A loose continuation of the entry about no-rewards. So what's up with inventions? Where are the people that managed to fly to the moon?
Let's think about the rewards. Bonuses at work, climbing up the carrier ladder, getting famous, having as many citations as possible or getting accepted research grants. Jeff Schatz published a nice joke in his book - "What's your research about? - Getting grants!". This is exactly what the article is about - rewards makes the people concentrate on getting rewards and not the real purpose...
The risks of playing safe is another chapter of the Jeffs book. Everything have to be safe. The research plan, the investment, the work environment, the income, the car, the life, ... But the price for the safety can be sometimes really high.
Is there a way to find financing for a small team and their equipment for at least 10 years without knowing what they are actually going to do? Just based on a fact that those ones are a smart and nice guys? No way, right? So how can anyone expect a break-through innovation when the sponsors wants to know what it will be right now and today? Who will give the money? Government? Corporates? Kingdoms? Monarchies? Rich people? How will it be justified in front of the citizens, employees, committee or in person? Justified? Exactly - we are playing safe!
Now I'm not sure this wrong. This are the rules of the todays game. What I'm trying to say is that we just should not be surprised if the "next big thing" will be "no big thing". And not measured in revenue, let's talk about first use of a metal, wheel, an artificial engine power, the three laws of motion, electricity, phone, computer network, etc. I'm not talking about a better metal, safer wheel, faster engine, theory of relativity, green energy, wireless phone, satellite network, etc. Those are all crazy things too but those are in a way "just" improvements.
Seth asks "Whatever happened to labor?". (<cite>Not Labor with a capital L, as in organized labor unions. I mean labor as in skilled workers solving interesting problems. I mean craftspeople who use their hands, their backs and their heads to do important work.</cite>)The short answer could be "They are rewarded!". Or the contra question "Is there anyone today doing anything without thinking about the reward?...".