Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Silicon Valley Tries to Remake the Idea Machine

New York Times Magazine

Silicon Valley companies are turning their focus once again to innovation, with an emphasis on capitalizing on their own research in a way they did not in the past. Some observers are concerned that recent prosaic inventions, such as apps that call taxis, indicate a slowdown in innovation. Government funding on research and development (R&D) decreased during the recession and now stands at just $126 billion a year, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation, compared with $267 billion for the private sector. Meanwhile, Asian economies now represent 34 percent of global R&D spending, while the United States accounts for 30 percent. In the past, scientists at research labs backed by large parent companies, such as Xerox PARC and Bell Labs, were allowed generous time and resources to carry out their research. However, those labs eventually were dismantled and the tech startups that rose up afterwards found it more advantageous to acquire technology than to innovate. Today's technology firms are beginning to refocus on doing their own innovating, but this time with an eye on creating products that will succeed in the marketplace. The Google X lab, for example, starts its innovation process with an idea for a product and then hires the requisite talent, rather than employing academics and waiting to see what they develop.


How to Be Lucky


As creatives, we've fallen victim to the tyranny of the planners. Those who think an organized to-do list is bliss or that we need to have a carefully curated calendar of appointments to wring results from every minute of every day. But while all this planning, and the productivity advice that goes with it, makes for great blog posts, it serves merely as a Band-Aid to our long-term, more systemic issues.

To say that luck plays a significant part in success can seem demoralizing at first. However, once this is acknowledged, you can put systems in place to protect against bad luck and capitalize on the good. But first, recognize that there are two kinds of uncertainty in life and each requires a different strategy.

As Professor of Decision Sciences Spyros Makridakis and his co-authors explain in Dance With Chance, Making Luck Work For You, the first kind of uncertainty refers to those probabilities that are lawful and measurable. For example, the more times you rehearse a presentation, the better it will be. Rehearsing does not guarantee a successful pitch, but there is a predictable relationship between practice and outcome.


The Magic of Fibonacci Numbers


Math is logical, functional and just ... awesome. Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin explores hidden properties of that weird and wonderful set of numbers, the Fibonacci series. (And reminds you that mathematics can be inspiring, too!)u


Wieden & Kennedy HQ Does Away With The "Office As Playground" In Favor Of Useful Workspaces


The creative agency's new NY office is designed to foster interaction and collaboration without distraction.

New York-based firm WORK Architecture Company designed the 50,000 square feet New York headquarters of renowned advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy and the office features a garden cut out of the corner of the building, a circular-shaped "coin stair" that also functions as a bleacher type seating area, and a variety of collective spaces.

According to the project description, the design for the agency's new headquarters "moves away from the office-as-playground to put work back at the heart of creative work," and the overall design of the new headquarters is meant to be aligned with the nature of the work at Wieden + Kennedy. The work is highly collaborative so WORKac designed different types of discussion spaces for meetings of all types, sizes, duration, and privacy level.

Wieden + Kennedy's new offices include discussion spaces such as the ten-foot-long "Over The Counter" blackened steel tables for those quick team discussions or reviews. Teams can also have informal meetings at the lounge with the comfortable couches and wooden floors. The kitchen space features booths that are perfect for working lunches. More formal meetings or presentations can be held at any of the conference rooms, which include small and intimate "Phone Booths," "Picnic Table" meeting rooms for groups of up to ten participants, and the formal "Wide-N-Long" conference rooms. The meeting rooms have glass walls to create a sense of transparency and openness. The meeting rooms are also clustered together for groups of around 20 to 25 people working in open work areas.


How A Genius Thinks

The Creativity Post

"However, while many people define genius differently, most agree that Richard Feynman was one and there is probably no better example of his brilliance than his famous talk, There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. It not only launched a revolution in physics and engineering that is still being played out today, it shows us how a true genius really thinks.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said that, "talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."  Lots of people of people are smart, but true genius has always had an element of mystery to it.

Nobody really knows where genius comes from. While surely there is a genetic component, most child prodigies do not attain outstanding professional success. Some creativity experts consider genius to be a method as much as it is an ability.

However, while many people define genius differently, most agree that Richard Feynman was one and there is probably no better example of his brilliance than his famous talk, There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. It not only launched a revolution in physics and engineering that is still being played out today, it shows us how a true genius really thinks.


Japan creates robot that interprets human emotion


Japanese technology company Softbank has unveiled a robot it claims can interpret human emotions.

The robot, known as Pepper, uses a cloud-based artificial intelligence system to interpret human voice tones, expressions and gestures.

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son told a press conference that for the first time in history, the company would be giving a robot heart, and emotions.

Pepper can dance to music, bow in respect and move its arms in a convincing interpretation of human movement.

The robot is intended to go on sale to the public next year for 198,000 yen, or £1,150 in an effort to address the problems surrounding Japan's rapidly ageing population.


Is Coding the New Literacy?

Mother Jones

Teaching basic coding literacy to all students in public schools could help realize a diversity of talent that would transform society as profoundly as reading and writing once did. Although recent coding pushes have led some to believe everyone needs to learn the specifics of programming languages, this level of detail might not be as relevant as learning the fundamentals of what computers can do. Computational thinking might surpass coding skills in importance to useful applications of technology in today's society. Microsoft's Jeannette Wing popularized the term computational thinking, which she says is not limited to programmers and encompasses "solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior." Knowing how to write code is useless without an appropriate goal toward which to apply it. "Unless you can think about the ways computers can solve problems, you can't even know how to ask the questions that need to be answered," says University of Pittsburgh professor Annette Vee, who studies the spread of computer science literacy. Reading and writing literacy began as a skill for a select few and then expanded, and coding literacy is similarly moving from an elite group to the masses. Today's most significant breakthroughs, not only in technical fields but in all fields, involve big datasets, powerful algorithms, and people able to leverage both.


Roads in the Future Will Need Data Standards as Well as Signs, says DOT's CIO


Data standards will be necessary to facilitate traffic flow in the future, and government officials, engineers, and automakers are considering various ways to implement the technology. Engineers at Vanderbilt University and the University of California, Berkeley are working on an integrated infrastructure that will monitor roads and control traffic flow accordingly. For example, the system will control ramp lights that tell vehicles when to enter the highway. The system could be on the roads in Southern California within a few years. Also likely to emerge within a few years are parking systems that tell drivers the locations and costs of available spaces, and possibly reserve a space. In addition, dedicated short range communications technology is emerging that enables vehicles to share real-time information about location and speed, and alerts vehicles of the need for evasive action. U.S. Department of Transportation CIO Richard McKinney says his agency is discussing the need for standards on data exchanges, as information technology plays an increasing role in transportation. McKinney says the transportation industry hopes to avoid a scenario within 10 to 15 years of competing data standards that impede communications.


Data Grab Bag

Flowing Data

When you deal with data, you can think like a statistician, even if you don't know the math (although it will certainly help a lot). Jonathan Stray brings up fine points to draw conclusions from data, as does Jacob Harris in a detailed case study on distrusting your data.

— Learning data science still seems like a fuzzy, abstract idea. Trey Causey offers advice on getting started with the bubbling field.

— Is college still worth it? Yes.

Coding isn't easy. If it were, everyone would do it.

R gotchas.

MindRider ~ Mood-Tracking Bike Helmet Kickin'

Maximizing Progress

MIT Media Lab alumco DuKorp launches their MindRider mood-tracking bike helmet on Kickstarter!

"MindRider is a new helmet system that shows your levels of engagement (from relaxed to focused), as you move through your environment, in real-time. The MindRider app maps and tracks these levels, and allows you to share your "mind-maps" with others. These maps provide quantified insight that empower you to maximize your riding experience, and they can be a great resource for riding communities and street advocacy."


20 Productivity Tips that Anyone Can Use

Even though we all want to be more productive, it's hard to make major changes. Small changes are easy– and can be incredibly powerful. That's why the following 20 tips are simple enough you can immediately incorporate them into your daily routine. Some tips will help you better use your time. Others will help you harness your energy. Others will help you stay more focused. No matter what, they all work. So try a few – or try them all!—

Create Systems, Not Goals

Make Temptations Hard to Reach

Maximize you most Important Tasks

Purposefully allow less time for Key projects

Stop in the Middle

Chunk Housekeeping Tasks

Just Say No

Start Small so you won't mind