Faster airplanes, smaller phones, better diabetes treatment – wait, what?

Turbine DC-3

Turbine DC-3

Ever since the 1990s, we have been wondering what effect the high tech companies would have on our society. From Boston to San Jose to Round Rock, Texas, technology companies have been surprising us for decades.

But American technical innovation started long before that. Douglas Aircraft, IBM and AT&T were early innovators. The DC-3, Douglas Commercial aircraft, now (BA) shortened the time to travel across the US from 25 hours to 15.

Eastbound transcontinental flights could cross the U.S. in about 15 hours with three refueling stops; westbound trips against the wind took 1712 hours.”

One of the first great leaps forward, as Chairman Mao might have put it had he been a capitalist, “the DC-3 debuted in the mid-1930s as an aviation rock star. With its two powerful propeller engines it revolutionized the travel industry… ”

Meanwhile, at IBM (IBM), computers were getting bigger and bigger, until someone invented the transistor. Vacuum tube powered computers were too big and too hot to perform properly, but transistors made it possible for Big Iron computers to continue to grow until…

…the personal computer was invented. Again, all bets were off as an entirely new concept in computer design nearly demolished IBM until they righted themselves and got on the tiny computer bandwagon.

Over in the world of long-distance talk, telephone systems were getting more and more efficient. Transatlantic cables made it possible for anyone to send a telegram or make a phone call to Europe.

At one time, an AT&T (T) executive noted that if the company had not continued to innovate and automate, it would have required every working person in the U.S. to be employed as a telephone operator to handle the current volume of calls. That was about the 1960s.

Fine, we expect our tech products to get smaller, and cooler, and faster, and more reliable. But rarely is that approach applied to medicine. Medicine is magic. It is performed by high-minded super-special doctors who care not a bit about price.

The only big medical innovations have come from wartime experience. Deaths from disease during war declined from something like 70% of all casualties, to nowadays, a mere 10% or so.

In the history of war, disease and nonbattle injuries have resulted in the vast majority of lost combat days. … During the Mexican War (1845–1848) and the Spanish-American War (1898) disease-related deaths outnumbered battle-related deaths by seven to one.

With the introduction of military hygiene and disease control at the beginning of the 20th century, there was a steady decline in the number of wartime deaths attributable to diseases classically known as “war pestilence”, including cholera, dysentery, plague, smallpox, typhoid, and typhus fever.

The ratio of battle and wound deaths to “war pestilence” deaths during the major 20th century US wars was 1:0.4 in World War I (1914 –1918), 1:0.1 in World War II (1939 –1945), 1:0.13 in the Vietnam War (1964 –1973), and 1:0.01 in the first Gulf War. (1991).”

But, comes now Google (GOOG) to battle diabetes! Google?

First, understand this vital point: these high-tech, venture-funded entrepreneurs who created so much value through their first companies did it BECAUSE THEY COULD. It was never for the money, which is just a measuring rod.

It was for the thrill of the chase for new stuff, more speed, more customers, tinier products. That goes for nearly all of these leaders. All except the ones who died young or went crazy.

Yes, there can be a price to pay for living on the hairy edge of reality and novelty. But Google founders are totally sane. So, let’s take a look at this article on current projects that Google is funding.

Our favorites are moonshot rockets (with competition from other high-tech entrepreneurs!) and “an experimental contact lens [that] can painlessly measure glucose levels in tears.”

Google’s new life sciences unit has lined up “partnerships with top drug makers and medical device companies.” You can see there is no limit now!



About InvestingforOne

I've been investing in various assets by myself using a discount broker for many years. Over that time, I've developed some theories that others might find useful. Plus, there is more to investing than money. Time, talent, work, friends, family all go into developing a good and satisfactory strategy.
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