This is Scientific American — 60-Second Science. I'm Steve Mirsky.
"I think it's really important for us to use this magical power of invention and innovation to change the lives of people who really needed their lives changed."
Nathan Myhrvold, co-founder of the technology development company Intellectual Ventures. He was formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft. He spoke at the World Conference of Science Journalists in San Francisco October 28th.
"People at the bottom billion in the world from, well, from any perspective. You can look at the bottom billion from health care or from poverty, it's pretty much the same folks. And those are people who need their lives transformed. But the iPhone X isn't how to do that. You need to have other kinds of technology that will focus, and try to make a magical solution to what's otherwise an intractable social problem."
"Now, when I say this to people in the world of global development they often say, oh yeah, we tried a high-tech thing and it failed. And I always laugh when I hear this because high-tech things always fail."
"For example, there were 33 search engines launched before one of them was successful. The world didn't say, oh, search engines, yeah, we tried that, it failed. The technology world is all about failure. Thirty-two search engines failed before we got Google. Yet, a lot of times when we look at the developing world and people say, oh, we tried this it didn't work, we tried that it didn't work. Well, okay, you got 30-something more to go."
"Part of the point here is that inventing anything is hard. Even if you're creating a search engine in the middle of Silicon Valley, it's hard. That's why those other 32 companies failed. Of course, if you're trying to solve a completely intractable problem of poverty or health care in an area where there is none, you should expect that's not going to be any easier. It probably is harder. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try."