Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Daughters are better for the family (long-term.)

Recently, researches* got hold of a treasure trove of mobile phone data, including information about callers' age, gender, and location. By analyzing the frequency of interaction, e.g. via calls and texts, they were able to discern the strength of users' social connections and how they change with age. One of the findings relates to relationships within the family:
... the most dramatic conclusion from this work is about the pattern of social relationships that play the most important role in society. Palchykov and co say the tendency in the past has been to assume that father-son relationships dominate.
By contrast, “our results tend to support the claim that mother-daughter relationships play a particularly seminal role in structuring human social relationships,” they say.
...female reproductive strategies change more explicitly as they age, switching from mate choice to personal reproduction to parental investment and finally grandparental investment, particularly after they reach 40.
Read the whole thing at MIT Tech Review or the original paper at arxiv.org
* Vasyl Palchykov, Kimmo Kaski, János Kertész, Albert-László Barabási, and Robin I.M. Dunbar. Sex differences in intimate relationships. 2012.

tags: social, networking, psychology, demographics

Demographics of entrepreneurship in the US.

A new study (see NBER paper) shows that successful American entrepreneurs are significantly older than anecdotal evidence tends to suggest.
Feb 1, 2012. MTR -- the average and median age of the founders of successful U.S. technology businesses (with real revenues) is 39. We found twice as many successful founders over 50 as under 25, and twice as many over 60 as under 20.
Kellogg School of Management economist Benjamin F. Jones looked at the backgrounds of Nobel Prize winners and other great inventors of the 20th century. He found that the average age at which they made their greatest innovations was 39. The largest mass of great advances -- 72 percent -- came in an inventor's 30s and 40s, and only 7 percent came before the age of 26.

Should we be spending more time and resources on post-college entrepreneurship education?

tags: education, innovation, problem, solution, technology


Invention of the Day: Facebook Social Networking Timeline.

On January 17, 2012, Aaron Sitting and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Inc. got another patent issued from the original provisional application filed on December 23, 2005. US Patent 8,099,433 is titled Managing Information About Relationships in a Social Network via a Social Timeline.

It's also interesting to see that Facebook learned from Apple's patent strategy and filed for a number of design patents covering its user interface features.

tags: patent, invention, problem, solution, packaging

LunchTalk: Modern Marvels - Stealth Technology

The Discovery Channel video narrates the cat-and-mouse game between radar and airplane making technologies.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Disastrous Innovation: Gaussian Copula Function.

A recipe for success eventually becomes a recipe for disaster.  The transition happens faster when people ignore limitations inherent in the technology and/or don't pay attention to the changing environment.

Feb 23, 2009. Wired -- For five years, Li's formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, looked like an unambiguously positive breakthrough, a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. With his brilliant spark of mathematical legerdemain, Li made it possible for traders to sell vast quantities of new securities, expanding financial markets to unimaginable levels.

...it became so deeply entrenched—and was making people so much money—that warnings about its limitations were largely ignored.

Then the model fell apart. Cracks started appearing early on, when financial markets began behaving in ways that users of Li's formula hadn't expected. The cracks became full-fledged canyons in 2008—when ruptures in the financial system's foundation swallowed up trillions of dollars and put the survival of the global banking system in serious peril.


tags: technology, science, invention, problem

Solera - another player in cloud security.

Solera Networks, a startup focused on real-time traffic analysis, got $20M from Intel Capital.
January 30, 2012. VBeat -- When hackers strike at company web sites, there is often no easy way to figure out what happened. Solera helps companies reconstruct exactly what transpired. The value of that data is often critical to figuring out who did it, much like the evidence found at a crime scene is often most critical in the first 48 hours. It’s important that network forensics be done instantaneously to give companies the best situational awareness possible.
In 2010, Intel acquired McAfee for $7.6B to beef up its offering of security software and services. Compared to that, the Solera investment looks like small potatoes, but it shows the general drive toward a more secure cloud. The web as we know it is dying, while mobile real-time networking proliferates. The demand for security in this new environment is going to be orders of magnitude greater than during the heydays of web.

tags: control, system, evolution, detection, security, internet, information, payload

LunchTalk: (TED) How Wikipedia was created.

Jimmy Wales [the founder of Wikipedia] recalls how he assembled "a ragtag band of volunteers," gave them tools for collaborating and created Wikipedia, the self-organizing, self-correcting, never-finished online encyclopedia.


tags: web, internet, information, source, invention

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday biography: Nikola Tesla.

This amazing documentary gives long overdue recognition to a great and misunderstood man of science. The life of Nikola Tesla is an inspiring example of the power of one man to change the world with technology and revolutionary ideas.

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was one of the most fascinating scientists of the 20th century. He invented, developed or imagined the technology that brought us electricity, remote control, neon and florescent lighting, radio transmission and much more... all the basic inventions that now connect the world with power and information.


tags: lunchtalk, innovation, invention, energy, communications

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lunchtalk: (TED) Creating Twitter

Co-founder Evan Williams reveals that many of the ideas driving that growth came from unexpected uses invented by the users themselves.


tags: lunchtalk, communications, information,

Friday, January 27, 2012

Joyent vs Amazon

Joent is a cloud provider that intends to out-innovate Amazon.

Jan 23, 2012. VBeat -- San Francisco-based Joyent was founded in 2004 and has about 150 employees. It also has offices in Vancouver, Singapore and Geneva. The company plans to announce other “exciting” partnerships in the near future that will enable the company’s services in even more countries.
Here's how they see their  cloud orchestration services

Note that one of the pillars is Node.js - a JavaScript-based web server technology. It's hard to believe that Java Script, a scripting language designed by Netscape to execute simple logic within their browser, is now at the core of a cloud computing architecture. Who would've thunk!

tags: cloud, technology, evolution

Lunchtalk: Innovation in cooking (@Google)

Ferran Adrià is recognized as the most influential chef in the world. His legendary talent, creativity and gastronomic innovations have inspired chefs and food-lovers around the world for many years, at the helm of the iconic restaurant El Bulli in Spain. He is also the author of A Day at El Bulli.

While Ferran Adrià is better known for his innovative and ground breaking gastronomic creations, this highly anticipated new book reveals, for the first time, his secrets for creating delicious, seasonal, and simple home cooked meals. 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Snack Talk: Feeling machines that think.

Dr. Antonio Damasio on Self Comes to Mind.

The best of both world: an animal awareness (autopilot) to react to the world and an executive function to reflect on the world.


lunchtalk, psychology, mind, dilemma

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Invention of the Day: Cereal Bowl.

The cereal bowl with flat bottom is one of my favorite inventions because it combines simplicity and utility. You can hold it comfortably in the cup of your hand AND you can put it down safely on a flat surface. If you don't believe me, try doing it with your plate. The majority of people have hard time believing that this bowl is such a great invention. To them, it looks completely obvious because they are so used to tables, desks, and other everyday furniture of the civilization.

But a few thousand years ago it was not such an easy transition. It took one culture a few hundred years to invent the new shape for household pottery.

I bet today's patent office would not issue a patent for this invention because of its "obviousness." But, as Leonardo da Vinci famously said, Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

The best car to steal ever.

 With electric cars less is more.

Jan 25, 2012. CNet -- Spain will begin producing an electric car next year that's about the same size as a Smart, but can collapse itself into an even smaller footprint when parked. The Hiriko, which means "urban car" in Basque, is the brainchild of researchers at the MIT Media Lab, and is designed to meet the needs of increasingly congested and parking challenged urban centers. 

To steal the car, all you need to do is fold it and load it onto your Ford Explorer.

tags: transportation, energy, problem

Mobile payments are in trouble (in the US)

Retail shops seem to be further away from adopting new types of mobile payments than we thought. It'll probably take another generation of technology to get them over their technological inertia. By that time, online retailers we'll be in an even stronger position to compete.
Jan 25, 2012. VBeat -- Because today’s retail systems are so inflexible, the integration of any third-party systems will result in a huge IT expense for implementation. The customization required so that all components of the point of sale system (including inventory management and payment processing) interact with a new mobile payment platform without disrupting the operation of the existing systems is cumbersome and expensive due to complex software integration.

The retailer’s cost to add even one type of mobile payment technology (such as Google Wallet) is currently very high, and since the market is so fragmented, adopting just one of the mobile payment platforms will only address a tiny portion of the market.

 A possible solution to the problem could be a partnership between online and brick-and-mortar retailers. In many ways, Amazon marketplace is this type of a distributed physical store, where a variety of retailers use Amazon's IT resources to sell their goods. The retail industry as a whole is at the end of their S-curve; therefore, transplanting it to a new payment technology is a big organizational challenge.

Lunchtalk: Building your own human capital (@Google)

The richest billionaire executive on the planet and the lowest-status minimum-wage worker have at least one thing in common when it comes to work: they both have 24 hours in the day. So what distinguishes the high-earning executive from lower-paid workers? It's the amount of capital they are able to combine with that 24 hours each day. Not just capital in the form of money and business systems, but also the amount of intangible "human capital" they bring to their work: knowledge, wisdom gained from experience, mindset, the ability to sell their vision effectively to others, and the "social capital" of their business connections. 

tags: lunchtalk, education, social, investment

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quote of the Day: Facts and Distortions

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
- Mark Twain.

Remotely controlled brain.

Switching technology from lasers to LEDs lets an MIT startup plant a  light-weight controller right into a lab animal brain.
Jan 23, 2012. MTR -- Optogenetics relies on genetically altering certain cells to make them responsive to light, and then selectively stimulating them with a laser to either turn the cells on or off. Instead of a laser light source, Kendall Research uses creatively packaged LEDs and laser diodes, which are incorporated into a small head-borne device that plugs into an implant in the animal's brain. The device, which weighs only three grams, is powered wirelessly by supercapacitors stationed below the animal's cage or testing area.

The wireless capabilities allow researchers to control the optogenetics equipment remotely, or even schedule experiments in advance. 
Data collection is also seems to be one of their key applications. Maybe when people agree to genetically modify their brains to emit lights, this technology will be invaluable for a new kind of communications.

tags: control, energy, storage, communications, biology, brain, startup

Fashion shows are coming online

Everyone wants to watch fashion from the first row. Now, lots of people can, at least with an iPad.
Jan 24, 2012. The Hollywood Reporter -- Unlike livestreamed shows, Digital Fashion Shows is for designers who want to create an experience for press and clients that's as close to a runway show as possible, without having to actually push your way to the coveted front row.

Each runway show will be pretaped without an audience and will be watchable at a specific date and time. Anyone with an official invite can log on to the site at the annointed time for their very own front row seat at the show.

I wonder if fashion shows soon go 3D. It must be a fun experience to see them "live," especially, in a social networking setting.

tags: technology, culture, social, video

A totally unexpected future.

Beginning March 1, Google will begin tracking users across most of its services: Gmail, Youtube, maps, search, and others. Some reactions to the new policy are quite surprising:
Jan 24, 2012. The Washington Post -- “There is no way anyone expected this,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of privacy advocacy group the Center for Digital Democracy. “There is no way a user can comprehend the implication of Google collecting across platforms for information about your health, political opinions and financial concerns."
It's hard to believe people are surprised with this move. Three and a half years ago, when Google introduced its own web browser, the writing was already on the wall. The brave new world with a different type of information asymmetries is emerging before our own eyes.

tags: business, model, domination, control, information,

Modern Marvels: Pacific Coast Highway.

Driving on Hwy 1 from San Francisco to Santa Barbara was one of the best travel experiences of my life. It's amazing how much engineering went into constructing the road.


tags: lunchtalk, infrastructure

Monday, January 23, 2012

Youtube is unstoppable.

Jan 23, 2012. VBeat -- The site has boosted its daily page views by 25 percent in the last eight months — and gathering over 4 billion page views per day, reports Reuters.
YouTube has made its video site accessible on more mobile devices, smart televisions, and streaming media set-top boxes (Roku, Apple TV, etc.).

Last week during its quarterly earnings report the company stated that its display ads sales are generating $5 billion in revenue due in large part to YouTube’s success.

Google has already started integrating Youtube with Blogger and Google+. The default video player on your mobile phone is most likely to by hooked to Youtube as well. In a few years, Microsoft's bundling of the Internet Explorer with its Windows OS will look like a child's play, compared to Google's mobile package of search, maps, videos, browser, social media, docs, apps, and much more.

Resistance is futile!

tags: internet, distribution, domination, packaging, business, model, mobile, advertisement

Getting fat just got a whole lot easier!

Jan 23, 2012. Reuters -- Starbucks is planning to add the alcoholic drinks and food such as savory snacks, cheese plates and hot flatbreads to menus in four to six outlets in each market.
Nutrition-wise, beer is largely carbs. A 12oz glass of a decent beer is worth about 150 calories, which should give you the extra energy to ride a horse for almost an hour. And if you add a cheese plate to your Starbucks order, you'll have to ride this horse for the rest of the evening.

tags: health, energy, distribution, payload

Lunch Talk: (@Google) The Genetic Revolution.

Brandon Colby, MD, is a world leader in the fields of genetic testing and predictive medicine. Dr. Colby will discuss the current and near-future technologies that are fueling the genetic revolution as well as the difference between genetic testing and genetic analysis. Specific focus will be applied to how genetic information is now being used by healthcare professionals to predict and prevent a large number of diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer's. The talk will also include specific ways in-which you and your family can use the information contained within your genes to protect your health and wellness not in ten or five years, but today.

tags: lunchtalk, biology, innovation, science, health

Quote of the Day: Investing in Globalization.

There’s no way to invest in a world where globalization fails.

The question then becomes what are the best investments that are geared towards good globalization. Facebook is perhaps the purest expression of that I can think of.”
- Peter Thiel.  (quoted from The Facebook Effect, by David Kirkpatrick.)

tags: investment, model, business, trend, constraint, startup

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ripping off for fun and profit - 3

VBeat runs a story on 14 best copycat Internet services/apps in China. Definitely, there's a different understanding of innovation there.
Jan 22, 2012. VBeat -- People outside of China often wonder why the Chinese love to copy things. The answer is that it’s the way they’re taught to learn. Follow the teacher, recite books, and don’t challenge authority.
Not copying would almost represent a missed opportunity.
One trend we noticed is that the best clones are often created by very large Chinese tech companies with existing resources and money. It shows how tough the environment is for grassroots startups trying to compete against the big guys. It is also telling of the health of China’s startup eco-system — big companies can and will simply crush anything they see as a threat.
How is it possible to compete with this business model? Keeping technology secret seems to be the only way to succeed. In other words, globally we are back to the 17th century intellectual property system.

tags: business, model, patents, internet, service, intellectual, property

Counting without numbers.

A paper in Nature Neuroscience shows that a neural network can learn how to count without any knowledge of numbers. Internally, it forms neuron firing patterns that are closer to the set theory than to arithmetic.  This research is a step toward an explanation for Approximate Number Sense (ANS), which is present in many animals, including humans (take a simple test to get a feeling for your own ANS).

08 January 2012. Nature Neuroscience (2012). doi:10.1038/nn.2996 ---
Here we show that visual numerosity emerges as a statistical property of images through unsupervised learning. We used deep networks, multilayer neural networks that contain top-down connections and learn to generate sensory data rather than to classify it8, 9. Stochastic hierarchical generative models are appealing because they develop increasingly more complex distributed nonlinear representations of the sensory input across layers9. These features make deep networks particularly attractive for the purpose of neuro-cognitive modeling.
The ability to approximate (estimate), rather than calculate, can be critical in complex situations. It might also explain why invention of number Zero was so controversial. We have a hard time "seeing", i.e. creating an internal neural network representation, a non-existing pattern.

tags: pattern, approximation, science, network, biology

Using social networking for business intelligence.

Jan 6, 2012. CNN -- After locating all their employees' LinkedIn connections to two companies they were targeting as clients, they divided the contacts into three groups: Information providers, Influencers and Decision Makers. Working their way up the chain from information providers, they then asked their employees to gather as much information as they could about their target companies.
 Service that started as a way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues is increasingly becoming an influence tool. Either through direct peer targeting or through 3rd party advertising.
"Relationships between people are invisible," says Hansgaard. "By making them visible you can make them controllable. You can illuminate gaps in collaboration, you can build them and you can strengthen them."

tags: social, networking, detection, control, innovation, problem, solution, business, model

Lunch Talk: Modern Marvels - Railroads

Direct link.

tags: lunchtalk, transportation, payload

A database to store the cloud.

Amazon continues to push hard into cloud services with a database designed to handle disjoint information.
Jan 19, 2012. Wired -- NoSQL is a widespread effort to build a new kind of database for “unstructured” information — the sort of information that comes spilling off the internet with each passing second. Five years ago, Amazon introduced a NoSQL database service called SimpleDB, and now, it’s offering what you might think of as Amazon NoSQL Mark II. It’s called DynamoDB.

Like SimpleDB, DynamoDB is one of many Amazon Web Services (AWS), a set of tools offering online access to various computing resources, from virtual servers to virtual storage to databases and other software.
This is an important technology transition. Until fairly recently, internet applications were re-using (and are still using) database designs created for the previous generations of IT applications. Now, we see internet-specific architectures becoming available as a 24/7 service. Should be really good for mobile apps, games, ads, and connected devices.

tags: source, system, evolution, information, infrastructure

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A burst of creativity?

Source: Patent Failure, by J. Bessen and M.J.Meurer.

What happened in the US in 1855-60? Was it the railroads that triggered the burst of patent activity?

On the road to driverless cars.

Leading automakers, including certain European luxury brands, are working to  create a different driving experience. They seem to be taking an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary approach.
January 20, 2012. MTR -- Lasers, cameras, and other sensors are the most expensive part of autonomous driving systems. Some experimental self-driving cars are estimated to carry more than $200,000 worth of cameras and other gear. Those costs are also leading automakers toward a gradual approach that starts with sensor technologies and then extends capabilities to control driving tasks as well. 
Several automakers already sell cars with so-called adaptive cruise control that automatically applies the brakes during highway driving if traffic slows. Next, BMW plans to extend that idea in its upcoming i3 series of electric cars, whose traffic-jam feature will let the car accelerate, decelerate, and steer by itself at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour—as long as the driver leaves a hand on the wheel. 
Making cars and elements of road infrastructure easily detectable by simple sensors will solve the problem of the high costs mentioned above. For the car to become truly driverless, the road itself has to change.

tags: transportation, control, distribution, detection, infrastructure

Invention of the Day: Chamberlen obstetrical forcepts.

Peter Chamberlen, "the elder" (1530-1631), is considered to be the inventor of a breakthrough medical instrument for helping women deliver babies. Before the invention, women faced a high probability of pelvic deformity caused by childbirth. The Chamberlen family of accoucheurs (male physicians-midwifes) managed to keep the instrument secret for over 100 years.
The Chamberlens went to fantastic lengths to keep their secret. According to Graham (1950) they are said to have arrived at the house of the woman to be delivered in a special carriage. They were accompanied by a huge wooden box adorned with gilded carvings. It always took two of them to carry the box and everyone was led to believe that it contained some massive and highly complicated machine. The labouring woman was blindfold lest she should see the “secret.” Only the Chamberlens were allowed in the locked lying-in room. (P. Dunn, 1999)

The Chamberlen doctor dynasty lasted five generations

In the beginning of the 18th century, with no male heir in the family (women could not become doctors at the time), Hugh the Younger let the secret to leak out.

- P. Dunn. 1999. The Chamberlen family (1560-1728) and obstetric forceps.
- J. Drife. 2002. The start of life: a history of obstetrics.
- The Chamberlen Family Secret.
- Wikipedia. Forcepts in childbirth.

tags: invention, control, business, model, health, history

Lunch Talk: (Stanford) Startup as a Learning Experience

InDinero Founder Jessica Mah discusses the realities of the startup experience, in conversation with STVP faculty member and entrepreneur Steve Blank. Sharing the early successes and missteps for her company, Mah honestly reveals the lessons she continues to learn while directing inDinero's path to success through its commitment to customers.


tags: startup, lunchtalk, investment

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Patent Paradox. BUS 111. Session 3 Announcement.

Next Thursday, January 26, we'll have three guest speakers: John Markoff, Steve Perlman, and Willem Stemmer.

John Markoff is a senior writer for The New York Times. In addition to outstanding reporting on technology topics for NYT, John has written a number of books about high-tech industry and people who created it.

Steve Perlman is an inventor and entrepreneur with an amazing track record in Silicon Valley. His latest venture is Rearden Companies.

Willem 'Pim' Stemmer is also a very successful inventor and entrepreneur, but in a different technology area. Currently, he is the founder and CEO of Amunix Inc., a biotech company that creates pharmaceutical proteins.

During the first 30-40 minutes of the class, John will interview Steve and Pim, asking them about their experiences in the IT and bio-tech industries, respectively. After that, we'll have a Q&A with the students.

Snack Talk: (TED) 1000 talks in 6 words.

Sebastian Wernicke thinks every TEDTalk can be summarized in six words. At TEDxZurich, he shows how to do just that -- and less.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Social heartbeat.

The chart below shows relative frequency of the word "present" in Google searches in the United States (category = shopping.) Since Google is an advertising, not technology, company, its marginal financial results depend on people searching for buyable items.

tags: pattern, finance, market, social

Quote of the Day: Mark Twain on patents

...a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backways.

tags: quote, patents

Your wrist as a gadget real estate.

Mobile phones effectively killed wrist watches. Now, electronic gear manufacturers are trying to reclaim your wrist for their devices. For example, this NYT article describes a variety of wristbands that can help you with your New Year resolutions. In addition to that,

- Nike introduced FuelBand, a wristband device to track calories burned during the day;
- Sony Ericsson brings to the market Smartwatch, an Android-based communicator;
- MIT is working on a wristband for controlling your home devices;
- Basis made waves at CES with its Basis Band, a vitals tracking device to monitor your lifestyle, including stress levels.

It appears Personal Area Network is becoming a reality. At least some of its aspects are covered in my US Patent 6,838,986 (claim 1.)

Lunch Talk: Genghis Khan Biography

Always strike first and always take revenge. Genghis Khan learnt these lessons the hard way during a violent childhood. Son of a murdered father, Genghis grew up in the unforgiving environment of the Mongolian Steppe. But how did an outcast, raised in poverty, come to be the great Khan?

tags: lunchtalk, history, strategy

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why Twitter makes us dumb.

Twitter increases the pace of information consumption, which decreases the probability of slow deliberate thinking (System 2 in Kahneman's terminology.) Unable to think slowly, we end up relying on intuition (System 1) to process the information. This works up to a certain threshold. When the pace gets over the threshold we either give up, or look for ways to reduce the pace. A common method for reducing the pace or complexity of information is to rely on somebody else's thinking or intuition. Thus, Twitter breeds a need for celebrity opinion, which can be followed without much thinking, e.g. on trust, stereotype, etc.

A similar effect shows up during brainstorming sessions and when small children watch fast-paced TV shows.

tags: control, payload, 10X, dilemma

History of a lawsuit: Lucent vs Microsoft.

In 2002, Lucent brought a patent infringement lawsuit against two PC manufacturers over US4763356, Touch Screen Form Entry System. Microsoft intervened and became a party in the suit.

Originally, Lucent requested $561M in damages, while Microsoft offered $6.5M in response.
In 2009, a jury awarded Lucent $358M, but the judge ruled the award excessive. In 2011, a re-trial jury awarded Lucent $70M, but US District Judge in San Diego reduced the award to $26.3M.

Today, Lucent and Microsoft settled for an undisclosed sum. 

tags: patent, law, business

Possible DNA tests to predict dog's health and behavior.

German Shepherds with a specific variation in a gene connected to the production of dopamine and norepinephrine are better at executing "down" and "stay" commands.
Jan 17, 2012. Science -- Researchers gave 104 of the dogs the lie-down-and-be-calm test, and three other behavioral exams, all designed to assess the dogs' ability to control their impulses. The 37 German Shepherds with a shortened version of the gene had the most trouble controlling their impulsive behaviors, regardless of their sex, age, or training. But the dogs with long versions of the gene, such as the one in the photo, passed the impulse-tests with the calm of Zen master.
A large part of such research can be probably crowdsorced.

On a related topic, the ever popular Golden Retrievers are becoming - just like people - more disease-prone due to inbreeding. 
The study shows the power of using dog genetics to learn more about human diseases, says Heidi Parker, a geneticist at the Dog Genome Project of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. "When the researchers compared genetically similar dogs with disease to healthy ones, the single mutation stood out beautifully," she says. "You couldn't get such a clear result by testing a few unrelated families from different countries."
Once DNA tests get under the $100 threshold, it'll be cost effective to pick up a puppy based on a test rather than breeder's advice.

tags: health, biology, control, detection

Quote of the Day: Eclecticism.

Woody Allen once explained why eclecticism works:  "The 
real advantage of being bisexual is that it doubles your chances 
for a date on Saturday night."   
--- Warren Buffet. 1995 Letter to Shareholders.

Another quote from the same letter is relevant to Jerry Yang's resignation from Yahoo. It explains why, for example, Amazon would fail much faster with the same kind of chairman.

Lunch Talk: (Authors@Google) Lawrence Lessig

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig takes a clear-eyed look at how we arrived at this crisis: how fundamentally good people, with good intentions, have allowed our democracy to be co-opted by outside interests, and how this exploitation has become entrenched in the system. Rejecting simple labels and reductive logic-and instead using examples that resonate as powerfully on the Right as on the Left-Lessig seeks out the root causes of our situation. He plumbs the issues of campaign financing and corporate lobbying, revealing the human faces and follies that have allowed corruption to take such a foothold in our system.


tags: lunchtalk, innovation, control, law

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

notebook: bits and pieces.

1. "researchers showed in another 2009 study that the youngest firms (less than 5 years old) accounted for almost the entire net job creation in 1980-2005." (St. Luis Fed.)

2. Amazon  "has added a free version of Windows Server to the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service." (CNet.)

3. Blood test on mother detects fetus's sex at five weeks. (New Scientist.)

4. Apple sues Samsung in Germany over mobile patents. (VBeat.)

5. Apple got two patents issued on playlist-based streaming - US 8,099,476; 8,099,473. Both patents reference our 2002 invention, now US Patent 7,917,557.

6. UC Berkeley podcast for next week dog walks: American Economic History, by Brad DeLong.

7. Decline in electricity prices - another nail in the green energy coffin. (Bloomberg.)

Vodka vs Champagne

Bloomberg reports that a high-end NY restaurant now offers the all time favorite drink-and-chaser of Russian alcoholics.
... he serves a Caviar Martini made with a cube of pressed caviar in a glass of very, very cold Russian vodka with cucumber. “Men first order it and when the women taste it, they order one too.”
Of course, the good old treat - водка с огурцом - now has a new fancy name Caviar Martini. Folk drinks seem to follow the path of folk songs into the highest levels of society.

На здоровье!

Reinventing stock market for startups.

Turmoil in the financial industry and continuing woes of the European banking system reduce investors' appetite for risk.  As a result, demand for stocks in the US is falling, which in turn prompts companies flash with cash prop up their own shares with buybacks (see Bloomberg quote below). In the current investment climate, startups and VCs are in a poor position because successful IPOs are few and far between. 
SecondMarket wants to solve the problem by providing a stock exchange for shares in small private companies that can't make it to IPO (see VBeat quote below).

Jan. 17, 2012. Bloomberg -- Stocks are getting scarcer in the U.S. for the first time since the bull market began as companies cut share sales to the lowest level since 2006 and buy back equity at the fastest pace in four years.

Jan 17, 2012. VBeat -- ...a re-invention of the small-cap IPO that might be music to the ears of venture capital funds backing tech companies. It now takes an average of 10 years to get a company to IPO, and there are fewer and fewer going public below the $1 billion mark. SecondMarket aims to be a third-route venture backed startups could pursue for an exit if IPO and M&A don’t make sense.
“We want to create a market where anyone who is a 20 percent holder of a company with a valuation of $150 million or more can get liquidity on their investment within two years,” replied Silbert.
The good news for SecondMarket is that NASDAQ used the same strategy to build a thriving exchange for small caps beginning in 1971. Maybe it's not a coincidence that creation of NASDAQ happened in between two recessions 1969-1970 and 73-75, when small companies faced liquidity issues similar to the today's situation.

tags: finance, problem, solution, economics, 10X

Lunch Talk: (Chefs@Google) Momofuku Milk Bar.

Just as Momofuku was much more than a cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar also weaves a compelling narrative throughout, sharing the unlikely beginnings of this quirky bakery's success. Illustrated with 100 color photographs taken by the photographer of Momofuku, and a foreword by David Chang, Momofuku Milk Bar is sure to be this season's must-have cookbook.


tags: lunchtalk, business, health

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quote of the Day.

“Rubbish is rubbish, but the history of rubbish is scholarship.” - Burt Dreben.

quoted from The Evolution of Logic, by W.D.Hart. 2010.

tags: quote, science, history

Invention of the Day: Barbed Wire.

Railroads opened up the American West to farmers and entrepreneurs.  To secure their large newly acquired properties, prevent crops from being trampled by cattle, and for many other purposes, they needed a way to build cheap fences. The old method of erecting wooden fences didn't scale because wood was either not available on the prairie or too expensive to transport in large quantities. Simple wire fences, though cheap to build, didn't work either because they were too easy on trespassers, both people and cattle.

In 1873, J.F. Glidden invented the barbed wire fence, as we know today. According to his invention, the barbs on the wire fence didn't rotate around the wire itself, providing two-sided rigid thorns.

Ten years later, Edenborn and Griesche invented a barbed wire machine that greatly improved the efficiency of making the wire.

In the 20th century, barbed wire was extensively used by the military to create defensive positions.

I thank Paul Henderson, whose father was a barbed wire collector, for alerting me to this remarkable invention.

tags: invention, efficiency, problem, evolution, productivity, history

Lunch Talk: (TED) An alternative to pharma patents.

In this talk at TEDxCanberra 2011, ANU and Yale academic and ethicist, Professor Thomas Pogge outlines an idea that could revolutionise health outcomes and distribution of pharmaceuticals in both the developed and developing world.

Thomas Pogge is developing a complement to the patent system to stimulate pharmaceutical innovations that would be accessible, without delay, to poor and affluent patients alike around the world.

tags: health, patents, lunchtalk, problem


Top 10 pirated movies of all time.

The Hollywood Reporter has an article about Hollywood's key mistakes in defending SOPA. One of the mistakes is that the content industry has positioned itself as the enemy of innovation. The conflict about copyright is now framed as a Hollywood vs Silicon Valley, which the industry cannot win.

On piracy itself, here's how illegal downloads data looks like:

I'm surprised that the numbers are so small. For example, Avatar grossed $2.2B in sales worldwide. Even at a very generous estimate of lost revenue of $5 per download, the damage is about $100M - less than 5% of the total revenue. The software industry would consider this level of piracy as non-existent.

tags: content, innovation, intellectual, property, information, distribution, control

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Alcohol: Jewish Nature vs Russian Culture

The Nurture vs Nurture debate is usually centered around psychological and/or intelligence factors. For example, there's strong evidence that happiness, i.e. one's ability to be satisfied with his/her own life, is highly heritable.

Alcohol dependence seems to be another area where genes and culture collide.
Sept 16, 2002. BBC News -- Statistics suggest that Jews have fewer problems with alcohol than Caucasians in general. Previous studies have suggested that one in five Jews have this gene [ADH2] variation - higher than in a Caucasian population.

Among more recent immigrants from the Soviet Union, the protective effect was far less strong. They generally had a history of far heavier drinking.

Dr Hasin [Columbia University] said: "The study's findings suggest that the recent Russian immigrants' previous exposure to the heavy-drinking environment of Russian culture overcame the protective effects of the gene.
The culture appeared to be winning this particular battle. But as the result of massive Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, over last 50 years the number of Jews in Russia shrunk from 2.5 million to about 150 thousand. The genes had won the war.

tags: health, biology, medicine, culture

The fundamental flaw of the current patent system.

The fundamental flaw of the current patent system is that it assumes that invention is reductionist rather than holistic in nature.

The system works ok for pharma because reductionism is difficult to apply there. That is, chemical formula of a particular drug cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts. In other words, an H2O (water) molecule is not the sum of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen.  Rather, everybody "naturally" understands that water is a different substance. Therefore, if you have a patent on hydrogen you can't sue the inventor of water.

In information technologies reductionism rules. People think that iPhone is successful because it has the mutli-touch screen as its part. (This is due to the causal thinking bias explained in Kahneman's book.) The public discounts the fact that multi-touch was available before iPhone but was not successful commercially. iPhone made multi-touch a successful component because consumers want phones with a multi-touch screen.

Steve Jobs and his team created a new "water" - the iPhone - that is a totally different "substance" than its parts. But the patent system treats multi-touch and other technological pieces of iPhone as more important than the iPhone itself. Thus, we have patent wars where those who invented the new "water", those who stole it and added flavors, and those who knew how to make hydrogen, are treated the same.

Understanding this system-level flaw helps us (me) put together  good IP/invention strategies. At a certain point the bug becomes a feature.

tags: patents, system, synthesis

Lunch Talk: Modern Marvels - Stock Exchange

An episode from the History Channel series Modern Marvels - Stock Exchange.

Direct link.

tags: lunchtalk, economics

Great news for lazy people.

January 11, 2012. MTR -- Researchers have discovered a natural hormone that acts like exercise on muscle tissue—burning calories, improving insulin processing, and perhaps boosting strength. The scientists hope it could eventually be used as a treatment for obesity, diabetes, and, potentially, neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy.
Probably, it will be another 10 years before usefulness of this research for treating obesity becomes clear. In the meantime, all of us can start eating as much as we want and stop exercising completely ;) As Nobel Laureate Gary Becker had said, "We should consider the possibility of explaining the so-called obesity epidemic by people's belief that a cure for diabetes will soon become available."

tags: health, research, biology

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Google: Let's Do Some Evil!

VBeat complains about Google using its dominance in the search market to promote Google+. When Microsoft used a similar market dominance tactic to promote Office and other products on Windows, a lot of people in the developer community thought them to be evil. Now we see how corporate logic takes over good intentions on the Internet.
Jan 14, 2012. VBeat -- Google’s introduction of Google+ links into its search results is a big departure from the company’s previous more neutral approach to search, and it exposes the company to a huge risk.

By offering us only Google+ results, Google is forcing us to go outside of Google to find a fair representation for social results competitors like Facebook or Twitter. Those companies have larger usage, and therefore they have more relevant results.

Twitter is open, Facebook is semi-open, therefore, Google will be able to dominate search, including its social component. Will Facebook go the way Yahoo Maps went when Google started favoring its own mapping service? I don't think so. But the gloves are off in the social networking market. First, Google ripped off Facebook user interface, now they start favoring Google+ in search results. I won't be surprised if Android comes with Google+ as the default social option. Somehow they need to pay for this $12.5B Motorola acquisition. For all intents and purposes, Google is the new Microsoft.

Go 49ers!

tags: business, model, domination, commerce, platform, google, microsoft, social, networking

Online video – learning 24/7

Broadband creates new opportunities in the service economy. Music lessons are going virtual on Skype.
January 10, 2012. NYT -- Skype and other videochat programs have transformed the simple phone call, but the technology is venturing into a new frontier: it is upending and democratizing the world of music lessons.

Students who used to limit the pool of potential teachers to those within a 20-mile radius from their homes now take lessons from teachers — some with world-class credentials — on other coasts or continents.

Parents are also driving the shift to webcam music lessons. After Susan Patterson grew tired of taking her 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, 45 minutes each way for violin lessons, she e-mailed 15 violin teachers with Web sites.
What e-Bay did for physical goods, social video is going to do to services, including education.

¡Touchdown 49ers!

tags: commerce, service, social, distribution, business, information, education

Disastrous Invention: Paige typesetting machine.

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens, 1835 – 1910)  is best known as a writer. But he was also an inventor and entrepreneur. One of his ventures, an investment of about $300K in James W. Paige's typesetting machine, turned into a financial disaster that contributed to the author's bankruptcy in 1894.

Here's what Twain had to say about the personality of J.W.Paige:
"What a talker he is! He could persuade a fish to come out and take a walk with him. When he is present I always believe him; I can't help it. Paige and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms, and yet he knows perfectly well that if I had him in a steel trap I would shut out all human succor and watch that trap till he died." (NYT. October 1, 1940.

The idea behind the typesetting machine was create an electro-mechanical device that could eliminate the expensive and laborious task of setting newsprint. Eventually, the machine proved to be too complex and unreliable for the task. On the business side, disagreements about patent rights scared away potential investors and led to significant delays in implementation.
...the reason the Paige compositor was never manufactured was due to the fact that at this time Paige, who controlled the patents, refused to part with a sufficient interest to induce other capitalists to invest the large amount required to conduct the business successfully, and was not attributable to any mechanical failure or defect in the machine. In this way three years were lost. It was during these three years that Philip T. Dodge assumed control of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, and by a very successfully drawn contract with the newspapers and publishing houses, practically secured control of their composing rooms, and placed the Mergenthaler Company in a position to set the price at which the Paige machine could be marketed.

At the time, Paige's patent was probably the most voluminous in the US Patent Office history (59 pages). It took almost 13 years to prosecute it. In contrast, Edison's light bulb filament patent was granted in 3 months.

"One of the examiners died while the case was pending, another died insane, while the patent attorney who originally prepared the case also died in an insane asylum."
- John S. Thompson. History of Composing Machines.
The typesetter was worse than worthless because it ruined Twain's financially and destroyed his business reputation. Eventually, the machine and related patents were bought by a collector, reconstructed, and donated to Cornell University.

tags: patent, invention, business, model

Lunch Talk: (TED) How Youtube drives innovation.

TED's Chris Anderson says the rise of web video is driving a worldwide phenomenon he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation -- a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print. But to tap into its power, organizations will need to embrace radical openness. And for TED, it means the dawn of a whole new chapter ...


tags: lunchtalk, video, google, youtube, information, 10X

Friday, January 13, 2012

The dilemma of happy marriage beyond sex and companionship.

The last figure from Thinking Fast and Slow, by David Kahneman, shows that life satisfaction peaks at the time of marriage and then goes precipitously down.
Kahneman writes that on one hand, marriage creates life satisfaction because it provides access to regular enjoyable sex. On the other hand, it requires "more time for doing housework, preparing food, and caring for children."

This is a typical trade-off that falls apart over time as family and household commitments grow. Solutions? I think they are somewhat straightforward: babysitters, house help, and a network of friends outside of home. Since $75K a year seems to be the threshold for happiness money can buy, any money made above it would be best invested in household services.

Civilization according to Wikipedia

Russian Esquire put together an interactive time map showing people mentioned in Wikipedia. If you don't read Russian go to the site and press the Play button to watch civilization (as wiki knows it) expand.

The map reflects Wikipedia information about 582,234 people. Every dot represents a place in time where one of those people lived or died.
На карте учтены 582234 энциклопедические статьи «Википедии» о людях, содержащие указания на их годы жизни и место жительства. Каждая точка — это место, в котором жил и/или умер зафиксированный в энциклопедии человек.
tags: history, information

Lunch Talk: Biography - Al Capone.

With Boardwalk Empire nominated for 3 Golden Globes this year, I thought it would be appropriate to watch a video biography of Al Capone, a famous American gangster of the 1920s and 30s.

Direct link.

tags: lunchtalk, history

The random walk of a killer's mind.

M. V. Simkin and V. P. Roychowdhury analyzed behavior pattern of a serial killer who murdered 53 people over a period of 12 years.
We propose a model according to which the serial killer commits murders when neuronal excitation in his brain exceeds certain threshold. We model this neural activity as a branching process, which in turn is approximated by a random walk.

Neat. I wonder if you can model the mind of a serial inventor within the same model. Maybe Edison's diary can be a good data source.

tags: mind, brain, information, social, forecast

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quote of the day.

“The fewer the words, the better the prayer” 
- Martin Luther.

I thank Peter V. for bringing it to my attention.

notebook: bits and pieces.

1. Apple and Amazon are the best web/mobile retailers. Sears, Wal-mart, and Target are the worst.

2. Kodak sues Apple and HTC for patent infringement.

3. Book review: Creative Destruction of Medicine.

4. Profile of Peter C. Goldmark, inventor of the LP disk.

5. New power-saving technology for semi: How Deeply Depleted Channel Transistors work.

Learning while playing

Jan 12, 2012. VBeat -- Ryan Carson, the web design guru behind Carsonified, wants to teach you how to code. And he says he can do it in just five minutes using a web-based game. “We’re doing $2 million [annually] in revenue,” he says. “We’re profitable, and we’re increasing revenue by a million dollars every three months.”
Players can race each other to finish coding challenges, and along they way, they unlock rewards.
Code Racer comes from Treehouse, Carson’s code-and-design-focused startup. Treehouse lets visitors watch videos and learn basic web skills. The more you learn, the more badges you can unlock — and some badges, like the Advanced Node.js badge or the Rails Foundations badge, can earn you interviews with companies like Facebook and WordPress. 

This combination of short-term rewards (game prizes) with long-term goals (a job interview at a high profile company) is a very powerful idea. Can be a template for a real breakthrough.

tags: education, problem, solution, information, psychology

Lunch Talk: The meaning of innovation (@GoogleTalks)

Through his experiences as president of the US's leading art and design college, Maeda argues that the critical thinking, critical making and creative leadership which is embodied at RISD can lead us to an enlightened form of innovation where art, design, technology, and business meet. He shares lessons from his journey as an artist-technologist-professor turned president to reveal a new model of leadership for the next generation of leaders.

tags: lunchtalk, innovation, art, technology, creativity

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Never ever ever forget to have your dessert!

Patients who experienced an objectively short period of pain (left chart) remembered it as a more painful than the long period of pain (right chart).

This and other psychological experiments show that we remember intensity of experience and forget its duration. But when we plan our experiences we prefer it the other way around. As Kahneman puts it:
The evidence provides a profound challenge to the idea that humans have consistent preferences and know how to maximize them. An inconsistency is built into the design of our minds. We want pain to be brief and pleasure to last. But our memory ... has evolved to represent the most intense moment of an episode of pain or pleasure (the peak) and the feeling when the episode was at its end. [Thinking Fast and Slow.]

Some thoughts related to this bias:

1. Can explain "The flash of genius" effect when people remember suddenly "seeing" THE solution to a difficult problem. All previous and subsequent efforts to solve the problem are forgotten. The memory of being a genius has nothing to do with the solution's quality.

2. Short vacations with a peak experiences at the very end will be remembered the best.

3. Taking a lot of pictures during vacations and going over them will create a better memory. Facebook timeline can help too.

4. It is possible to plan a painful experience so that it inflicts the least psychological damage.

5. Desserts are the most important part of any dinner!

Amazon joins the UV cloud.

Storing content in the Internet cloud makes a lot of sense both for consumers and service providers because it allows for access to content from any connected device. Of course, the problem is that there's no cloud. That is, there's no ubiquitous content storage available to consumers independently from service providers. Therefore, cloud content is tied to your content provider; switching the provider means losing the content.
UV, a new video and digital rights format proposed by a consortium of IT, CE, movie studios, and service providers, promises to solve the problem. Amazon seems to be joining the group:
January 10, 2012. CNET -- ... today, Bill Carr, Amazon's executive vice president of digital, said during a panel discussion at CES, that the merchant had signed a deal with one of the major film studios to support UV rights.
Why this transition is potentially important?