web really can be

Part of the allure of a site like Chatroulette was just how random it was. It’s the feeling you get when you want to watch Mariah Carey sing “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and you end up seeing a hairy comic in a Santa outfit singing the same song. And there have been plenty of sites like Chatroulette over the years. Even a relatively mainstream site like Buzzfeed or Reddit has an embedded random component to it — you never know exactly what you’ll find, but it’ll either leave you laughing out loud or marveling at the ingenuity of your fellow humans. With less than 48 hours to go until Christmas, one of the top stories on Reddit was a link to an animated GIF showing “the effects of Armageddon.”

5. A new way to think about innovation that doesn’t involve design or coding

Every few years, it seems like the innovation industry undergoes a paradigm shift. After a period in which we couldn’t get enough of “design thinking,” the flavor of the day suddenly became “coding” and “programming.” The new way to understand the world was to be become a coder or a programmer. This fit in perfectly with the zeitgeist of the day, which celebrates the Silicon Valley startup entrepreneur. So is 2014 the year that everything changes once again, and we’re told to think in an entirely new way?

Dominic Basulto is a futurist and blogger based in New York City.
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