Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

I’m Counting on Being Surprised.

Monday, June 15th, 2009

That headline is a quote from the video above. It’s only one of the many great lines from one of the many smart people interviewed in this thought-provoking video from Honda. They were asked the simple question of what they thought transportation might be like in 80 years. It’s crazy, fun, and absolutely vital that we speculate on the possible answers to questions such as this. Projecting out a few decades unbinds us from the constraints of now, of the current state, and empowers us to not only stretch our imaginations, but to tap into the collective desire to unwind the status quo and envision something that is truly better for all of us.

Via .

Important, But Not Necessary…

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

That headline is a quote from a 14 year old girl asked her perspective on television from this really interesting video clip of interviews with a group of 14 year old girls. They provide us a brutally direct take on the future of television, and it’s not pretty. They are absolutely right, though, as broadcast television is going through incredible challenges, and what comes out the other end of navigating these challenges will be something completely different, and perhaps a business model that these 14 year old girls can get behind. Personally, I’m with them.

Found this clip at Fred Wilson’s blog .

Release The Planet Hunter

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Tomorrow evening, at about 9:50PM CST, NASA is launching (depicted in the animation above), its new planet-hunting space telescope on a mission to find Earth-sized and Earth-like planets that might have liquid water.  This is important, of course, because it means that these planets could be home to life. It is also important as this means these planets might be “habitable”. To understand the significance of this quest, I point you to the recent TED Talks presentation by , which is well worth the time to watch:

At the heart of this mission is the effort to determine just how common planets such as our own are. Some fear we are a unique occurrence in the universe, others believe that earths are possibly quite common. Kepler is departing to bring some resolution to this schism.

The Kepler mission is named after , astronomer and author of .

The Bright & Shiny Future by Microsoft

Sunday, March 1st, 2009


, put together by Microsoft, is a window into what the world of gestural interfaces, touchscreen, data portability, and the future of newspapers just might be like in the year 2019. It is very nicely done, and full of optimism, though I struggle with the point of exercises such as this as the ways in which technology develops is nearly impossible to anticipate over a ten year time horizon. To be fair, they acknowledge this reality and assert that this is more an ongoing exercise for Microsoft to continually research and envision their own place in the future. Honestly, for insights into what the future may be like I believe there is more value in looking to science fiction (Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, etc…) as opposed to promotional vids from enormous global enterprise. Regardless, this is still an interesting perspective for Microsoft to share with the rest of us.

via .

Twitter As Personal Wire Service

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

It’s really interesting how quickly those that I follow on Twitter have become an invaluable, customized, expansive resource for news, information, humor, and conversation. For a time I thought Twitter would amount to not much more than a time suck, but increasingly I find it an indispensable tool for keeping me connected to cool, smart people and progressive thinking and ideas. And in a very rapid fire fashion, like a firehose that I can talk to. It has also brought me face-to-face with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, but only after first connecting via Twitter. If you’re not already following me, I’m , and please do.

Thanks to everyone, all 280+ of you.

A Life Experience Measured By Change, and The History of The Internet

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

My wife and I were talking yesterday about her grandfather, who was born in 1898 and lived for nearly an entire century. We were reflecting on the incredible change he experienced in his lifetime, a lifetime that coincided with an age of exponential technological discovery, innovation, and advancement. We quickly listed some of the major innovations and technologies that her grandfather experienced, it’s a pretty incredible list:

  • electricity
  • radio
  • powered flight
  • motion pictures
  • automobiles
  • the telephone
  • commercially available air travel
  • the highway system
  • jet powered flight
  • the guided rocket
  • nuclear energy
  • computers
  • television
  • satellite communications
  • manned spaceflight
  • unmanned, robotic solar system exploration
  • networked computers
  • manned moon missions
  • hypersonic flight
  • robotics
  • humans continuously living in orbit
  • disco
  • fax machine
  • personal computer
  • GPS
  • Hubble space telescope
  • mobile phones
  • the internet

All of that, experienced in one lifetime. It’s astonishing, really, and this list is by no means complete.

The list above ended with the internet, the history for which spans just about half of my wife’s grandfather’s lifetime. Out of all of these, this is perhaps the most revolutionary in how it has paradigmatically changed the human experience for a rapidly increasing percentage of humans on our planet. From communications to research, from community to connectivity, and from education to entertainment, the internet has altered our reality. The video above is an excellent backgrounder on the history of the internet, the history of how we’ve gotten to this point. Given the relative ease and pervasiveness of accessing the internet today, it is easy to take it for granted and forget the culmination of events that have led us here. Think back 10 years. Think back to your daily life 20 years ago. Much has happened in a very short time to radically change the ways in which we communicate and access information, and this is only the start.

The Future of Social Networks

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

View more from . (tags: )

This is something that I touched on in a post a few months ago, but takes this evolution of social networks even further and points us to a very probably future for these networks. Of particular note from her presentation is how she anticipates ways in which businesses might make money from this evolution and openness in the technologies and connectivity that support social networks, this being a current point of confusion and frustration for businesses. The reality is that social networks are still very new, and though several companies have smartly figured out how to leverage them to advantage the fact is they are evolving so quickly and efficiently that today’s social network strategy can easily be rendered obsolete by this time next week.

A Step Closer to The Space Elevator

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

spaceelevator_thumb

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about the concept of a space elevator, and provided some background and motivation for NASA’s pursuit of this very cost effective access to Earth orbit. Quite realistically, if we truly want to create a substantive human presence beyond the surface of our planet it will take something akin to the space elevator to make it happen. Launching rockets into orbit is expensive, time consuming, dangerous, and wasteful. The space elevator will probably be expensive at first, but once it is built and ostensibly powered by solar energy the cost and danger of accessing Earth orbit are enormously reduced, and with the added benefit of much greater frequency. So, the space elevator is potentially a perfect solution for orbital access. It seems we have taken an important step closer with the development of light, long, and stretchy by scientists at Cambridge University. This is an important development, as the tether for the space elevator would require upwards of 144,000 miles of these nanotubes. At present, the scientists at Cambridge are able to develop about 1 gram of these carbon nanotubes per day, which can be stretched to 18 miles, but it will require work on creating the industrial production of carbon nanotubes to make the 144,000 mile space elevator tether viable.

It is interesting that something that existed essentially only in the realm of science fiction for many decades may now be actualized in the next ten years or so, this being another testament to the power of science fiction in shaping the direction of our technology.

More on long, stretchy carbon nanotubes at

On The Origins of Technology

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

big-bang

There is no way that I could improve on this beyond just pointing you to Kevin Kelly’s . In this piece Kelly writes what is essentially a beautiful overview of the origins of the universe, and adds in some incredibly interesting perspective on these origins, our reality, and how they continue to influence and control all manner of existence, including his theory on the appearance of technology. It is absolutely worth reading the entire article as it is smart, concise, and really well written. Here’s a favorite excerpt:

“While the appearance of any particular form of technology or life is against all odds, the appearance of technology and life as a whole were ordained as soon as the universe began to expand, unpacking room for difference. Technology is the latest in a long line of structures that manifest the expanding potential of difference in the universe with actual differences. The expansion of space/time opened up the universe to the dissipation of entropy, and thus to the appearance of entropy-accelerating forms like life, mind, and mind-life (technology). The mammoth supercollider in CERN and the tiny Intel 8080 computer chip – the big and little of the technium — owe their ultimate origins not to the minds of human engineers, but to the fundamental laws of this existence. The genesis of technology began at the Big Bang. as Weakly syntropic but persistent structures like galaxies and stars exploited entropy to sustain order. In their orbits the first bacteria and later humans extended the ruse. Now the technium delivers differences that life – in all its amazing power – cannot manage. ”

from

David Armano On Thinking Visually

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

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An excellent presentation put together by David Armano , whom I have really enjoyed following both via his blog and on Twitter. Armano has tremendous insight into a whole range of subject matter, but is especially adept at offering valuable thinking at the intersection of design, technology, and marketing.

Armano’s advocacy for thinking visually, and his seemingly tireless work in putting new ideas around this out to his community, is a great thing. As he puts it:

“Effective communication is everyone’s job—whether you are trying to sell in a concept or convince a client. Visual Thinking can help us take in complex information and synthesize it into something meaningful. In an increasingly fragmented and cluttered world, simple imagery, metaphors and mindmaps can get people to understand the abstract and make your ideas tangible. Find out why why thinking visually may be one of the most sought after abilities of the 21st century.”

David Armano

It is also very interesting to have come across this presentation about an hour after reading the wonderful article in fast company about .

Burt Rutan, Innovation, and Adversity

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Burt Rutan

A couple weeks ago I came across coverage of the keynote that Burt Rutan gave at the conference via , and am finally getting around to sharing it. Rutan is an inspiring individual and I have been moved to write about him before, my favorite being Failure Leads to Understanding. In his keynote to AU2008, Rutan digs into his perspective on innovation and serves up some memorable insights, including:

“Innovation occurs in periods of adversity. In the 60s we went to the moon, in the 80s we never broke low earth orbit.”

Burt Rutan

That’s a prescient quote given the challenges we now face not just locally and nationally, but globally. Tracking the news, it is interesting how many companies have already disappeared. That’s probably as much about business model relevance as anything. At the same time that we are seeing companies disappear, the American automotive industry surf disaster, and the entire newspaper industry sink into a reactive panic, we are seeing companies expanding their business, diversifying offerings, and improving their position. There has been much talk over the last year regarding taking advantage of the imminent recession to reinvest in your organization and look for opportunities to innovate, reinvent, and diversify. I suspect that those companies that took this advice to heart stand a very good chance of being around this time next year, and positioned to maximize opportunities that arise as we emerge from this crisis, this adversity. Those that do not? Well, it’s going to be an interesting time. To Burt Rutan’s point, adversity can be a launchpad for innovation (pun intended). It can also be a destroyer, and it would seem that the ability to innovate is one quality that can help companies navigate events well.

I have not been able to find video of Rutan’s keynote, but will post as soon as I do.

Barack Obama’s Focus on Science

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I watched the video above at last evening and liked very much how President-elect Obama explains his perspective on the role of science in his administration, and the thinking behind the science and technology team he has assembled. This team will maintain his focus on the value that science offers society and the world, and represents a cross-section of disciplines that is comprehensive (with the notable lack of a biologist…) in the face of the real challenges faced by our nation, challenges that can be addressed through science, innovation, and discovery. This perspective is in stark contrast to the previous eight years, and stands to move science in the United States forward on many, many fronts. A prescient quote from Obama’s presentation:

“The truth is promoting science is not just about providing resources, it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or idealogy. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient. Especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth, and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States.”

Barack Obama

This emphasis on science and the importance of open inquiry is something that President-elect Obama had discussed several times during the campaign. This was a notable difference between himself and essentially all of the other candidates, from both parties. This difference would be one of the many reasons that I ultimately cast my vote with him, and continue to be reminded by the Obama transistion team what an excellent decision that was.

10 Things: The Power of The Network

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I was excited to find David Cushman’s self-published book . It’s available on Lulu as a downloadable PDF for only $.84, which is an excellent bargain given the density of insights and provocative ideas that Cushman packs into its 98 pages. Cushman also authors the blog , from which much of the content for the book emanated, it being a compendium of Cushman’s writings from over the last year or so, writings on the future of advertising, online networks, the death of broadcast media, and the power of . He succinctly ties together a wide range of ideas we’re all writing and thinking about in various ways, and he does so in a way that very directly points us to the future. As he says on his about page: “The further ahead you look, the faster you go.” That’s a lesson he picked up from motorcycling, and one I can appreciate given my own penchant for racing, motorcycles, and change.

Below are 10 Things from The Power of The Network by David Cushman:

  1. The Death of Death: At the heart of the networked world is conversation, and conversation is “at the intersection of ideas, the driver of value of the network… The digital world is not about death. It is about life… The evolution has begun.”
  2. Don’t Just Witness The Network: If we sit still we are in the midst of witnessing some of the biggest changes since the industrial revolution. But it’s different this time because we can participate, we can all “engage with self-forming communities of (global) niche shared interest (purpose).”
  3. How to Go Viral: 1. Speak in an authentic voice. 2. Lose the TV envy. 3. Give people the tools to make their own. 4. Don’t bother with urls, links or ‘brand messages.’
  4. Communities of Purpose: Leveraging , Cushman points us to two important caveats, that real value is only created by communities of purpose, and this value is best enabled by synchronous response. He then points out that the gap between Reed’s Law and reality is navigation and discovery.
  5. What Now for Advertising and Marketing?: We’re really left with limited options like widget marketing (take advantage of existing advertising model and add viral and widget messaging), engagement marking (creating conversations, participating, listening), and no marketing (no advertising, no marketing, but instead the bringing together of co-creating communities).
  6. We’re All Publishers Now: Indeed. We’re experiencing an orgy of self-published content via the internet and through the success of self-forming communities. “The silent majority have had their day. The participating majority are coming.”
  7. It’s Not How Famous You Are – It’s How Relevant: Enough said.
  8. Reed’s Law and How Multiple Identities Make The Tail Longer: Don’t network for networking’s sake as limiting yourself to one-to-one communication presents little potential for collaboration. Networking openly stands to unleash the power of crowds, and “none of us is as clever as all of us.”
  9. We Are The Eighth Mass Media: From this chapter, a favorite quote: “We all have cheap, rapid, easy ways of sharing our metadata. That’s what publishing has become. Publishing for all. Advertising for all. We can all share content. Content is the conversation starter, conversation is where ideas turn
    into action, action is where value is created. Now we can all share in sharing this. We can all share ourselves. That is what changes everything.”
  10. How Are We Made Great?: Start with the Stowe Boyd quote: “I am made greater by the sum of my connections, so are my connections.” We live with the opportunity to consume an enormous volume of ideas/opinion/perspective. There are so many ideas that would go unrealized were it not for the power of the network surrounding the person who originated it. The catch is that predicting how people will respond to an idea is impossible, the network has its own proprietary wisdom, and from this wisdom comes the elevation of great ideas beyond the individual and to the many.

24 Hours of Global Air Traffic

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

A team at the in Switzerland produced the animation above showing the paths of all of the world’s commercial flights over a 24-hour period. The flight information came from a single website, , which is an excellent resource and very interesting to investigate. Air traffic animations are not that new, as we have seen different versions of these for a while now, but the animation above is especially interesting as you relate air traffic to the march of darkness across the planet.

Also of interest is the animation below depicting 24 hours of Fed Ex air traffic operations. It’s longish, but interesting if only in the logistical model it presents. It is also a convenient way to locate Memphis, Tennessee on the map of the United States.

Ten Years. Leadership. Get it Done.

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The video above is a very effective summation of by oilman-gone-good . Using a whiteboard as a prop, he clearly communicates his rationale for investing so deeply into wind farms, and how his wind farms in Texas are prototypes for explanding wind energy collection throughout the wind corridor of the United States, one of the largest such wind resources in the world. Doing this may lessen our dependence on the importing of foreign oil by as much as 38% in the short term (potentially in under 10 years), and we can begin immediately to see results. Watch the video, he ties everything together as a formidable spoke in the nation’s energy strategy very, very well.

The Secret History of Silicon Valley

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

The video above is about an hour long, but if you have the time it is totally worth watching. has put together this history of Silicon Valley using open source resources and tells a great story about how this iconic region, a flagship of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship, came into being and became what we revere today as the crucible for tech startups and standbys. Here’s an abstract of his presentation:

While Silicon Valley is responsible for the wealth of millions of people, not many are familiar with its long and complex history. Unbeknownst to even the most seasoned inhabitant or observer, Silicon Valley, Northern California’s peninsula, was shaped by many forces. Join renowned serial entrepreneur, Steve Blank, as he provides an overview on the secret history of Silicon Valley and how the Valley got its start. Much like the startups that have made Silicon Valley famous, the Valley began in a strikingly similar formula. Hear the story of how two major events – WWII and the Cold War – and one Stanford professor set the stage for the creation and explosive growth of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. In true startup form, the world was forever changed when the CIA and the National Security Agency acted as venture capitalists for this first wave of entrepreneurship. Learn about the key players and the series of events that contributed to this dramatic and important piece of the emergence of this world renowned technology mecca.

I found this video at Andrew Chen’s (a great resource).

A Perspective On How We Got Here, And Where We Might Be Going

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

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, an internet analyst at Morgan Stanley, gave her annual view of the world and the technology industry at the in San Francisco last week. Flipping through the slides I found them enlightening, and the indicators she highlights paint a somewhat ominous reality for the coming year. She points out the connection between technology and advertising spending and GDP growth, and growth is obviously trending down. No surprises there, though.

You can view the slides from Mary’s presentation above or download them .

via

Honda and The DNA of Innovation

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

That is (1906-1991), the founder of Honda, above in an image from 1963 when Honda was still somewhat of a fledgling company, though already a powerful innovator. He is sitting on one of the many racing cars, this one for Formula 1, that Honda was developing at the time, and not because racing for Honda was a marketing exercise. At the time most of Honda’s attention had been focused on motorcycles, and it was in 1963 that Honda became the best selling motorcycle in the United States. Moving into automobiles was the next priority for the company, and only as an innovator. As Honda began building cars, so it also started racing them, just as it had been doing successfully with motorcycles (in 1966 Honda won the Constructors Championship and all five motorcycle Grand Prix classes). For Soichiro Honda, racing IS Honda, the ideal environment for Honda’s engineers, designers, and leaders to be challenged, to innovate and address situations, problems, and opportunities in a way that ultimately benefits the entire culture of the organization. This approach is not an ancillary element of Honda culture as Mr. Honda succeeded in making racing synonymous with the culture of Honda. He had been a successful racer himself, winning and setting longstanding speed records in the 1930’s, and understood intimately that the passion for winning in motorsports can translate into product innovation and market success. Previously, I had written about innovation at Honda and touched on the racing culture of the company. Just recently, though, I had cause to dig deeper into how Honda’s passion for racing has informed the entire company, and lead to innovations across the comprehensive product range that Honda offers.

Several automobile manufacturers benefit from comprehensive racing programs. Think about BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, and Toyota. For each of these companies, as with Honda, R&D happens on the racetrack, and the successes from the track quickly make their way to the road, to the customer. For Honda, though, there is something deeper with regards to racing and innovation, and this is due to the place that Soichiro Honda ensured that racing held in corporate culture. More than the engineering benefits of a successful racing effort, Honda has imbued its entire culture with a passion for innovation that found its inception on the racetrack, but now touches and informs the development of robotics, aircraft, marine engines, and a long list of other products. Honda doesn’t just race cars and motorcycles, they race everything. Or, perhaps, it is accurate to say that for Honda everything is a race. For people like me, who share similar passions (and I have never owned a Honda product), it is windows into the Honda culture of racing and innovation, like below, that continue to earn my admiration and respect:

Video found at .

The Biggest Computer Grid in The World

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Previously, I posted about the Large Hadron Collider (here and here) and how upon completion it became the most complex machine ever built by mankind. The LHC was successfully tested just a few weeks ago, and despite some minor setbacks recently is set to deliver a treasure trove of information to researchers about the earliest moments of the universe over the next year.

As part of this research, and to enable the analysis of huge, huge amounts of data, a collaborative approach has been taken to create a virtual computer capable of this task. This analysis will be mankind’s biggest data challenge, and on October 3rd the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid came online, becoming the largest computer grid in the world. This grid is comprised of 140 computer centers in 33 countries and will have the capability of processing, analyzing, and managing over 15 million gigabytes of information from the LHC each year.

This collaborative, networked approach not only makes this complex analysis possible, but it allows a diversity of research groups globally to participate and benefit from the information generated by the LHC experiments.

This networked grid of computers would seem to align with my Network is The Computer post from a few weeks ago.

More information at .

Telepresense vs. Business Travel

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Telepresence is something I have been following for some time, and I am curious to see discussions of this technology begin to surface with more frequency, like this piece at the . I have been especially interested in the developing intersection between telepresence, virtuality, and robotics and have written about this here and here. Additionally, it was exciting to see the CEO of Steelcase, Jim Hackett, experimenting with telepresence technology in his own office with a direct connection to IDEO’s David Kelley in Palo Alto, they call it “the wormhole”, which I touched on in my post 10 Things: Innovation at Steelcase.

The big deal here is that technology is beginning to catch up with science fiction, and this is being driven by the pressures of speed, efficiency and cost management. Business travel is becoming more and more costly for companies, and as the business we need to do becomes increasingly global this cost will only grow. Limited access to private jets and the potential for supersonic travel aside, one of the biggest contributors to the increasing cost of business travel is the time, and downtime, required to get from one place to another, and the implications this has on productivity and effectiveness. Telepresence is a golden opportunity to eliminate this cost, shrink distance, increase productivity, and virtually create the value of meeting in person. Things are definitely going in this direction, and this would be another significant influence on the workplace of the future. We have already seen great change in that many business practices that required meeting in person a decade ago are now completed without individuals ever having to actually meet at all. This is the reality now for a diversity of industries.

The system depicted in the image above is from , and is very similar to how Jim Hackett is utilizing this technology at Steelcase. There are systems also offered by (who estimates that their telepresence systems save HP employees up to 20,000 flights per year), most notably their Halo telepresence conferencing technology. To be sure, these are significant investments and not yet viable for smaller enterprise, but even that is changing with forays into telepresence by companies like and Apple’s offering and refining for some time now of video chat as part of on their computers. Also, telepresence is not a technology to replace the importance of meeting in person entirely, but this is hugely empowering for business, and telepresence technology used well and integrated into a company culture will have an incredibly positive influence on communication, collaboration, and innovation. It will also free tremendous resources for companies that have previously been dedicated to the inefficiency of business travel, resources they can invest into priority areas like R&D or talent acquisition, areas that are so important to success in the competitive marketplace.