When people ask me why I prefer to invest in software-based innovation vs other important areas like biotech, hardware, energy, etc, I always point to the speed at which software can be built, released, and iterated on.
This is a personal comfort thing for me. I am not saying that these other areas are not important. They are. Society needs innovation in areas outside of software. And there are fantastic returns to be had to those who are prepared to take on those risks.
But there is something very frustrating about innovation that cannot be released to the market quickly.
I was reminded of that yesterday when I read David Wallace-Wells’ piece in NY Magazine about the Moderna Covid Vaccine. David writes:
By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial. This is — as the country and the world are rightly celebrating — the fastest timeline of development in the history of vaccines. It also means that for the entire span of the pandemic in this country, which has already killed more than 250,000 Americans, we had the tools we needed to prevent it .https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/moderna-covid-19-vaccine-design.html
You can’t make a vaccine and ship it to the world as soon as you’ve made it. There are many good reasons for that. But if that were not the case, as David points out, we might have been able to avoid the entire pandemic. We had the technology to end the pandemic before it landed in most of the world.
And it makes me wonder if there are lessons from the world of software, where we “move fast and break things”, that can be adopted by other areas of innovation. Can we re-imagine how we test medical innovations so that they can come to market and save lives much more quickly? Can we re-architect how the energy markets work so that they can be re-shaped as quickly as software markets are? Can we stitch atoms together more like we stitch bits together so that physical things (buildings, devices, etc) can adapt more quickly?
I don’t know the answers to those questions. I am just wondering outloud. But I know this, innovating in software is so much easier than innovating elsewhere and it would be better if that were not the case.