Monday, December 28, 2009

Surveying modern surgery, it is possible to picture change in terms of three successive, overlapping, phases of development. The first stage of modern surgery involved an era of extirpation, which pioneered new ways of dealing with tumors and injuries by means of surgical excision. There followed a stage of restoration, in which stress fell on surgical physiology and pharmacology, aimed at repairing impaired or endangered function. The third age has placed greater emphasis on replacement, the introduction into the damaged body of biological or artificial organs and tissues.
This last phase requires a more systemic approach to treatment that may be breaking down the time-honoured boundaries between surgery and other medical disciplines.

The Cambridge History of Medicine. p. 207.

The next stage seems to be bioenhancement, which intends to extend the range of human physical and mental capabilities. Medicine is increasingly becoming a technology, i.e. a complex web of materials, devices, practices, and processes that are being developed by multi-disciplinary teams.

tags: health, biology, course, evolution, technology, process

All roads lead into the cloud

According to Pike Research (via CNet):

Governments and utilities are expected to ramp up their investments in the electrical smart grid, spending a total of $200 billion worldwide from 2008 through 2015

Technologies to automate the grid are expected to win around 84 percent of that $200 billion, says Pike. Smart metering systems to track and analyze the usage of electricity, gas, and water will grab 14 percent, while systems to provide juice to electrical cars will garner the remaining 2 percent.

Among the winners in this round of technology spending will be cloud computing companies. They will get the business of processing an avalanche of new data. Long-term, since the need to collect and analyze data will become indispensable to the utilities, cloud computing will establish a strong foothold in the industry.

tags: information, cloud, control, detection, energy, 10x,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let the battle of formats begin.

Physical books are on the way to extinction. The technology that started with the invention of codex and, arguably, enabled the spread Christianity through the Roman Empire, is ceding its position to electronic packaging of text:

In another milestone for the e-reader, the company [Amazon] noted that on Christmas Day, for the first time ever, Amazon customers bought more Kindle books than physical books.

tags: payload, system, evolution, 10X, control, distribution, course, information, entertainment

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chief Belief Officer

Devdutt Pattanaik talks at TED about the role of imagination in human's practice of world transformation. One particular technique, contrasting one-life vs infinite-lives styles of thinking, is similar to TRIZ Size-Time-Cost (STC) operator. The operator helps the imagineer to stretch various dimensions of the problem or object to discover qualitative transitions that otherwise are often missed in "normal" thinking.

Youtube video link here. Fast forward to the 10 minute point.

tags: control, operators, course, imagination, triz, psychology, exercise,10x

Friday, December 18, 2009

Discovery Channel: Top ten discoveries of the decade

Here's the link to the entry page: click me.

In terms of impact on future innovation, I think the more important ones are #4 (Stem cells), #2 (Human genome map), and #1 (Global warming).

From a purely psychological perspective, items on the list satisfy the criteria for objects that traditionally inspire awe: they are either extremely large or infinitesimally small.

tags: science, greatest, psychology, health, environment, discovery, technology

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Remarkable how the US still pays millions of dollars for a military technology that can be defeated with a $500 laptop and $25.95 worth of software.

WSJ. WASHINGTON -- Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

The Air Force has staked its future on unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones account for 36% of the planes in the service's proposed 2010 budget.

Today, the Air Force is buying hundreds of Reaper drones, a newer model, whose video feeds could be intercepted in much the same way as with the Predators, according to people familiar with the matter. A Reaper costs between $10 million and $12 million each and is faster and better armed than the Predator.

I would think that in the nearest future video feeds from police drones will be easily intercepted by hightech criminals.

From a 5-element analysis perspective, this is a very good illustration of how critical Payload packaging is for the overall system integrity and performance. The ability to handle the format of the video feed in question is deeply embedded into all relevant subsystems. Changing the format would require a technology overhaul that would cost the military billions of dollars.

tags: five element analysis, payload, control point, control, information, drones, transportation, 10X, constraint
Dec 17, 2009. Bloomberg reports on projected shortage of doctors in the United States:

Last year, there were 16,721 fewer primary-care doctors than needed in inner city and rural areas, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

The doctor crunch is a result of an aging population and a rising demand for specialists, according to the federal health department. By 2025, the nation as a whole will confront a shortfall of as many as 159,300 doctors of all varieties, said Ed Salsberg, director of the Center for Workforce Studies at the Washington-based medical college association.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Chronicle reports that the city of San Francisco is buying Treasure Island from the federal government for at least $55M to make the place "a model of sustainable development". Can it become the first charter city?

action: discuss this with Justo.

tags: innovation, infrastructure, book, geography, economics

Greatest innovations: the Eurepean military renaissance.

FOUR military innovations in early modern Europe facilitated the rise of the West. After 1430, the development of heavy bronze gunpowder artillery made possible the destruction of almost all fortifications of traditional vertical design, while a century later the creation of fortresses of geometrical design restored the advantage in siege warfare to their defenders. Around 1510, naval architects began to place heavy artillery aboard full-rigged sailing vessels, creating floating fortresses that proved incomparably superior to any non-Western fighting ships. Finally, in the 1590s, the invention of infantry volley fire (one rank of infantry firing in unison and then reloading while other ranks fired in turn) permitted the defeat of far larger enemy forces, whether mounted or on foot, in the field. These four developments had by 1775 allowed relatively small groups of Europeans to conquer most of the Americas, Siberia, and the Philippines, and parts of South Asia-over one-third of the world's land surface-and to dominate the world's oceans.

The Limits to Revolutions in Military Affairs: Maurice of Nassau, the Battle of Nieuwpoort
(1600), and the Legacy
Author(s): Geoffrey Parker
Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Apr., 2007), pp. 331-372
Stable URL:

The guns on ships are particularly of interest because they allowed to protect trade routes essential to the development of major European industrial powers. The shipbuilding also had to change to accommodate heavier loads.

Volley fire is a good example of solving the dilemma: you want to reload your gun, to have it ready to fire, and you don't want to reload it, because during reloading it makes you vulnerable to enemy's charge.

tags: problem, greatest, innovation, solution, dilemma, course, example, strategy

The structure of the chasm.

I am reading "Rationality in Action", a fascinating philosophy book by a UC Berkeley professor John Searle. In the book, Searle not only critiques the so-called Classical Model of Rationality that, among other things, serves as a basis for today's thinking about organizations, but also provides a modern framework of rationality that can be applied to the theory and practice of innovation.

He makes a case for desire-independent reasons for action that are created by people who assume responsibilities, e.g. within an organization, when the take on certain roles. One immediate implication would be that Christensen's Values/Resources/Processes framework is incorrect in at least its Values and Processes aspects. That is, employees don't act in a certain way because they suddenly get company values when they join the organization. Rather, by joining it, they assume non-contractual obligations that set essential conditions for employment, and these conditions are enforced by organizational culture and a system of monetary and other incentives.

Searle also talks about gaps "between causes in the form of your beliefs, desires, and other reasons, and the actual decision that you make." The gaps are as follows: 1) decision-making, when you have to make up your mind with regard to a course of actions; 2) action-making, i.e. the gap between decision and action; 3) activity-making, when you need to sustain the initial action to carry on a complex activity. Being aware of these three gaps is very important for designing and analysis of technology, i.e. a series of complex actions that involve equipment, people, management procedures, interfaces, and etc. (Chapter 1. p.14-15).

tags: theory, innovation, control, process, course, book

Monday, December 14, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished. The URL shortening service pioneered by TinyURL is now being copied by Google and Facebook:
Google ventured into new territory on Monday with the launch of a new URL-shortening service it's calling

Google's launch comes on the heels of Facebook having quietly launched its own URL-shortening service called

Unless the inventors have patents for the idea, the big guys are going to walk over their business as soon as it proves to be popular.

tags: market, patent, control, competition, internet, information, packaging

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A [future] lie detector.

How to spot a lie that hasn't happened yet? Just ask Thomas Baumgartner and his colleagues from the University of Zurich in Switzerland:

The fMRI data revealed that certain brain areas became more active when trustees were breaking a promise. These regions – the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex and amygdala – are known to be involved in emotion. They could reveal an emotional conflict in a person who knows they are doing something wrong, or feels guilty, says Baumgartner.

NS duly notices that in order not to harm innocent liars bystanders this new research has to be applied with caution.

tags: psychology, brain, mind, health, social,  emotion

Thursday, December 10, 2009

CNet's has a list of most innovative Consumer Electronic devices of the last decade. Apple is clearly the champion, Sony and Nintendo are distant seconds.
Palm Treo is #11, which shows that first mover's advantage doesn't amount to much if the company cannot sustain it with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation of improved products.

tags: market, technology, electronics, innovation, efficiency, application, 4q diagram, , digital

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

99-cent digibacks on iTunes

With its new tablet, Apple is getting into the book distribution business:

Contacts in the U.S. tell us Apple is approaching book publishers with a very attractive proposal for distributing their content," Reiner wrote in a note to clients today. "Apple will split revenue 30/70 (Apple/publisher); give the same deal to all comers; and not request exclusivity. We believe the typical Kindle/publisher split is 50/50, rising to 30/70 if Kindle is given ebook exclusivity.

While Amazon built a whole new distribution system, for Apple ebooks will be just another content type on iTunes. Brilliant!

tags: payload, distribution, apple, book, information, system, control point

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

TEDTalks: Scott Kim, a renown puzzle master, describes the difference between a puzzle and a problem:

"problems, frankly, are not very well designed puzzles"

This is another piece of evidence that problem-solving and puzzle-solving are two totally different activities. Confusing one with another often leads to really poor solutions.

tags: problem, solution, book, video

Monday, December 07, 2009

Wikipedia knows everything. It even remembers the list of unusual software bugs. My favorite one is Schroedinbug:

A schroedinbug is a bug that manifests only after someone reading source code or using the program in an unusual way notices that it never should have worked in the first place, at which point the program promptly stops working for everybody until fixed.

The funny thing is that the concept is completely in agreement with John Searle's theory of Social Reality. The theory says that we create the reality by collectively believing in it. For example, paper or any other kind of money has value only because we all believe that it has value. In football, a team gets 6 points for a touchdown because everybody, including the opposing team, agrees that the touchdown is worth exactly 6 points.

I think schroedingbug works somewhat differently, though. Once it's noticed, people try to fix it and, due to a multitude side effects, the whole system promptly falls apart.

tags: construction, philosophy, computers, network,  background, artifact, problem

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Another experiment that probes how our "social brain" interacts with the outside world:

They may seem a little unsettling but the staring eyes of this female avatar were designed to grab your gaze and hold it, and also to obligingly follow where you look. By performing these actions with people placed inside a brain scanner, she has helped to demonstrate that guiding the gazes of others activates different brain areas than following.

The real-time fMRI scans revealed that when the volunteers successfully got the avatar to follow their gaze, brain areas involved in reward and motivation were activated. When they followed the avatar's gaze, a different area of the brain, known to be involved in imagining what other people are thinking, was active.

tags: brain, control, mind, social, psychology, health

Friday, December 04, 2009

Beginnings of a tsunami.

That real-time collaboration is a thorny problem. It can be difficult to permit multiple people permission to edit the same document at the same time while ensuring one person's changes don't interfere with another's work. And showing simultaneous work complicates a service's user interface, too.

"With Google Docs it takes about 5 to 15 seconds for a change to make its way from your keyboard to other people's screens," the site [EtherPad] said. "Imagine if whiteboards or telephones had this kind of delay!"

We are witnessing the emergence of a new Payload. The web started with HTML, then moved to XML, and now we are entering the "Scripts+Data Streams" phase. All elements of the system, including browsers(script execution environments), servers, routers, and pipes will have to change to accommodate this step of the system evolution. Mobile devices are probably in the best position to take advantage of the trend.

In any case, whatever they say about cloud computing is just a small facet of what is coming to the world near you.

tags: computers, information, payload, evolution, problem, performance, software, niche construction
More solar power news:

Under a power purchase agreement approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, utility Pacific Gas & Electric will purchase electricity from technology provider Solaren if it successfully deploys its space-based solar collectors, which would be the first of its kind.
..1,700 gigawatt hours per year for 15 years from Solar for its space-based solar arrays, which will have a generating capacity of 200 megawatts. That's smaller than a full scale nuclear or natural gas plant but enough to supply thousands of homes.

...electricity [will be] transmitted via microwaves to a ground receiver station in Fresno County, Calif. The receiver then converts the radio frequency energy to electricity and it is fed into the power grid.

Sounds more like a geo-scale weapon than a power solution. I hope they don't miss the ground station. Can you imagine if hackers break into the targeting system?

tags: control, energy, distribution, security, innovation, mousetrap

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Chinese multiplication method.

How does this work?

update: I got it. The number of intersection points is equal to the product of two numbers.

tags: math, youtube, puzzle

A money lightning bolt! A digital one!

Another entrant into the mobile payment market:

The Square hardware is a small, inexpensive card reader that plugs into the audio jack of a compatible device, including a mobile phone (it's starting with the iPhone and currently has job postings up for BlackBerry and Android engineers). It processes credit card payments, geotags their locations on a map, and e-mails a receipt to the buyer.

As I wrote earlier, eBay is also betting on the emergence of the digital wallet. Long-term, money - a digital signal - will be handled by software, rather than dedicated hardware, but the Square solution might succeed as a short-term stop-gap effort to get small businesses onto the mobile transactions bandwagon.
I wonder how IPv6 is going to affect the picture. Ideally, you would just "ping" your money to the vendor, without any credit cards at all.

tags: money, transfer, payload, control, greatest, infrastructure

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Twittering for living

Amazing facts about biological evolution of cuckoo chicks:

... an extremely short incubation period, which ensures that the cuckoo chicks usually hatch before the host's chicks.
...having killed its rivals, the cuckoo chick must stimulate an adequate rate of feeding by its host. It appears to accomplish theis task by behaving as if it were the equivalent of a whole brood of its host's chicks. It does so by emitting a rapid begging call that mimics the begging sounds, as well as the calling rate, of a complete brood of its host's chicks.

Niche Construction, p 11.

tags: evolution, biology, niche construction,
A quote from Michael Wheeler's book "Reconstructing the cognitive world":

The strength of these connections are known as the network's weights, and it is common to think of the network's "knowledge" as being stored in its set of weights. The values of these weights are modifiable, so, given some initial configuration, changes to the weights can be made that improve the performance of the network over time.
... the specific structure of the network, and the weight-adjustment algorithm, the network may learn to carry out some desired input-output mapping.
... most connectionist networks also exploit a distinctive kind of representation, so-called distributed representation, according to which a representation is conceived as a pattern of activation spread out across a group of processing units. p.10

From this perspective, relevancy of information relates to its ability to change the network's weights. Irrelevant information passes by through the network without reconfiguring its "knowledge" and/or ability to act upon it.

Also of interest, a technique to build intelligence into a distribution sub-system. In this case, the distribution and control components of the system are integrated and cannot be substituted with a competing solution. The "vertical" axis (Distribution--Control) on the 5-element system diagram becomes not just important, but essential to the system's performance.

tags: cognition, network, control, computers, information, distribution, system, five element analysis

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Retail: The Battle of Technologies

NYT reports on a potential price war between Amazon and Wal-mart:

This fight, then, is all about the future. Rapid expansion by each company, as well as profound shifts in the high-tech landscape, now make direct confrontation inevitable. Though online shopping accounts for only around 4 percent of retail sales, that percentage is growing quickly. E-commerce did not suffer as deeply as regular retailing during the economic malaise, and it is recovering faster than in-store shopping. People are also shopping on smartphones and from their HDTVs.

Published: November 23, 2009

Amazon is going to win this war, unless Wal-mart takes dramatic steps to improve its e-tailing strategy. Since at least the last Christmas shopping season, Amazon's biggest advantage has been its ability to aggregate demand and effect real-time supply-demand pricing.

tags: distribution, control, commerce, greatest, 10X, battle
Is Yoga a technology? Probably, not.
Is psychoanalysis a technology? I don't think so.
Is medicated blood chemistry (cholesterol, sugar, vitamins, hemoglobin, etc.) maintenance a technology. Most likely, yes.

What's the difference? The type of learning that is required to produce consistent results. With technology we have a formal set of repeatable steps, while in a human-centric methodology we've got a series of rules, internalized by apprenticeship and practice.

tags: technology, control, mind, learning, method,  process, education

Friday, November 27, 2009

The chicken and its three eggs.

Philosophy of technology is a 2,500-year intellectual exercise, and according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Technology is a continuous attempt to bring the world closer to the way it is to be. Whereas science aims to understand the world as it is, technology aims to change the world.

This tells me that there should exist a fundamental difference between the logic of scientific discovery and the logic of invention, which most of the books on creativity completely ignore. Unfortunately, philosophy of invention doesn't exist. Though, there are some attempts to create a philosophy of creativity.

Just for fun, below are Google timelines for philosophy, invention, science, and technology.

tags: technology, science, invention, timing, evolution, system, greatest

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Search by itself doesn't have a lot of staying power. Google can be relatively easily replaced by Microsoft or Yahoo. On the other hand, personal or corporate content in the cloud can be hardly moved from one provider to another. Maybe in the future it will be possible, e.g. by having a virtual rather than real data center to host all the data and applications (a la Google Docs).
In the meantime, this quote below is an indicator that content providers are looking for new revenue streams.

Reports have surfaced over the last several months, most recently in the Financial Times, that News Corp. is in talks with Microsoft to enact a plan that would see News Corp. properties hiding their content from Google's search engine in return for exclusive listing with Bing.

tags: cloud, tool, transition, computers, content, evolution, value, google, microsoft, network

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NS, November 2009 by Colin Barras -- An important constraint that prevents development of new mobile interfaces:

The fat finger problem is the main reason why icons on hand-held touch-screen devices are generally around 10 millimetres across. In recent years numerous ways around the problem have been explored, including the combination of a touch-screen with a touch-sensitive pad on the rear of the device

Long-term evolution would make our fingers insect-like: thin and agile.

tags: problem, dilemma, mobile, interface, computers, control

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The magic of the familiar.

While looking at the list of Top Grossing American films of the decade, it is hard not to notice that all of them are cinema versions of fairy tales. Moreover, it appears that movie audiences had been well primed by either a popular comic strip, a book, or previous movie based on the same characters. Technology-wise, the development of computer graphics enabled creation of magical effects that were practically impossible during the previous decade.

The Dark Night
Release date: 7/18/08
Domestic boxoffice: $533.3 million

Shrek 2
Release date: 5/19/04
Domestic boxoffice: $436.7 million

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Release date: 7/7/06
Domestic boxoffice: $423.3 million

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Four hugs a day keep the psychatrist away.

The latest research on communicating emotions by touch (click on pictures to enlarge) shows, e.g. that a handshake is probably the best way to "say" thank you. Also, there's significant difference between how effective men and women are in communicating their core feelings: anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness. 

Source: Hertenstein, M. J., Holmes, R., McCullough, M., & Keltner, D. (2009). The communication of emotion via touch. Emotion, 9, 566-573. doi: 10.1037/a0016108

tags:  psychology, health, communication, emotion,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twitter ads a geotagging API:

Twitter contends that including a user's location when he or she tweets could significantly add to its microblogging service. The company wrote in a blog post that the new feature should allow users to "better focus in on local conversations."

It's a very important step to a twitter-based business model that allows for highly relevant local advertisement.

From a system perspective, solutions to detection problems (in this case, location id) are precursors to the emergence of new control systems.

tags: business, model, niche construction, control, detection, system, problem, synthesis
The more I read about robots, the more I think that the most useful of them will come with functionality and scale that are very different from human abilities and size:

The surgeons of tomorrow will include tiny robots that enter our bodies and do their work from the inside, with no need to open patients up or knock them out. While nanobots that swim through the blood are still in the realm of fantasy, several groups are developing devices a few millimetres in size. The first generation of "mini-medibots" may infiltrate our bodies through our ears, eyes and lungs, to deliver drugs, take tissue samples or install medical devices.

Most importantly, new diagnostics and control technologies need to be invented to guide the bots in these new applications.

tag: tool, system, health, control, detection, greatest, scale

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Meditate or die.

Science Mag. Nov 16, 2009:

Meditation can cut the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death by almost 50% in patients with existing coronary heart disease, according to a new clinical trial. The findings indicate that relaxation and mental focusing can be as effective as powerful new drugs in treating heart disease.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's the infrastructure, stupid!

In "Mind, Language, and Society" philosopher John R. Searle writes:

When confronted with an intractable question such as is presented by a clash of convincing default positions, don't accept the question lying down. Get up and go behind the question to see what assumptions lie behind the alternatives the question presents.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In an information-based society quality of life is quality of information. That is, relevant information is key to rational decision making, whether it concerns biological (gene-related), cultural (context-related), environmental (constraint-related), or other issues. Since people's attention is limited, I believe there exists an informational equivalent to Gresham's Law: bad information drives out good.
Here's some evidence for it
from the transcript of CNet's conversation with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google:

You would think that, based on popular culture, that everyone cares about the stuff that's popular. But our data shows that people are looking deeper and deeper into the Web for even more specialized information.

With regard to quality of information, it's remarkable that the CNet interviewers completely missed the topic of Google Apps, a set of cloud services that targets enterprise software customers. Wave makes a lot more sense as a component of this set, rather than a standalone e-mail replacement application.

tags: control, information, cloud, google, niche construction, mousetrap, 4q diagram, system, infrastructure, video

Invention of diseases

Invention of the stethoscope by René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec in the 19th century was a major breakthrough in doctor's ability to detect early signs of a disease. It came at a price, though. In "History of Medicine" Jacalyn Duffin writes:

Prior to the stethoscope, patients could not be sick unless they felt sick. After the stethoscope it was possible to have a serious disease and feel fine. The patient was no longer the chief authority on his or her own well-being.

In the future, you won't even need to be alive to be sick. That is, technologies for genetic analysis will enable doctors to find baby's diseases even before he or she is conceived.

Timeline for "stethoscope". Retrieved from Google, on 11/15/09.

As a side note, I like the technique of showing the change in control structure "before" and "after" the invention. It brings up the point that new diagnostics technologies are not only about early detection, but also about who has the control over medical decisions in the healthcare system.

Update: a stethoscope iPhone application.

tags: health, detection, control, niche construction, invention, innovation, problem , dilemma

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A graph from a 1954 article by Ernest Jawetz in Annual Review of Medicine looks remarkably similar to the Gartner Hype Cycle "discovered" in 1995. Both graphs have an enthusiasm peak, a disappointment pit, and a productivity plateau (see below).

Gartner Hype Cycle (courtesy

With Twitter we are probably still in the early stages of the cycle (see Google Timeline snapshot):

tags: innovation, cycle, diffusion, pattern, theory, book, infrastructure, niche construction, constraint

Is Facebook a status function?

Philosopher John Searle describes a certain type of invention, he calls it status function, instances of which exist only because people collectively believe in their functions:

Think of the difference between a knife and a 20 dollar bill. The knife will cut just in virtue of its physical structure. But the 20 dollar bill will not buy just in virtue of its physical structure. It can only function as money if it is recognized, accepted, and acknowledged as valid currency. The knife function can exist for anybody capable of exploiting the physics, but the status function can only exist if there is collective representation of the object as having the status that carries the function.

He claims that humans create their civilizations by inventing various status functions:

I regard the invention of the limited liability corporation, like the invention of double-entry bookkeeping, universities, museums, and money, as one of the truly great advances in human civilization. But the greatest advance of all is the invention of status functions, of which these are but instances. ... without them, human civilization, as we think of it, would be impossible.

Status functions seem to be essential for scalability. From a system point of view, they are instances of the Control component.

Source: John Searle. 2005. What is an institution? doi:10.1017/S1744137405000020

tags: invention, ideality, theory, function

Friday, November 13, 2009

Invention of the week: Traffic Light

From the Traffic Light History:

The world’s first traffic light came into being before the automobile was in use, and traffic consisted only of pedestrians, buggies, and wagons. Installed at an intersection in London in 1868, it was a revolving lantern with red and green signals. Red meant "stop" and green meant "caution." The lantern, illuminated by gas, was turned by means of a lever at its base so that the appropriate light faced traffic. On January 2, 1869, this crude traffic light exploded, injuring the policeman who was operating it.

The traffic light as we know it today was patented by Garrett Morgan in 1923. General Electric bought the patent for $40,000, and monopolized manufacturing of the device in the United Sates.

tags: control, history, greatest, transportation, scale, patent, problem, solution, innovation

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Advances in technology: HD, mobile, and community-based porn

A 20+ minute report on the evolution of the porn industry. All their issues are very similar or a bit ahead of what plagues the rest of the content industry. Current TV itself is restructuring and laying off 25% of its staff in an attempt to adjust to the new ways people generate and use content.

tags: 10x, entertainment, mobile, problem, social, media

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This inventor story is about Hans Berger, the pioneer of electroencephalography (EEG) - technology widely used today in brain research and medical applications.

It is well known that Berger worked for almost 30 years in nearly complete isolation, recording electrical activity from the brain, before he dared to risk his first publication on the EEG in 1929. His first few publications on the new method were neglected until Nobel Prize winner Douglas Adrian repeated his experiments and demonstrated the new method to the scientific community of physiologists. Then, in the second half of the 1930s, groups specializing in EEG recording mushroomed all over the world, particularly in the United States.

A happy ending? Not really. Berger developed and used EEG to detect signs of human psychic activity. The popular press was enthusiastic about the technology, but scientists met Berger's direction of research with skepticism. Eventually, funds dried up and "without any prospect of pursuing the project further, Berger, depressed, committed suicide on June 1, 1941."
At the same time, clinical psychiatrists who used the same technology to solve a different problem (detection of brain disorders), succeeded beyond all expectations:

Quite early on, the new method demonstrated an enormous diagnostic potential with the recording of disease-specific patterns. Brain tumors could be localized by their halo of electrical silence, and epileptic seizures displayed persistently dramatic changes of the record.

Same technology, drastically different results in its application.

Source: Cornelius Borck. 2005. WRITING BRAINS: Tracing the Psyche With the Graphical Method. History of Psychology. 2005, Vol. 8, No. 1, 79–94. DOI: 10.1037/1093-4510.8.1.79

tags: health, problem, 4q diagram, problem, solution, reverse brainstorm, mousetrap

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dilemma of the day: rejection

via NS:

Rejection can dramatically reduce a person's IQ and their ability to reason analytically, while increasing their aggression, according to new research.

"It's been known for a long time that rejected kids tend to be more violent and aggressive," says Roy Baumeister of the Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, who led the work. "But we've found that randomly assigning students to rejection experiences can lower their IQ scores and make them aggressive."

Thus, a dilemma: a) on one hand, we should reject bad or crazy ideas because they don't provide good solutions; b) we should not reject such ideas because the rejection will make people feel and behave stupid.

Reverse brainstorming solves this dilemma by taking the original idea and, instead of rejecting it, expanding the problem space around it. Eventually, better problems and a better solutions are found, and participants' self-esteem is preserved.

In contrast, regular brainstorming sessions, unless run under strict rules, often deteriorate into criticism of a specific idea, which makes participants more aggressive and less creative.

tags: dilemma, problem, creativity, brainstorm, reverse brainstorm,
Looking inside the brain of a rat:

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0903680106

tags: brain, mind, detection, health, information, tool, control

Sunday, November 08, 2009

In this recession, smartphone market behavior contradicts conventional economic theories predicting that demand for expensive goods falls when consumer income falls (inferior vs normal good):

In Europe, smartphone sales are expected to rise 22% in 2009, defying the 21% slump in handset sales predicted by Pyramid Research. In the United States a poll by ChangeWave Research in June suggested that 37% of consumers already own a smartphone, while more than 14% planned to buy one in the next three months.

Microsoft predicts that in a few years smartphones will make up 30% of the volume and more than 50% of the value of the mobile phone market.

This is clear evidence that we deal with a new stage in S-curve, that doesn't conform to standard economics. Another important aspect of this phenomenon is that it's not about the phone itself (hardware), but about many new ways to use it (software):

Apple needed just two ingredients to be successful: ease of use and a wide range of "apps" - small software applications that allow owners to optimise their phone, whether it is Sudoku puzzles or sugar trackers for diabetes sufferers.
It is here where rivals like Samsung falter. With few apps to satisfy the whims of owners

iTunes is a critical control component in Apple's iPhone/iPod architecture. The software was originally built to help users manage thousands of songs, and now it seamlessly manages thousands of applications.

P.S. I would love to insert an annotated S-curve chart here, but my Mac doesn't have the tablet functionality. Damn.

system, mobile, apple, tool, control, control point, niche construction, 

The 10x change of the week: human genome.

Another exponential step in our ability to acquire new biological data. The next steps will be to interpret and use as information, e.g. for treating diseases or developing new and better us.

The Human Genome Project, which officially completed the mind-boggling achievement of sequencing Jim Watson's genome in 2006, carried the equally mind-boggling price tag of $3 billion. If I may be so bold as to use that word thrice in one paragraph, even more mind-boggling is that a company called Complete Genomics has just sequenced three human genomes for $4,400 in materials, with an error rate of less than one base in 100,000.

Referene: Human Genome Sequencing Using Unchained Base Reads on Self-Assembling DNA Nanoarrays. Published Online November 5, 2009. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1181498

tags: 10x, information, tool, health, cloud, computers

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The myopia epidemic among children (in addition to CEOs)

New Scientist ( issue 2733. Nov 6, 2009) reports on another lifestyle threat to children's health:

[R]ates of short-sightedness, or myopia, were rising to epidemic proportions around the world. Today, in some of the worst-affected countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, around 80 per cent of young adults are myopic, compared to only 25 per cent a few decades back.

Rates are lower in western countries - between 30 and 50 per cent - but myopia seems to be rising steadily here too. What could be causing this mysterious epidemic?

"Our findings suggest that being outdoors, rather than sport per se, may be the crucial factor," says Rose. The theory has since been backed up by a study of 1249 teenagers in Singapore, led by Seang-Mei Saw at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (British Journal of Ophthalmology, vol 93, p 997).

On average the children in Sydney spent nearly 14 hours per week outside, and only 3 per cent developed myopia. In contrast, the children in Singapore spent just 3 hours outside, and 30 per cent developed myopia. Once again, close work had a minimal influence; the Australian children actually spent more time reading and in front of their computers than the Singaporeans (Archives of Ophthalmolology, vol 126, p 527).

It appears that peripheral vision is the first thing to go when children spent most of their time indoors.

Stop reading this. Go out and play!

tags: problem, solution, health, niche construction

Friday, November 06, 2009

Additional evidence that browser has become an application run-time environment:

With a project called Closure Tools, Google plans on Thursday to start helping developers who aspire to match the company's proficiency in creating Web sites and Web applications.

Google is a strong proponent of using JavaScript to write Web-based programs, part of its Web-centric ethos. Indeed, the company has pushed the language to its limits with services such as Gmail and Google Docs, and it developed its Chrome browser in part to enable JavaScript programs to run faster.

The real issue at stake is future dominance in web (cloud) applications. Will Google succeed with its Android/Chrome platform, or Apple solidify its advantage with iPhone/iPod? Also, I believe Facebook has its own app language, which makes it a 2.5 horses race.

tags: mobile, tool, platform, evolution, niche construction, payload

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Building the cloud: location, location, location

What is clear is that, over time, Microsoft will need even more capacity. That's what has Josefsberg returning to a custom "heat map" that figures out the best place to build data centers based on factors including cheapness, greenness, and availability of power, political climate, weather, networking capacity, and other factors. Choosing the right spot is critical, Microsoft executives say, noting that 70 percent of a data center's economics are determined before a company ever breaks ground.

Energy seems to be a major constraint for cloud development:

Even with only half the site ready for computers, the center has 30 megawatts of capacity--many times that found in a typical facility.

On a hot day, Microsoft would rely on 7.5 miles worth of chilled water piping to keep things cool, but general manager Kevin Timmons smiled as he walked in for the facility's grand opening in late September. It was around 55 degrees outside.

tags:energy, infrastructure, tool, cloud, computers, scale, 10x, greatest
Developers make money on iPhone/iPod applications by luck. Apple makes money by design.

(CNET) More than 100,000 apps are now available for download from Apple's App Store, making it the largest such retailer in the world.

The App Store launched in July 2008 with just 500 applications. The store is now available in 77 countries, which has contributed to what Apple said Wednesday is well over 2 billion downloads.

It also appears that Apple's business model is running into scalability problems:

Most notably, Apple's app approval process has caused frustration with developers, who are sometimes left in the dark about the reason an app is rejected.

As we discussed during the last session of the Model-based Invention/Innovation class, this is a hole that Google can exploit with its Android platform/distribution system. The AppStore situation can be compared to what happened to Yahoo, when they ran into problems while trying to catalog the web. Eventually, search replaced guided portal-based navigation. Most likely, AppStore will be replaced by a free distributed marketplace for mobile software.

tags: mobile, problem, 10x, apple, google, control point, evolution, distribution,  battle
Ten inventions that changed the world, according to the London Science Museum:

...curators select[ed] the 10 objects in its collection that had made the biggest mark on history. These then went to a public vote to find the most important invention of past centuries.
1. X-ray
2. Penicilin
3. DNA double helix
4. Apollo 10 capsule
5. V2 rocket engine
6. Stephenson's Rocket
7. Pilot ACE computer
8. The atmospheric engine
9. Model T Ford
10. The electric telegraph

tags: invention, innovation,  greatest

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Think big. Think beautiful.

From "The Unconscious City: How Expectancies About Creative Milieus Influence Creative Performance", by Jens Förster (2009):

I suggest that such[creative] thinking works like a self-fulfilling prophecy, that is, that the creativity of people increases when they are reminded of a creative place.

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-9877-2_12

tags: creativity, psychology, setup
Warren Buffet is betting on fuel-efficient transportation infrastructure:

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett’sBerkshire Hathaway Inc. agreed to buy railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. in what he described as an “all-in wager on the economic future of the United States.”
The purchase, the largest ever for Berkshire, will cost the company $26 billion, or $100 a share in cash and stock, for the 77.4 percent of the railroad it doesn’t already own.

Trains stand to become more competitive against trucks with fuel prices high, he[Buffet] has said.

It's also a bet that there will be no significant change in the transportation technology. Introduction of energy-efficient trucks will take a very long time.

see also Energy Use for Transportation from DOE.

tags: greatest, infrastructure, example, distribution, transportation, efficiency, niche construction,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Invention is the best medicine

Last week I traveled to University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to give a guest talk at the SmartSurfaces hands-on think-tank taught by professors Karl Daubman (Architecture), John Marshall (Design), and Max Shtein (Materials Science). This inter-disciplinary course is designed as a series of workshops for students, mostly senior- and junior-level undergrads, who are interested in fusing new urban architecture and design ideas with elements of emerging heliotropic technologies. My goal was to discuss with them the concept of problem value and methods for discovering high-quality problems.

It was raining on Friday, the day of the workshop. I woke up with a terrible headache wishing I were back home in the sunny Bay Area. But, somehow, when I stepped into the Smartsurfaces studio to give the talk the headache disappeared. The whole 5-hour class, including a lunch break and a Reverse Brainstorming session, went without a hitch. Student participation was high, they asked good questions, did really well on generating problems (300+ in 45 minutes), and everybody felt that we made good progress. Somebody even said that I became their favorite visitor :) Thank you!

Here's a link to the session report (video and pictures) put together by Dr. Marshall:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dilemma of the Day: modern reproductive strategies

One one hand, in today's society people get married and have children when they are over thirty and forty. This trend relates to increased amounts of time spent on education, carrier building, and partner selection.
On the other hand, research shows that "genetic disease is more likely in the children of older fathers".

Therefore, to ensure mature partner choices, marriage should be delayed. But to avoid the likelihood of genetic diseases of the offspring, marriage should happen earlier in one's life.

The dilemma can be solved by applying the Separation in Time principle: marriage is delayed (best time to choose a mate), but sperm and eggs are selected and tested way before marriage (best time to get the genetic material).

One implementation of the solution, e.g. by using frozen eggs, got a boost from a recent study:

EGG freezing looks increasingly promising as an insurance policy for women who need or want to delay having children, according to the first systematic monitoring of success rates for IVF using eggs that were frozen then thawed out.

It's highly likely that future babies will be born to older parents using their "young" genetic material.

problem, solution, dilemma, separation, health

Monday, October 26, 2009

A list of greatest innovations of all times from 2007 Businessweek:

1. Weapons
2. Mathematics and the number zero
3. Money
4. Printing
5. Free markets and capital markets
6. Domesticated animals and agriculture
7. Property ownership
8. Limited liability
9. Participatory democracy
10. Anesthetics and surgery
11. Vaccines and antibiotics
12. Semiconductors
13. The Internet
14. Genetic sequencing
15. Containerized shipping

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Money and Monkeys

A New York Times magazine (via Freakonimcs) article about monkeys that learned to use money:

The essential idea was to give a monkey a dollar and see what it did with it. The currency Chen settled on was a silver disc, one inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle -- ''kind of like Chinese money,'' he says. It took several months of rudimentary repetition to teach the monkeys that these tokens were valuable as a means of exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day. Having gained that understanding, a capuchin would then be presented with 12 tokens on a tray and have to decide how many to surrender for, say, Jell-O cubes versus grapes. This first step allowed each capuchin to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.

Over time, the capuchins learned to behave just like people: gamble and trade goods, favors, and sex for these shiny useless discs.

tags: money, greatest, control, incentives, behavior

Local electric power production and storage is needed

Two cases when adding new consumption or production capacity (Tool) leads to unintended consequences for the existing infrastructure (Distribution).

The first example relates to the predicted increase in the number of electric cars in California:

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- California’s push to lead U.S. sales of electric cars may result in higher power rates for consumers in the state, as a growing number of rechargeable vehicles forces utilities to pay for grid upgrades.

A typical Santa Monica circuit, which serves about 10 households, may be overloaded should two or three of those customers charge vehicles simultaneously, even if they do so overnight during off-peak hours, Ted Craver, Edison’s chief executive officer, said in a phone interview on Oct. 20.

While surplus power is available at night at cheaper rates, the grid needs adjustments to handle such charging, Craver said. For example, additional or larger transformers may be needed in neighborhoods with numerous plug-in car owners.

In the second example, Science magazine describes the potential impact of biofuel production on the water distribution infrastructure:

Biofuels promise energy and climate gains, but in some cases, those improvements wouldn't be dramatic. And they come with some significant downsides, such as the potential for increasing the price of corn and other food staples. Now, a series of recent studies is underscoring another risk: A widespread shift toward biofuels could pinch water supplies and worsen water pollution. In short, an increased reliance on biofuel trades an oil problem for a water problem.

Making matters worse, other U.S. energy sectors are growing and increasing their demand for water. Another recent report from Argonne by Deborah Elcock, an energy and environmental policy analyst, for example, found that water consumption for energy production in the United States will jump two-thirds between 2005 and 2030—from about 6 billion gallons of water per day to roughly 10 bgd—driven primarily by population growth. About half of that increase will go toward growing biofuels.

tags: five element analysis, tool, distribution, system, greatest, maturity, hype, energy

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Don Reisinger at CNet writes:

After Sid Meier announced on Thursday that a new Civilization title called Civilization Network was on its way to Facebook, it had me thinking: what other games could I play until I'm ready to take on Meier's new title next year?

Actually, it doesn't matter what other games people will be playing. What matters is that there will be tons of games on Facebook and they will strengthen Facebook's role as an essential piece of social infrastructure for the next generation of internet users. Other digital things, like money, content, art will follow the net people.

tags:infrastructure, greatest, payload, social, distribution

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Neuroscientists are figuring out how brain handles time and how our experiences are being recorded in memory:

there is not a single "film roll" in the brain, but many separate streams, each recording a separate piece of information. What's more, this way of dealing with incoming information may not apply solely to motion perception. Other brain processes, such as object or sound recognition, might also be processed as discrete packets.

To investigate, VanRullen examined another neural function, called near-threshold luminance detection. He exposed his subjects to flashes of light barely bright enough to see, and found that the likelihood of them noticing the light depended on the phase of another wave in the front of the brain, which rises and falls about 7 times per second. It turned out that subjects were more likely to detect the flash when the wave was near its trough, and miss it when the wave was near its peak.

In everyday life we measure time by comparing our processes to standard processes, such rotation of the Earth around the Sun. It looks like the brain has its own set of standard internal processes that determine the pace of cognition. Here's an interesting experiment that induces accelerated thinking:

Luke Jones at the University of Manchester, UK, decided to test the subjects' rate of mental processing during the experience. After exposing them to the clicks, he measured how quickly they could accomplish three different tasks: basic arithmetic, memorising words or hitting a specific key on a computer keyboard.

The results, to be published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, showed that the clicks accelerated the subjects' performance in all three tasks by 10 to 20 per cent. It was as if the drumbeat of their brain's internal slave galley had sped up - compelling each neuron to row faster. White noise had no such effect. "Information processing in the brain is running in subjective time," says Weardon. "If you speed up people's subjective time, they really do seem to have more time to process things."

This would make a good iPhone/Android app!

tags: time, payload, process, control, brain, mind

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monetization of Gossip

Twitter hits 5 billion tweets:

Former Current Media executive Robin Sloan appears to have posted Twitter's 5 billionth tweet, in the form of a reply to another user that otherwise read only "Oh lord."

The company [Twitter] recently raised another round of funding at a valuation somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion.

To twitt or not to twitt: that is the question.

tags: distribution, 10x, payload, youtube, five element analysis, information, infrastructure

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It might be that creative environment is just a sign that the organization is lead by a smart person. Because stupid bosses tend to bully their employees:

new research showing that leaders who feel incompetent really do lash out at others to temper their own inferiority.

"Power holders feel they need to be superior and competent. When they don't feel they can show that legitimately, they'll show it by taking people down a notch or two," says Nathanael Fast, a social psychologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who led a series of experiments to explore this effect.

Psychological Science, DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02452.x

tags: control, psychology, creativity, management,

Trade-off of the Day: the economics of bargaining.

From the Scientific Background paper for this year's Nobel Prize in Economics:

Organizing the transaction within a firm centralizes decision rights, thereby saving on bargaining costs and reducing the risk of bargaining impasse, but at the same time allows executives more scope to extract rents in inefficient ways. The net effect of this trade-off depends on both the difficulty of writing useful contracts ex ante and the extent to which assets are relationship-specific ex post.

A common trade-off in a control system. It would make a good case study: trade-off -> dilemma -> solution (separation in time and, probably, action).

tags: trade-off, economics, control, dilemma, problem, example, course

future platforms for sensor deployment?

Continuing developments in the world of small airplanes:

A mere 30 centimeters long, the MAVion combines fixed wings with two counter rotating propellers, allowing it to operate with high aerodynamic efficiency--even in adverse conditions, according to the professor.

"The ultimate goal of the MAVion concept is to demonstrate a twofold capability using the same vehicle: fast forward flight and hover flight," Moschetta explained. "The two counter-rotating tandem propellers provide a simple means to enhance yaw control, which is particularly important in vertical flight."

and radio-controlled insects:

remote control of insects in free flight via an implantable radio-equipped miniature neural stimulating system. The pronotum mounted system consisted of neural stimulators, muscular stimulators, a radio transceiver-equipped microcontroller and a microbattery. Flight initiation, cessation and elevation control were accomplished through neural stimulus of the brain which elicited, suppressed or modulated wing oscillation. Turns were triggered through the direct muscular stimulus of either of the basalar muscles.

tags: control, transportation, flight, brain, invention, , 10x, drones

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Philips has found a way to connect a medical device with a life-style application:

...a biometric-style emotion-sensing system that supposedly alerts traders when it might be wise to take a breath and step away from the Charles Schwab site.

The Rationalizer system consists of the EmoBracelet and corresponding EmoBowl. The bracelet measures the user's emotional arousal level through a skin response sensor and displays the findings as a dynamic light pattern on either the bracelet itself or the nearby, rather cool-looking bowl. As your emotions intensify, so does the light pattern, which speeds up and shifts color from soft yellow to orange to deep red--alerting you and everyone else who pops in the room that you're turning into a basket case.

tags: innovation, emotion, health, control, detection,

related: US Patent Application 20090226046

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Scientist reports on the latest out-of-body-experience research:

Whatever the mechanism, the study of out-of-body experiences promises to help answer a profound question in neuroscience and philosophy: how does self-consciousness emerge? It's abundantly clear to us that we have a sense of self that resides, most of the time, in our bodies. Yet it is also clear from out-of-body experiences that the sense of self can seemingly detach from your physical body. So how are the self and the body related?

I bet that with proliferation of 3D camera, display, and gaming technologies we'll be able to have out of body experiences on a regular basis. Our poor brains will be forced to adapt to a totally new reality. I wonder if it would be possible to have experience of somebody else's body. One day, this would make one cool Facebook app. Personal Snowcrash on steroids.

tags: brain, psychology, games, system, payload, innovation, social, network
Another sign that PC has become a completely commoditized product:

IDC released its PC tracker report Wednesday afternoon for the third quarter of 2009 and for the very first time, Acer is indeed the No. 2 producer of PCs in the world, with 14 percent. Hewlett-Packard remained on top with 20.2 percent of PCs shipped, and Dell dropped to 12.7 percent.

"It's a pretty amazing transition in market leadership by Acer," said Loren Loverde, the program director of IDC's PC Tracker. "It's reflective of the changes in form factors and channels and pricing--the way we've shifted to lower cost portables, particularly in consumer and retail, which is where Dell was not as strong."

Advantage comes through cost competition and distribution channel capture. Design (the least expensive type of innovation) is another factor, but only Apple has the ability to deliver a differentiated product in this space.

tags: s-curve, distribution, maturity, computers

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How a sewing machine works


Monday, October 12, 2009

Game on!

In the minds of many industry observers, thanks to its integration of a functional operating system, an accelerometer, GPS and a camera, and the fact that thousands of developers, big and small, have released games for the iPhone, the Apple device has already surpassed Sony's PSP and Nintendo's DS as the most important, or at least most adaptable, portable gaming platform.

But as developers get more creative and as its technology improves, it's likely that the iPhone will only get more impressive as a gaming machine.

With "2012," the developers at augmented reality entertainment production studio Trigger seem to have broken new ground with a couple of features. In the game, players are tasked with making their way--virtually, of course--from their real-world location to a digital Tibet. They do so by answering trivia questions related to survival, and with each correct response, they are credited with hundreds of miles of forward progress.

via CNet

What's on your mind, Mr.Turtle?

A neurophysiology study straight out of a science fiction novel:

In this study, we used a bloodless and intact turtle brain to explore the feasibility of detecting visually-evoked ncMRI signal. After being surgically removed from the cranium and placed in artificial cerebral spinal fluid (aCSF), the turtle brain (with eyes attached) is able to generate essentially normal electrophysiological activity in response to visual stimulation ([Kriegstein, 1987] and [Fan et al., 1993]).

The researchers didn't find much, but the method they used looks really impressive. It would be a great experiment to run in a high school bio class. Students could actually see how the brain works.

tags: education, detection, representation, science, biology, brain

reference: Physiologically evoked neuronal current MRI in a bloodless turtle brain: Detectable or not? doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.06.017 

invention vs innovation: a 10X difference

The difference between invention (discovery) and innovation (commercial application) was highlighted last week when Charles K. Kao was awarded the 2009 Nobel prize in physics ""for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication". Kao's work lies at the foundations of today's telecommunications technology. His share of the Nobel Prize money is about $700K. For comparison, John T. Chambers, the Chairman and CEO of Cisco, a networking and communications gear company, gets about $10M a year in salary, stock, and bonuses. Both of them are at the top of their profession, and the contrast between the rewards the society affords these two brilliant men indicates the relative value created at different stages of the innovation process.

tags: 10x, invention, innovation, greatest, economy, process, scale, niche construction

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A growing niche of low-power nuclear reactors:

Hyperion Power Generation plans to build a small reactor manufacturing plant in the United Kingdom within the next two years. The firm says it plans to use the existing UK supply chain to build its 70MWt (27MWe), self-regulating reactor and that the UK will be its ‘launch pad’ for the European market.

“We’ve got so much demand that we need to go ahead and start planning our manufacturing facilities,” he [John (Grizz) Deal] said.

“We have customer commitments for over a hundred units already. We’re going to be very busy! In fact, we’re now scheduling deliveries out to 2018-2020 even though we expect to go to market in the 2013-2014 timeframe.”

The reactor looks like an electric battery on steroids: you plug it in, run for 5-7 years, and then replace with another one, if necessary.

tags: source, network, system, energy, growth
By continuities, I mean patterns that extend across time. These are not laws, like gravity or entropy; they are not even theories, like relativity or natural selection. They are simply phenomena that recur with sufficient regularity to make themselves apparent to us. Without such patterns, we’d have no basis for generalizing about human experience: we’d not know, for example, that birth rates tend to decline as economic development advances, or that empires tend to expand beyond their means, or that democracies tend not to go to war with one another. But because these patterns show up so frequently in the past, we can reasonably expect them to continue to do so in the future.

The landscape of history, by John Lewis Gaddis. p.31.

A continuity is often an indicator of an underlying infrastructure that sustains the pattern by counter-acting entropy.

tags: process, artifact, niche construction, pattern, greatest, course