Innovation is the main event of the modern age, the reason we experience both dramatic improvements in our living standards and unsettling changes in our society. Forget short-term symptoms like Donald Trump and Brexit, it is innovation itself that explains them and that will itself shape the 21st century for good and ill. Yet innovation remains a mysterious process, poorly understood by policy makers and businessmen, hard to summon into existence to order, yet inevitable and inexorable when it does happen.
Matt Ridley argues in this book that we need to change the way we think about innovation, to see it as an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens to society as a direct result of the human habit of exchange, rather than an orderly, top-down process developing according to a plan. Innovation is crucially different from invention, because it is the turning of inventions into things of practical and affordable use to people. It speeds up in some sectors and slows down in others. It is always a collective, collaborative phenomenon, not a matter of lonely genius. It is gradual, serendipitous, recombinant, inexorable, contagious, experimental and unpredictable. It happens mainly in just a few parts of the world at any one time. It still cannot be modelled properly by economists, but it can easily be discouraged by politicians. Far from there being too much innovation, we may be on the brink of an innovation famine.
Ridley derives these and other lessons, not with abstract argument, but from telling the lively stories of scores of innovations, how they started and why they succeeded or in some cases failed. He goes back millions of years and leaps forward into the near future. Some of the innovation stories he tells are about steam engines, jet engines, search engines, airships, coffee, potatoes, vaping, vaccines, cuisine, antibiotics, mosquito nets, turbines, propellers, fertiliser, zero, computers, dogs, farming, fire, genetic engineering, gene editing, container shipping, railways, cars, safety rules, wheeled suitcases, mobile phones, corrugated iron, powered flight, chlorinated water, toilets, vacuum cleaners, shale gas, the telegraph, radio, social media, block chain, the sharing economy, artificial intelligence, fake bomb detectors, phantom games consoles, fraudulent blood tests, faddish diets, hyperloop tubes, herbicides, copyright and even―a biological innovation―life itself.
How long have you been working on your idea? Or looking for that next disruptive investment? Better still, how do you perfect your skill in doing all that? How do you lock-down your idea, your technology, your business or even your approach to investments? Consider this: the key stems from a very practical understanding how the abstract world (where disruptive innovations come from in the first place) actually works. Amazingly, it is something we were never accurately taught. Hard to believe right? But change that…and we change everything. So take a step into both the past and future. Come to a talk that will change the way you understand the world forever – something that will actually make you smarter. How cool would that be?
Winston is the founder of a discipline called Concept Modeling, which is at the root of all other disciplines – but don’t let the word “discipline” scare you. This talk will be very practical and may just be the key to your success going forward. He is the author of an award (Visionary Award) winning new book, Concerning the Nature and Structure of Concept. Reviewers have called his book (thus his work) “brimming with insights,” “intellectually fun,” “a startling fresh perspective on our world.” NY Times has called him “the guru of concept modeling.”
With past and present clients that include Warner Bros., Dreamworks, NBC/U, Interscope, Relativity and many others, Winston works on films, TV Shows, technologies, businesses and management models for executives. How cool is Bug Bunny? Very. With dozens of movies, technologies under his belt, his presentations are unique, insightful, informative, and yes, fun — he even concept modeled baseball. Love that! As Winston always says: “Let’s rock this thing!”
As featured in the New York Times, and Deadline.com, Winston is the creator and founder of Concept Modeling, and author of his coming award (Visionary Award) winning book, Concerning The Nature And Structure Of Concept. His concept modeling helps studios and companies perfect films, ideas, technologies, science or businesses. It is considered revolutionary (truly, no cliché) by more and more professionals. The NY Times called Winston the “guru of Concept Modeling.”
Based on a discovery made on Feb. 6, 1989, -- a massive eureka moment as described in his book-- Winston developed a unique practice of deconstructing ideas based on deep insights on how the abstract world actually works or doesn’t – his past and present clients include Warner Bros., Dreamworks, NBC/U, Interscope, Relativity and many others.
His work may just represent a revolutionary advancement that launches you and your successful idea or investment, right here, right now. As Winston is fond of saying: ‘Let’s rock this thing!”
The real value of a lot of this is in some of his examples. There are also some interesting thoughts for applying this to linguistics and early languages with smaller vocabularies compared to more developed modern languages with much larger vocabularies.
Ideas are infinite and free. Concepts are not. How can you get to the end of an idea?
Cup conceptually is a container.
Example of pictures of an airplane on the ground versus in the air. The picture of the airplane in the air is better because it contains the concept of what an airplane is.
Sir George Cayley cousin of mathematician Arthur Cayley
Negacept is a concept that defines its nature by the negation of another concept.
- Example: Superman and krpytonite
- Example: brakes on an automobile
Innovation is literally “into” and “new”
The softball is not based on a baseball, but is originally based on a boxing glove.
Concept is not obvious. It is not a structure or bigger idea, it’s not a strategy. Concept is abstract essence. It is nature, structure, activity and philosophy of abstract essence.
An idea is simply a possibility.
Revenge movie versus retaliation movie. Revenge takes time. Don’t take revenge. You can’t relate to movies unless there is a concept, and that is typically hope.
Words were originally based on concepts.
How do we come up with ideas? How do we make decisions? And how can we do both better? Steven Johnson has explored this question and written a dozen books about it. In this playful, thoughtful episode, Steven has some fascinating stories, like how Darwin made the decision to get married — or how a defecating duck helped lead to the invention of the computer. Through their own stories, Steven and Alan Alda share their thoughts about the transformative nature of ideas and what sort of environments best give rise to creativity.
The commercial about Alda Communication Training makes me wonder if they recommend scientists and communicators have their own websites? In particular, I’m even more curious because of Johnson’s mention of his commonplace book and how he uses it in this episode. I suspect that scientists having a variety of interconnecting commonplaces (via Webmention) using basic IndieWeb or A Domain of One’s Own principles could better create slow hunches, create more links, increase creativity and diversity, and foster greater innovation. I’ll have to follow up on this idea. While some may do something slightly like this within other parts of social media, I don’t get the impression that it’s as useful a tool in those places (isn’t as searchable or permanent feeling, and is likely rarely reviewed over). Being able to own your digital commonplace as a regular tool certainly has more value as Johnson describes. Functionality like On This Day dramatically increases its value.
But there’s another point that we should make more often, I think, which is that one of the most robust findings in the social sciences and psychology over the last 20 years is that diverse groups are just collectively smarter and more original in the way that they think in, in both their way of dreaming up new ideas, but also in making complicated decisions, that they avoid all the problems of group think and homogeneity that you get when you have a group of like minded people together who are just amplifying each other’s beliefs.—Steven Johnson [00:09:59]
Think about a big decision in your life. Think about the age span of the people you’re talking to about that choice. Are they all your peers within three or four years? Are you talking somebody who’s a generation older and a generation younger?—Steven Johnson [00:13:24]
I was talking to Ramzi Hajj yesterday about having mentors (with a clear emphasis on that mentor being specifically older) and this quote is the same sentiment, just with a slightly different emphasis.
One of the things that is most predictive of a species, including most famously, humans, of their capacity for innovation and problem solving as an adult is how much they play as a newborn or as a child.—Steven Johnson [00:28:10]
Play is important for problem solving.
I think you boil this all down into the idea that if you want to know what the next big thing is, look for where people are having fun.—Alan Alda [00:31:35]
This is interesting because I notice that one of the binding (and even physically stated) principles of the IndieWeb is to have fun. Unconsciously, it’s one of the reasons I’ve always thought that what the group is doing is so important.
Ha! Alda has also been watching Shtisel recently [00:50:04].
In writing almost 100 posts on innovation since 2007, it’s time to put the core observations together into a cohesive narrative. Here goes.
Innovation is fifteen different things to fifteen different people.
“An innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations.” —OECD
Bookmark: Some really interesting stuff. Food for thought…
‘I would like to conclude with this observation about the nature of creative knowledge work.
“Visualize the workflow of a physical job: produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce, produce.
Now visualize the workflow of a creative knowledge worker: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, flash of brilliance, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
—Jay Cross (1944-2015)
That flash of brilliance often comes from reflection. Creative work is not routine work done faster. It’s a whole different way of work, and a critical part is letting the brain do what it does best — come up with ideas. Without time for reflection, most of those innovative ideas will get buried in the detritus of modern workplace busyness.
“Innovation comes from slack. Slack comes from saying no. If you’re afraid of both, no startup bubble technique is going to help you.” —Cory Foy
As a species, human beings are barely more intelligent than kindergarten kids. We revel at our place at the top of the food chain, and praise our technological ingenuity but, let’s face it, we’ve barely begun to work life out. We’ve created one directional extractive systems that undermine our own life support systems, like kindergarten …
The secret is in the grooves
Companies and apps constantly ask for ratings, but all that data may just be noise in the system.
Your vision can be a raging fire that might change the world. But you can't have a fire without a spark that takes hold. So, I learned not to let go of that vision, but to take my head out of the clouds and bring myself down to earth. It's easy to have a big, romantic notion; it's much harder to put the actual nuts and bolts together to get a real venture off the ground. To do that effectively, you have to find: the real people you want to serve, get to know them personally and gain really unique insights about their needs, and then build the smallest possible thing that will meet those needs.
Has the Everything Store become a dangerous monopoly threatening the U.S. economy?
Some time later this year, Amazon could become the first trillion-dollar company in American history. Its valuation has already doubled in the last 14 months to about $800 billion, and Jeff Bezos, its founder and CEO, is officially the richest man on the planet.
There are ways in which Amazon seems to be the greatest company in American history. It’s revolutionized the global shopping experience and expanded into media and hardware, while operating on razor-thin margins that have astonished critics. But some now consider it the modern incarnation of a railroad monopoly, a logistics behemoth using its scale to destroy competition.
So what is Amazon: brilliant, dangerous, or both? That’s the subject of the latest episode of Crazy/Genius, our new podcast on technology and culture.
To build the case for breaking up the Everything Store, I talk to Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at NYU and an outspoken critic of big tech, and Lina Khan, a researcher at the Open Markets Institute and a leading expert on antitrust policy. Both of them encourage me to see how a company famous for low prices can still behave in an anticompetitive manner. Making the case against heavy regulation for Amazon are Rob Atkinson, the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech think tank, and Michael Mandel, an economist with the Progressive Policy Institute who researches technology and e-commerce. Both encourage me to focus not only on the hidden costs of Amazon’s largeness, but also on the hidden benefits.
A year ago, the richest man in the world asked Twitter for suggestions on how he should most efficiently and charitably spend his wealth. And today, Jeff Bezos unveiled a few details about his plan...
Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen has said that half of all colleges will go bankrupt. The problem is, there's no evidence that's true. Only the supposedly innovative, disruptive for-profit ones are going under.
IN WATCHING the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. If Mr. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.
And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.
August 29, 2018 at 09:37AM
Building on this, could we create a list of governments and empires and rank them in order of the length of their spans? There may be subtleties in changes of regimes in some eras, but generally things are probably reasonably well laid out. I wonder if the length of life of particular governments follows a power law? One would suspect it might. ❧
August 29, 2018 at 09:43AM
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism. ❧
August 29, 2018 at 08:53AM
What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. ❧
What if, in fact, we’ve only just found a local maximum? What if in the changing landscape there are other places we could potentially get to competitively that supply greater maxima? And possibly worse, what if we need to lose value to get from here to unlock even more value there?
August 29, 2018 at 08:56AM
Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious. ❧
and probably not a bad outcome in an earlier era that thought of things in terms of clockwork and lacked the ideas of quantum theory and its attendant uncertainties.
August 29, 2018 at 08:59AM
Believing that there was no more work for philosophers as well, since Hegel (correctly understood) had already achieved absolute knowledge, Kojève left teaching after the war and spent the remainder of his life working as a bureaucrat in the European Economic Community, until his death in 1968. ❧
This is depressing on so many levels.
August 29, 2018 at 09:05AM
Paul Kennedy’s hugely successful “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”, which ascribes the decline of great powers to simple economic overextension. ❧
Curious how this may relate to the more recent “The End of Power” by Moisés Naím. It doesn’t escape one that the title of the book somewhat echoes the title of this particular essay.
August 29, 2018 at 09:18AM
But whether a highly productive modern industrial society chooses to spend 3 or 7 percent of its GNP on defense rather than consumption is entirely a matter of that society’s political priorities, which are in turn determined in the realm of consciousness. ❧
It’s not so much the percentage on produced defense goods, but how quickly could a society ramp up production of goods, services, and people to defend itself compared to the militaries of its potential aggressors.
In particular, most of the effort should go to the innovation side of war materiel. The innovation of the atomic bomb is a particularly nice example in that as a result of conceptualizing and then executing on it it allowed the US to win the war in the Pacific and hasten the end of war in Europe. Even if we otherwise had massive stockpiles of people or other weapons, our enemies could potentially have equaled them and dragged the war on interminably. It was the unknown unknown via innovation that unseated Japan and could potentially do the same to us based on innovation coming out of almost any country in the modern age.
August 29, 2018 at 09:24AM
Weber notes that according to any economic theory that posited man as a rational profit-maximizer, raising the piece-work rate should increase labor productivity. But in fact, in many traditional peasant communities, raising the piece-work rate actually had the opposite effect of lowering labor productivity: at the higher rate, a peasant accustomed to earning two and one-half marks per day found he could earn the same amount by working less, and did so because he valued leisure more than income. The choices of leisure over income, or of the militaristic life of the Spartan hoplite over the wealth of the Athenian trader, or even the ascetic life of the early capitalist entrepreneur over that of a traditional leisured aristocrat, cannot possibly be explained by the impersonal working of material forces, ❧
Science could learn something from this. Science is too far focused on the idealized positive outcomes that it isn’t paying attention to the negative outcomes and using that to better define its outline or overall shape. We need to define a scientific opportunity cost and apply it to the negative side of research to better understand and define what we’re searching for.
Of course, how can we define a new scientific method (or amend/extend it) to better take into account negative results–particularly in an age when so many results aren’t even reproducible?
August 29, 2018 at 09:32AM
FAILURE to understand that the roots of economic behavior lie in the realm of consciousness and culture leads to the common mistake of attributing material causes to phenomena that are essentially ideal in nature. ❧
August 29, 2018 at 09:44AM
“Protestant” life of wealth and risk over the “Catholic” path of poverty and security. ❧
Is this simply a restatement of the idea that most of “the interesting things” happen at the border or edge of chaos? The Catholic ethic is firmly inside the stable arena while that of the Protestant ethic is pushing the boundaries.
August 29, 2018 at 09:47AM
Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world. ❧
This presupposes that homeostasis could ever be achieved.
One thinks of phrases like “The future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” But everything we know about systems and evolving systems often indicates that homeostasis isn’t necessarily a good thing. In many cases, it means eventual “death” instead of evolving towards a longer term lifespan. Again, here Kauffmann’s ideas about co-evolving systems and evolving landscapes may provide some guidance. What if we’re just at a temporary local maximum, but changes in the landscape modify that fact? What then? Shouldn’t we be looking for other potential distant maxima as well?
August 29, 2018 at 09:52AM
But that state of consciousness that permits the growth of liberalism seems to stabilize in the way one would expect at the end of history if it is underwritten by the abundance of a modern free market economy. ❧
Writers spend an awful lot of time focused too carefully on the free market economy, but don’t acknowledge a lot of the major benefits of the non-free market parts which are undertaken and executed often by governments and regulatory environments. (Hacker & Pierson, 2016)
\August 29, 2018 at 10:02AM
Are there, in other words, any fundamental “contradictions” in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure? ❧
Churchill famously said “…democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…”
Even within this quote it is implicit that there are many others. In some sense he’s admitting that we might possibly be at a local maximum but we’ve just not explored the spaces beyond the adjacent possible.
August 29, 2018 at 10:08AM
For our purposes, it matters very little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso, for we are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage of mankind. ❧
While this seems solid on it’s face, we don’t know what the future landscape will look like. What if climate change brings about massive destruction of homo sapiens? We need to be careful about how and why we explore both the adjacent possible as well as the distant possible. One day we may need them and our current local maximum may not serve us well.
August 29, 2018 at 10:10AM
I feel like this word captures very well the exact era of Trumpian Republicanism in which we find ourselves living.
August 29, 2018 at 10:37AM
After the war, it seemed to most people that German fascism as well as its other European and Asian variants were bound to self-destruct. There was no material reason why new fascist movements could not have sprung up again after the war in other locales, but for the fact that expansionist ultranationalism, with its promise of unending conflict leading to disastrous military defeat, had completely lost its appeal. The ruins of the Reich chancellery as well as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed this ideology on the level of consciousness as well as materially, and all of the pro-fascist movements spawned by the German and Japanese examples like the Peronist movement in Argentina or Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army withered after the war. ❧
And yet somehow we see these movements anew in America and around the world. What is the difference between then and now?
August 29, 2018 at 11:46AM
This is not to say that there are not rich people and poor people in the United States, or that the gap between them has not grown in recent years. But the root causes of economic inequality do not have to do with the underlying legal and social structure of our society, which remains fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist, so much as with the cultural and social characteristics of the groups that make it up, which are in turn the historical legacy of premodern conditions. ❧
August 29, 2018 at 11:47AM
But those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies. ❧
and then there are the millennials…
August 29, 2018 at 11:51AM
Beginning with the famous third plenum of the Tenth Central Committee in 1978, the Chinese Communist party set about decollectivizing agriculture for the 800 million Chinese who still lived in the countryside. The role of the state in agriculture was reduced to that of a tax collector, while production of consumer goods was sharply increased in order to give peasants a taste of the universal homogenous state and thereby an incentive to work. The reform doubled Chinese grain output in only five years, and in the process created for Deng Xiaoping a solid political base from which he was able to extend the reform to other parts of the economy. Economic Statistics do not begin to describe the dynamism, initiative, and openness evident in China since the reform began. ❧
August 29, 2018 at 11:58AM
At present, no more than 20 percent of its economy has been marketized, and most importantly it continues to be ruled by a self-appointed Communist party which has given no hint of wanting to devolve power. ❧
If Facebook were to continue to evolve at it’s current rate and with it’s potential power as well as political influence, I could see it attempting to work the way China does in a new political regime.
August 29, 2018 at 12:04PM
IF WE ADMIT for the moment that the fascist and communist challenges to liberalism are dead, are there any other ideological competitors left? Or put another way, are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable? Two possibilities suggest themselves, those of religion and nationalism. ❧
August 29, 2018 at 12:19PM
This school in effect applies a Hobbesian view of politics to international relations, and assumes that aggression and insecurity are universal characteristics of human societies rather than the product of specific historical circumstances. ❧
August 29, 2018 at 12:30PM
But whatever the particular ideological basis, every “developed” country believed in the acceptability of higher civilizations ruling lower ones ❧
August 29, 2018 at 12:37PM
Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again. ❧
Has it started again with nationalism, racism, and Trump?
August 29, 2018 at 12:48PM
Conventional antitrust thinking is being disrupted from within
It is not the data that are valuable, he says, but the services powered by them. Some firms are just better at developing new offerings than others. ❧
So big piles of data can become a barrier to competitors entering the market, says Maurice Stucke of the University of Tennessee. ❧
“When feedback data from large players is available to smaller competitors, then innovation…is not concentrated at the top,” he argues in “Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data”, a new book co-written with Thomas Ramge, a journalist. ❧
This sounds like something which could be worth reading.
Michael Nielsen is one of the pioneers of quantum computation. Together with Ike Chuang of MIT, he wrote the standard text in the field, a text which is now one of the twenty most highly cited physics books of all time. He is the author of more than fifty scientific papers, including invited contributions to Nature and Scientific American. His research contributions include involvement in one of the first quantum teleportation experiments, named as one of Science Magazine's Top Ten Breakthroughs of the Year for 1998. Michael was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of New Mexico, and has worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as the Richard Chace Tolman Prize Fellow at Caltech, as Foundation Professor of Quantum Information Science at the University of Queensland, and as a Senior Faculty Member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Michael left academia to write a book about open science, and the radical change that online tools are causing in the way scientific discoveries are made.
I can easily see open web technology like the Webmention spec opening up online scientific communication and citations drastically even to the point of quickly replacing tools like Altmetric. If major publishing wants something to do perhaps they could work on the archiving and aggregation portions?
What if one could publish a research paper or journal article on one’s own (or one’s lab’s) website? It could receive data via webmention about others who are bookmarking it, reading it, highlighting and annotating it. It could also accept webmention replies as part of a greater peer-review process–the equivalent of the researcher hosting their own pre-print server as well as their own personal journal and open lab notebook.
We need to help empower scientists to be the center of their own writing and publishing. For those interested, this might be a useful starting point: https://indieweb.org/Indieweb_for_Education
One of Michael Jackson's most spectacular dance moves is not biomechanically feasible without the special prop he invented, say neurosurgeons.