You Are Not Late

Looking back now it seems as if waves of settlers have since bulldozed and developed every possible venue, leaving only the most difficult and gnarly specks for today’s newcomers. Thirty years later the internet feels saturated, bloated, overstuffed with apps, platforms, devices, and more than enough content to demand our attention for the next million years. Even if you could manage to squeeze in another tiny innovation, who would notice it?


But, but…here is the thing. In terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. If we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014. People in the future will look at their holodecks, and wearable virtual reality contact lenses, and downloadable avatars, and AI interfaces, and say, oh, you didn’t really have the internet (or whatever they’ll call it) back then.

Kevin Kelly — You Are Not Late


After spending an hour signing documents this morning, including an affidavit confirming my signature is mine alone, I received a call explaining I needed to resign some documents. Why? Because my signature needed to convey my middle initial.

It took me about 15 minutes of practicing to invent a new signature. Epic.

Fundamentally disruptive services:
+ Docusign
+ car2go
+ Dropbox
+ ?

Napster, Udacity, and the Academy

First, the people running the old system don’t notice the change. When they do, they assume it’s minor. Then that it’s a niche. Then a fad. And by the time they understand that the world has actually changed, they’ve squandered most of the time they had to adapt.

It’s been interesting watching this unfold in music, books, newspapers, TV, but nothing has ever been as interesting to me as watching it happen in my own backyard. Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC), and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup.

We have several advantages over the recording industry, of course. We are decentralized and mostly non-profit. We employ lots of smart people. We have previous examples to learn from, and our core competence is learning from the past. And armed with these advantages, we’re probably going to screw this up as badly as the music people did.

Clay Shirky – Napster, Udacity, and the Academy


Four years ago:

Here’s the problem: I, like many people I know, drive too many places all alone in my car.  One person in a three ton metal vehicle that could easily transport five.  To move all of that mass around, with such unused, waste internal space, is an inefficient use of energy.

Here’s one solution: ad-hoc transportation.  Capitalizing on the triple convergence between location-aware devices (iPhone 2 on June 9th, anyone?), social networking (Facebook, Twitter, et al), and an absurd number of nearly empty cars on the road (suburban America), the goal should be to connect people with people who are pointed in the same destination.

It’s here, and it’s called SideCar. I’m very intrigued to see where this startup goes. Thanks Alex for the tip.

Jonah Lehrer on creativity

A select assortment of (probably imperfect) notes from the OHSU Brain Awareness series lecture I attended tonight.

“Ideas are non-rival goods.” There is no cost to sharing them.

“Like a Rolling Stone” from Dylan was written in five hours of insight and produced in four cuts.

On moments of insight: “As soon as the answer arrives, it feels like this answer.” Scientists simulate these moments of insight by having people complete word puzzles. When you get undergraduates too drunk to drive, they solve 30% more of these problems.

Researchers using EEG machines could predict the moment of epiphany up to 8 seconds in advance.

Insights come mostly commonly from states of unfocus and relaxation.

“Creativity is residue of wasted time.” – Albert Einstein

What defines successful creativity? Not IQ or something that can be measured with a personality test. “Grit. Persistence, stubbornness, and the unwillingness to quit.”

“We live in a world obsessed with maximal tests.” In study after study, maximal tests have failed to correlate with typical, real-world performance. It’s more reliable to look at the historical data for the subject (e.g scanning frequency on electronic checkouts vs. running the cashier through a test).

“Making something new is really, really hard.” Grit is especially important in the creative domain.

“How do you know that you actually know something if you don’t actually know it?” A hunch is a “feeling of knowing.”

“The era of the line genius is over.” In the 1950’s, the most highly-cited research papers came from scientists working on their own. Now, the papers come from teams.

What are the ideal templates for group creativity? Steve Jobs restricted Pixar (a large-ish company) to two bathrooms in the atrium to force connection and random conversations. Physical location matters a lot. “Our most important new ideas appear in idle conversation from too many people occupying the same space.”

“Attendance at business conferences has almost doubled since the invention of Skype.”

Geoffrey West asks in his research: Why are cities so durable and companies so fragile? As a city gets bigger, everyone in the city becomes more productive. Companies do the exact opposite, and this becomes dangerous in the long term.

Later: here’s a great lecture by West on the topic

“The magic of a city is that it’s a freewheeling, chaotic place.” The walking speed of pedestrians is the single most predictive variable of patents (innovation) per capita.