Category Archives: Expert

IDEO Design Kit

Source: IDEO website, Oct 2014

IDEO Design Kit

5 Lessons from the Digital Revolution

Source: Vanity Fair, Oct 2014

  1. Connect art and science.
    “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Steve Jobs told me when I embarked on his biography. “Then I read something . . . about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” It made him the most successful innovator of our time.
    … in the combining of arts and technology, the role of humans would be to supply creativity and imagination.
  2. Creativity comes from collaboration.
    most innovations of the Digital Age were done collaboratively.
  3. Collaboration works best in person.
  4. Vision without execution is hallucination.

  5. Man is a social animal.
    Almost every digital tool, whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans to create communities, facilitate communication, share things, and enable social networking.

 

Human-Machine Symbiosis

Source:  Gizmod0, Oct 2014

the narrative of my book is that instead of pursuing the mirage of artificial intelligence, in which machines will think without us, what’s been particularly successful and will be in the future is making even more intimate connections between ourselves and our machines—having them much more embedded into our lives.

Q: Alan Turing is a fascinating figure. But in your discussion of AI you point to the limits of viewing computing as akin to human thinking. You’re more sympathetic to augmented intelligence, of using powerful machines as collaborators to human creativity. Why is that?

WI: When you look at the history of the past 50 years, the leaps have come from forging more intimate connections between humans and machines, rather than creating machines that don’t benefit from the connection of human creativity. So the concept that we’re about to reach a singularity where machines will be able to do things without us doesn’t seem to follow the data points we have of the past 50 years.

I do believe that economic inequality and a lack of economic opportunity for much of our society is the political, economic, and moral issue of our time.

I wouldn’t blame the app economy or the sharing economy for either causing this problem nor solving this problem. But I think if we dedicate ourselves as a society to making sure that digital tools are used to produce economic opportunity for everybody and a shared prosperity for everybody, that would be great for the whole economy and more importantly it would be the moral thing to do.

Q: What should we take away from the history of the digital age?

WI: America is still the most fertile ground for innovation because we have rebellious and curious people. We have an entrepreneurial spirit, a tolerance for risk and failure. However, there are some things we should pay attention to. One is making sure that everybody gets included in this revolution, including people born in less privileged zip codes and including women.

It’s very important that we use our technology to improve the educational opportunities for all, rather than focusing only on apps that, you know, crowdsource the ratings of restaurants.

That’s not something government can force. I think it’s what we all do as a society ever since the days of Benjamin Franklin. To use his words: “How can we do well by doing good?” I think the next phase of the digital revolution can be more inclusive. I hope.

Additional Resources:

Washington Post, Oct 2014

Isaacson instead eyes the future of collaborative creativity with a clarion call for “poetical science.” He champions the merger of art and technology at the heart of the most successful innovators, from Lovelace to Jobs. “The Innovators,” he writes, is a story of the progress of human-computer symbiosis, not artificial intelligence. Its next phase “will bring even more new methods of marrying technology with . . . media, fashion, music, entertainment, education, literature, and the arts.” Indeed, the world’s universities (including my own) are fast at work building infrastructure to instill a “rebellious sense of wonder” in students lest they and the institutions that train them become historical “bystanders.”

 

What will bring about these poetical innovators? A diverse ecosystem is vital; timing matters; you need venture capital; and a functioning government; big ideas develop across generations; it helps if your mother is a mathematician; war is an engine of change; you never know whom you’ll meet on a train platform; childhood books shape us profoundly; and on and on. But digital geeks scouring their Kindles for insight in this latter-day “Lives” also will find that a basic secret endures — conviction that the best of all possible worlds is limited only by imagination.

 Simon and Schuster website, Oct 2014

I also became interested in how the quest for artificial intelligence—machines that think on their own—has consistently proved less fruitful than creating ways to forge a partnership or symbiosis between people and machines. In other words, the collaborative creativity that marked the digital age included collaboration between humans and machines.

Walter Isaacson’s Pearls of Wisdom

Source: Louisiana Cultural Vistas website, date indeterminate

I have been interested in creative people. By creative people I don’t mean those who are merely smart. As a journalist, I discovered that there are a lot of smart people in this world. Indeed, they are a dime a dozen, and often they don’t amount to much.

What makes someone special is imagination or creativity, the ability to make a mental leap and see things differently. As Einstein noted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

… another lesson that is useful when travelling in the realms of gold: that poking fun of the pretensions of the elite is more edifying than imitating them.

“The Innovators”: Walter Isaascson

Source: S&S website, Oct 2014

The computer and the Internet are among the most important inventions of our era, …  most of the innovations of the digital age were done collaboratively. There were a lot of fascinating people involved, some ingenious and a few even geniuses. This is the story of these pioneers, hackers, inventors, and entrepreneurs—who they were, how their minds worked, and what made them so creative. It’s also a narrative of how they collaborated and why their ability to work as teams made them even more creative.

The tale of their teamwork is important because we don’t often focus on how central that skill is to innovation. … we have far fewer tales of collaborative creativity, which is actually more important in understanding how today’s technology revolution was fashioned. It can also be more interesting.

  • How did the most imaginative innovators of our time turn disruptive ideas into realities?
  • What ingredients produced their creative leaps?
  • What skills proved most useful? How did they lead and collaborate?
  • Why did some succeed and others fail?

I also explore the social and cultural forces that provide the atmosphere for innovation. For the birth of the digital age, this included a research ecosystem that was nurtured by government spending and managed by a military-industrial-academic collaboration. Intersecting with that was a loose alliance of community organizers, communal-minded hippies, do-it-yourself hobbyists, and homebrew hackers, most of whom were suspicious of centralized authority.

The collaboration that created the digital age was not just among peers but also between generations. Ideas were handed off from one cohort of innovators to the next.
Another theme that emerged from my research was that users repeatedly commandeered digital innovations to create communications and social networking tools. I also became interested in how the quest for artificial intelligence—machines that think on their own—has consistently proved less fruitful than creating ways to forge a partnership or symbiosis between people and machines. In other words, the collaborative creativity that marked the digital age included collaboration between humans and machines.

Finally, I was struck by how the truest creativity of the digital age came from those who were able to connect the arts and sciences. They believed that beauty mattered. “I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” Jobs told me when I embarked on his biography. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” The people who were comfortable at this humanities-technology intersection helped to create the human-machine symbiosis that is at the core of this story.

Hyper-Specialization can Reduce Innovation

Source: Creativity Post, Sep 2014

“Nowadays, people are all in their separate silos and are so specialized that it’s hard to understand what anybody else is doing.” -Sir Tim Hunt, Winner of Nobel Prize for Medicine 2001.
Cross-fertilisation of ideas within science is hugely important for innovation.  The problem is, the more specialised we become, the more disconnected we become with other scientists outside our field.

 “I’ve tried to read and follow climate science in general, but I can’t.” Peter told me  “The field is written in a completely different, alien language to us in immunology” he continued.  “Now talk to me in plain language about the research please” he asked.

The language and transfer of knowledge needs an entirely new medium.  Something in-between the complexity, jargon and details so others can follow. Abstracts (those few hundred words at the start of a scientific publication), used to help scientists understand what the take-home message is for a piece of work.  
But nowadays, they are simply mini versions of complex, jargon-filled language that anyone beyond their own specialisation would have no idea how to understand.
Specialising is important, but only if it allows the time and understanding of other ideas from other areas of life and science.  Serendipitous connections and the evolution of ground-breaking innovation can only come about if someone understands what has been done, why it’s innovative or why it failed. If the efficiency of the internet only feeds what you know, how on earth are any of us exposed to what we dont know?

Google ATAP

Source: Fortune, Aug 2014

What, he wondered, did Dugan—whose job had been to nurture DARPA’s decades-long streak of breakthroughs—think? “It’s a great strategy for not losing and a lousy strategy for winning,” she answered. A week later the Motorola innovation gig was hers.

DARPA, which has consistently opened new scientific doors as it delivered useful products—and that’s exactly what ATAP is trying to do at Google. “The question is how you have an enclave that produces a string of breakthrough advances time after time,” Dugan says.

… what’s the ATAP playbook? It starts with identifying a project that demands a quantum leap in both scientific understanding and engineering capability to pull off (more on that soon). Once that is done, Dugan works to assemble a core team of experts at Google. But that team quickly casts a much wider net, tapping what are often a huge number of outside collaborators from across a mix of disciplines in industry and academia. That allows ATAP, with a staff of just 75 full-time members, to be far smaller and scrappier than traditional research labs.

Today things are moving so fast that a diversity of skills and of points of view matters,” says John Sealy Brown, who once headed the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, one of the most prestigious and innovative industry research organizations. “Often you need to have a multitude of disciplines brought together quickly.”