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How innovation
has changed your life?

When you did first met innovation on a personal level?
I'd say that my first encounter with the fruits of innovation actually came before I was even born - back in my mother's womb. As it's been related to me, the doctors discovered that, in the process of prenatal development, I had somehow gotten the umbilical cord tightly wrapped upon my neck, in utero. With me stuck in this pretty uncomfortable position, my mother was told that performing a caesarian section was the optimal course of action, lest I suffocate while they waited on a normal birth. That would never have been possible without the information gathered from continuous monitoring of the pregnancy, from adequate access to information and physicians, and without the technology and procedures to produce the ultrasounds and images of a fetus in development. 

Medical innovation saved and sustained my life, in ways that would have been unimaginable decades ago. Not only that, but each and every day, advances in technology, in thought, and in process are remaking the world we live in, opening doors no one had even thought to try unlocking. It sometimes sounds like a silly reflection today, but I still feel amazed and humbled that the innovations of the past intertwined to save my life and grant me the to chance to see a future filled with such opportunity.

How do you think innovation is changing the world, where are the areas where it will impact more?
I believe that innovation - this spirit of creativity - in and of itself has no limits. Simply looking around at how different our world is today, compared to just 10 years ago, illustrates the transformative power of human minds at work. Take the smartphone - in many ways the vital connector of our modern society - it didn't exist a decade ago. The fact that these prospects of instant connectivity and unceasing engagement with every corner of the world have developed to the extent they have over just a single decade is incredible. Automation is another increasingly prevalent trend - one that I think should consume a significantly greater portion of our policymakers' public engagements than it currently does. It's hard to definitively predict how the world is going to change moving forward. That said, in the industrialized world, I think we can safely bet on the broader trend - that the effects of innovation will become more prevalent in our daily routines, such as in the increasing transition toward computerized automation for routine tasks - be that driving, cleaning, manufacturing, or cooking.

Dangers and opportunities vis a vis innovation, what is you take?
I feel I should first note that, in some sense, I often feel that even the opportunity to think about innovation in these terms is a luxury in itself. There are absolutely instances in which innovation may spell more doom than possibility - and the voices of those in these positions are often given inadequate attention. As mentioned above, I believe automation will be the driving innovative theme moving ahead - unfortunately, at some detriment to the traditional "service" and "manufacturing" sectors. As technology evolves to more precisely replicate the manual aspects of production - all areas where we've had the opportunity to put people to work for the better part of modern history - there's going to be a significant impact on at least two fronts. 

There's the obvious positive increase in efficiency, in productivity, and, potentially, in the standard of living for average consumers. As products become quicker and easier to make, folks should start having more money available to spend on other things. But there's also the question of how we ensure that our society doesn't leave behind those whose livelihoods will be negatively impacted by this changing environment. With every increase in automation, we've seen a decrease in employment in the more hands-on intensive industries most susceptible to innovative advances. Research has projected that over a significant majority of future careers have yet to be invented - a staggering estimate, but consistent with our own observable recent history. (This is just one source, I know you mentioned many others. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/project-classroom-transforming-our-schools-for-the-future/244182/) The primary challenge during these next few decades, then, must be to ensure that we modify our entire system to meet these new trends - while providing adaptive opportunities to those who may be most negatively affected by this innovation. Technological advances contain the possibility of moving everyone ahead - not just a select few. If a rising tide lifts all boats, then it's in our collective interests to repair each hole as it appears - rather than waiting and watching our whole fleet sink below the waves.


Jonathan "JT" Wu '16 graduated from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, specializing in International Institutions and Global Governance, while obtaining dual certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Having worked with both the U.S. State Department Office of Foreign Assistance Resources (F) and Citigroup Inc., his research interests include the politics and policy implications of financial incentivization and the human rights compliance regimes of Europe and Asia. Outside of academia, JT enjoys playing music and coxing recreationally, and served as an Orange Key tour guide, Residential College Advisor in Rockefeller College, and a founding member of the MAVRIC Project during his time at Princeton. A "dual native" of Duluth, GA, and Chattanooga, TN, he currently resides in New York City.

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