In his book “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future” Kevin Kelly makes this provocative prediction of hindsight to come in 2050:
Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2016? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud.
This could give students of TRIZ and the 40 Inventive Principles pause, because the Principles have nothing to say about artificial intelligence, or the cloud. Does this mean they are obsolete? After all, the Principles were conceived back in the 1980s and so many new technologies have emerged since then.
I’ve been wrestling with this. My research finds some TRIZ adherents adamantly asserting that TRIZ is flexible enough to embrace new technologies and others saying that they have developed their own Principles to append to the list.
“The Second Machine Age: Work Progress And Prosperity In A Time Of Brilliant Technologies”, a book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Mcafee, gave me a new insight into this question. In it they talk about General Purpose Technologies (GPTs).
Here is the list of 21st century (ie. emerging after the 40 Principles were developed) GPTs from Wikipedia:
- business virtualization
- artificial intelligence
Certainly anyone innovating in the present day will consider these technologies for potential improvements to their designs or processes. How do we apply the 40 Principles if they don’t make any mention of artificial intelligence for example? Do we risk overlooking important innovation pathways by using a thirty year old list of Principles?
Here is the list of 20th century GPTs from Wikipedia:
- mass production
- lean production
What is interesting is that none of these technologies appear in the Principles either. This says to me that the Principles may well be able to incorporate new GPTs without being modified.
The 40 Inventive Principles of Problem Solving don’t mention any of the General Purpose Technologies and so there is no reason to assume that it and other TRIZ concepts should lapse simply because new GPTs emerge.
What’s your conclusion?
Are the Principles evergreen, or does the march of technological progress beg a review of current patents to update them?