Time to Improve on Accidental Science

June 17 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 12 Hot

In the past, many scientific discoveries and technological solutions have come from a non related source of information. From Archimedes’ realisation in the bath, to the accidental discovery of penicillin, history is full of occasions where going outside the subject in question has provided answers to scientific problems. When you really think about it, in many ways humankind, technology, and scientific understanding have been propelled forward, significantly, by luck alone.

Many great individuals have been personally responsible for some of the most important discoveries of all time. Often, their discoveries were the result of sharing information with a friend or colleague from another field, who was able to introduce a new angle to the problem, opening up the eyes of both parties to new possibilities. Or, someone will change their field, bringing knowledge and experience from a previous career into the new subject and then approaching problems from a unique perspective. Today’s prime example of this is Aubrey DeGrey’s computing background giving a new perspective to the concept of aging.

Many major breakthroughs have been created this way, by going outside the realms of the problem itself, drawing upon the knowledge of something else to find a solution. It’s often something that is not done purposefully, so, more often than not, it doesn’t happen. Chemists might plug away at a problem for years, not realising that the answer lies in zoology. The solutions to nanotechnology might lie in quantum physics, or perhaps just mathematics. There are so many possible avenues that perhaps there are problems that we will never solve, due to us never taking the correct path to their discovery.

This is obviously not acceptable. Relying on chance meetings of elites from different fields coming up with solutions will likely keep human progress to the speed of the 1800s, whilst working on problems for which solutions already exist is a ridiculous waste of time, especially if you want to stay ahead of Actuarial Escape Velocity. Thankfully, the internet brings a lot of information together and keeps the relevant people informed on progress. With the advent of huge, web based amateur communities and special interest groups, much news and information is shared amongst those with common goals, helping the spread of information. (cont.)

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The Future of Ideas: Embracing Redundancy, Maximizing Social Progress

May 21 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Government   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

Mike Masnick at Tech Dirt has a great piece up about the concept of idea redundancy in which he responds to a conflicted Malcom Gladwell article that praises Nathan Mhyrvold idea-tank company Intellectual Ventures, which makes money by conceiving and patenting hundreds of ideas, while at the same time noting that ideas are likely to pop up simultaneously in different brains.

Whereas Gladwell writes that, “Good ideas are out there for anyone with the wit and the will to find them, which is how a group of people can sit down to dinner, put their minds to it, and end up with eight single-spaced pages of ideas,” Masnick critiques that “if these ideas are the natural progression, almost guaranteed to be discovered by someone sooner or later, why do we give a monopoly on these ideas to a single discoverer?”

Being a bit of an idea junkie myself, I have often contemplated the notions of idea formation, attribution, ownership and profitability, both from an individual and social context. Fundamentally, I agree with Masnick’s argument that “in giving monopoly rights to Myhrvold and his friends [in addition to gigantic corporate actors, universities and other patent trolls], we make it much more difficult for others (even those who discovered the same things totally independently) to help actually make them useful.” That being said, I also realize that the patent system that we currently have was and is needed to protect the rights of inventors and encourages many people to invest time into the innovation of concepts.

From a broader systems context, it seems to me we should be striving to find the “sweet spot” for social progress. This entails using the most cost-effective means to most accurately attribute ideas to their rightful creators (whether those be multiple individuals, social groups, long historical chains thinkers, or even biological systems themselves), while ensuring that they benefit us in the short-term and long-term through 1) their execution and diffusion, and 2) by profiting the creators appropriately to raise their standard of living and encourage additional innovation directly at the source. (cont.)

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Living Longer - A World of Wisdom?

August 14 2008 / by StuartDobson / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Crossposted on Super Concepts

Any race that cures death will end up with a very old, wise and experienced society. Who knows what sort of implications this could have on their world.

The implications of more time alone would dramatically enhance one’s ability to contribute. For example, time to specialise in many fields would bring about more knowledgeable scientists, more skillful musicians and sports people, and more flexible artists. Centuries of honing and refinement would give birth to unseen talent. Throw wisdom into the mix too and you have yourself an extremely enlightened society, making today’s most gifted look like incapable children.

Imagine an artist who masters psychology, quantum physics and child care, and is able to integrate it into their art in a way never before achieved, using skills refined over millennia. The boundaries of magnificence would continue to be pushed to extraordinary levels. This is a world of wonder the likes of which we have never seen.

With vast and varied knowledge, many would be able to integrate obscure connections in their knowledge, much like I was talking about in my blog Time to Improve on Accidental Science. New discoveries and solutions would be found at an ever increasing rate as more and more people learnt to see relationships between seemingly unrelated concepts.

High efficiency achieved by centuries of practice and trial and error would lead to yet another boom, in productivity. Prices would drop and profits would soar, further speeding up the eradication of poverty.

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The Future of Collaboration Begins with Visualizing Human Capital

November 10 2009 / by VenessaMiemis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Business & Work   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

visualizing human capitalHow can the power and scope of social networks, combined with human capital metrics, be used to facilitate shared creation and innovation?

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The Future of Intellectual Attribution: Quantifying the Massive Idea Sea Requires Convergence

October 22 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Education   Year: 2018   Rating: 1

Intellectual attribution is far from perfect, but as we systematically quantify the nature of the vast Idea Sea in which we swim, we will also create a more effective and equitable market for new innovations.

Last week a pair of Nobel Prize winning scientists conceded that much of their research had been based on an earlier study by a geneticist who now drives a shuttle for $8/hour just to keep food on the table, but of course didn’t go so far as to offer him a share of the $1.5 million prize they’d been awarded. This example clearly brings into focus the limits of our current idea attribution economy, a system that clearly isn’t encouraging a Nobel-caliber scientist to continue innovating for broader social benefit.

But rather than jump on the IP- and patent-bashing bandwagon as many bloggers tend to do, I’d like to explore how our idea attribution system might evolve over the coming decade.

First, let me be clear about my definition of the term “idea”. Ideas can more specifically be broken down into memes – “ideas or behaviors that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation”, memeplexes – “groups of religious, cultural, political, and idealogical doctrines and systems”, and temes – “information copied by books, phones, computers and the Internet”. These structures co-evolve with humans to ultimately form a massive sea of what we commonly refer to as ideas. Though individuals often combine memes into valuable new memeplexes, no one person can ever truly claim total ownership of a concept that is essentially an outgrowth of the idea sea.

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