Category Archives: Innovation

Trying to Bring the Message Home

I have had my say about politics for now, at least I doubt I will be saying anything new; although, I will, of course, be fighting the good fight, since nothing is decided and the two dueling budgets will be going head to head (a metaphor for our two political parties). Sadly, the budget is not just a metaphor. It will drive our future and our American story.

 Will we continue to kowtow to the wealthy and corporations. Corporations used to be our partners in the American success story, but now see most of us as burdens they carry in huge canvas sacks over their shoulders; now that they have escaped our insistence that they find ways to keep a clean environment. The American people are not burdens, however. Our spirits are strong even if our pocketbooks are temporarily empty. So perhaps, instead of passing laws that make the wealthy richer, this time we will pass laws which offer those of us who are not wealthy a hand up.

We need to feel that we can still progress as a nation, especially in updating our schools, our infrastructure, and our energy sources. We need to trust that our safety net, which we paid for, will not be yanked from under us at least until the American economy has re-invented itself, righted itself, and is ticking along to produce satisfying lives for Americans. Maybe we don’t have to live as if progress means only more, more, more and up, up, up. Maybe we can kick back in our American way and let inspiration have its way with us.

Maybe for a while we can just live and tweak the things that need tweaking. How can we hope to shut out all the noise of those who are trying to prod us back onto a production line that is going nowhere right now? How can we hope to listen to our muses and tinker with the future if there are those who wish to turn us loose to do that struggling our forefathers already did, because they think a hardscrabble life will be what transforms America as if did once before? This is not 1890. Why would we want to give up all the ground we have gained as a society and go back and wrestle in the dirt? Is there any proof that this would produce the innovations we need? We can’t recreate the conditions that pertained when Henry Ford and the Rockefellers did their thing and assume that this old cauldron would nurture a new fire.

I have been very clear about this. Don’t dump us into the dust and dirt of the last century. We are already near the bottom, despite our puny safety net; stuck in the cul de sacs and the “projects” here at the turn of the 20th century. We don’t need to move backwards. We don’t need to shred the safety net. We need a carrot, a prize to chase. We need to feel valued rather than redundant and we need training. We need jobs, or we need patrons. There are people in America today who are as creative as any people who lived here two centuries ago. Scrap that Republican budget and give the people the budget they voted for and I bet you will see plenty of growth. OK, I guess I did have something to say, but it is just beating the drum with the same message hoping someone responds to the beat. So pass that Senate version of the budget and get on with it please. We have lives to live Cha-Cha!

This is the view from the cheap seats.

On the Edge of an Innovation Revolution

Peter Diamandis, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the  X Prize Foundation, tells us about eight technologies that are at tipping points in an enlightening article that summarizes a talk he gave at the CIO Network conference. The article An Explosion in Innovation which appeared in the Wall Street Journalon Tuesday, January 22, 2013 (B14) explains that the X Prize Foundation “designs and launches large prizes to drive radical breakthroughs for humanity.”

Peter Diamandis explains why he believes we are at this tipping point. He tells us that while we see about 2 billion people on-line in 2010, we will find 5 billion people on-line by 2020. That says Diamandis is “3 billion new minds”. “I think it’s going to be driving tens of trillions of dollars in the global economy…Add artificial intelligence on top of that, and we’re going to start seeing a rate of innovation that will scare all of us.” (Yikes!)

Here are the 8 technologies: (Of course, I don’t know what half of this means, but someone does.)

1.       Biotechnology – “Synthetic biology, in particular when you start to think of life as programming language.” He mentions Craig Venter who increased the efficiency of photosynthesis by 300% and he wants us to think of the implications for food production.

2.       Computational Systems – work in this area will give us “the ability to model anything” – you will be able to hire 100, 1000 computers for a minute, an hour, a day and begin to model things.

3.       Networks and Sensors – “will offer huge amounts of data” and “if we know the right questions we can ‘mine’ the data.” The Foundation wants to offer an X Prize for Earthquake Prediction.

4.       AI (Artificial Intelligence) – “has transformed almost every industry.” They are going to become the most powerful assistants we have.

5.       Robotics – “will be everywhere.” People will be able to “beam into conferences when they are unable to be physically present.”

6.       Digital Manufacturing – including 3D printing and digital manufacturing – will “transform global manufacturing.” A woman who needs a new dress to go to a concert, for example, will be able to “print out a dress.” “The notion is being able to print out what you want, where you need it, on demand.

7.       Medicine – is becoming an information technology. The foundation has offered an X Prize for anyone who can develop a “hand-held mobile device any mom could use at 2 a. m. to diagnose themselves or their kids, no matter where they are.” (265 teams in 23 countries are working on this)

8.       Nanotechnology – the foundation is working on an X Prize on the future of mobility and another on battery improvement that will increase battery energy and power storage densities 300% to 500%. (We certainly could use better batteries.)

In his remarks Diamandis favors a strategy that has businesses offering more competitions with prizes. “Ultimately, when you put up these competitions, 99% [of contestants] will fail, they’re not on your books. It’s not a black line on your company or your research department or whatever the case may be…Because when the one that succeeds pulls it off and has a true breakthrough – that’s a success, and you’ve won. The world’s won in that regard.”

We’ll be watching and apparently we’ll be shaking in our boots, but also excited enough to peek out through the open fingers covering our eyes every once in a while.