This essay originally appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Sign up here.
I have to admit that I’m a bit jaded by some of the technology industry’s so-called innovation. After 16 years as a Silicon Valley journalist, I have trouble getting excited about yet another messaging app or service for posting goofy selfies.
That’s why it’s good to be reminded, like I was on Thursday, about some of the tech industry’s truly remarkable accomplishments—the kind that change lives. It came in a blog post from Google celebrating the tenth anniversary of Translate, its tool for deciphering 103 languages.
The service is used by people to translate more than 100 billion words daily: Arabic into Russian, French into Indonesian, and Persian into Polish. Language barriers evaporate by merely typing some words in a box, speaking into an app, or scanning street signs with a phone’s camera. Google (GOOGL) makes the service look so easy. But of course, the tool’s technology is incredibly complex—albeit still imperfect.
I don’t mean to go on about Google and translation. I could substitute a few other technologies developed over the past decade that have made a huge impact like Skype, Twitter, and smartphones.
The longtime joke in Silicon Valley is that many of the technology industry’s best minds are devoted to getting people to click on ads (or, more recently, entice hungry millennials to order takeout from one of the many restaurant delivery startups). There’s more than a grain of truth to it.
But still, more worthwhile innovation is coming. At least that’s what I tell myself when the latest hot and frivolous startup hogs the attention and gets the multi-billion-dollar valuation.
Self-driving cars, although still a work in progress, promise to eliminate countless hours of wasted time behind the wheel and save lives by reducing accidents caused by human error. Meanwhile, clean energy companies are steadily reducing the cost of solar and wind power so that it becomes more financially attractive than coal.
So please, Silicon Valley, think big. Keep this journalist from becoming even more jaded.