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