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Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

Democratized Information Is Transforming Society

Posted by hkarner - 26. August 2020

Date: 25‑08‑2020

Source: Scientific American By Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

Innovations are blurring the lines between consumers and producers, amateurs and professionals, and laypeople and experts

It is a truism among scientists that our enterprise benefits humanity because of the technological breakthroughs that follow in discovery’s wake. And it is a truism among historians that the relation between science and technology is far more complex and much less linear than people often assume. Before the 19th century, invention and innovation emerged primarily from craft traditions among people who were not scientists and who were typically unaware of pertinent scientific developments. The magnetic compass, gunpowder, the printing press, the chronometer, the cotton gin, the steam engine and the water wheel are among the many examples. In the late 1800s matters changed: craft traditions were reconstructed as “technology” that bore an important relation to science, and scientists began to take a deeper interest in applying theories to practical problems. A good example of the latter is the steam boiler explosion commission, appointed by Congress to investigate such accidents and discussed in Scientific American’s issue of March 23, 1878.

Still, technologists frequently worked more in parallel with contemporary science than in sequence. Technologists—soon to be known as engineers—were a different community of people with different goals, values, expectations and methodologies. Their accomplishments could not be understood simply as applied science. Even in the early 20th century the often loose link between scientific knowledge and technological advance was surprising; for example, aviation took off before scientists had a working theory of lift. Scientists said that flight by machines “heavier than air” was impossible, but nonetheless airplanes flew. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Democratizing Innovation

Posted by hkarner - 12. August 2020

Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the author of Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy.

Policymakers and the public at large understand the importance of innovation to economic growth and well being. What is less well appreciated is the degree to which the innovation agenda has been captured by narrow groups of investors and firms whose values and interests don’t necessarily reflect society’s needs.

CAMBRIDGE – Innovation is the engine that drives contemporary economies. Living standards are determined by productivity growth, which in turn depends on the introduction and dissemination of new technologies that allow an ever-wider variety of goods and services to be produced with fewer and fewer of our planet’s resources.

Policymakers and the public at large understand the importance of innovation. What is less well appreciated is the degree to which the innovation agenda has been captured by narrow groups of investors and firms whose values and interests don’t necessarily reflect society’s needs.In today’s advanced economies, private firms undertake the bulk of research and development. The business sector’s share of total R&D spending ranges from 60% in Singapore to 78% in South Korea, with the United States closer to the higher end, at 72%. But it is the public sector that provides the essential social, legal, and educational infrastructure that sustains private R&D.Innovation in the private sector depends crucially on government funding of basic science and research labs. It relies on scientific talent trained in universities supported by public funds. The state provides innovators with monopoly rights through the patent system, and ensures the private appropriation of returns to R&D through labor and contract law. Not least, private R&D is heavily subsidized by the state through tax credits and other policies.As a society, we should care not just about how much innovation takes place, but also about the types of new technologies that are developed. We ought to ensure we are investing in technologies that are safe, environmentally sound, empower rather than simply replace human labor, and are consistent with democratic values and human rights.The direction of technological change is not fixed or determined from outside the social and economic system. Instead, it is shaped by incentives, values, and the distribution of power. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Horizon Bias in Human Innovation

Posted by hkarner - 3. Mai 2020

Date: 02‑05‑2020

Source: Project Syndicate by Nicholas Agar

Nicholas Agar is Professor of Ethics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He has written extensively on the human consequences of technological change. His latest book is How to Be Human in the Digital Economy. 

In an age that offers seemingly limitless technological promise, it makes sense to step back, suspend our credulity, and consider why we are so inclined to believe that what could happen will happen soon. We should remain hopeful, but also aware that nature will always be cleverer than we are.

WELLINGTON – We are beguiled by technology and what it can do for us, be it colonizing Mars, ending human aging, or connecting the entire world within a single network. But, especially in an age that offers seemingly limitless technological promise, we should step back, suspend our credulity, and consider why we are so inclined to believe that what could happen will inevitably happen soon.

Consider the case of cancer, that most vexing of diseases. Modern bio‑, nano‑, and other technologies promise us a “cure,” such that one can now easily imagine a “world without cancer.” And yet there is little reason to expect a decisive victory over cancer anytime soon.

To be sure, we already have therapies that can kill most cancer cells. The problem is that killing 99% of cancer cells is not the same thing as killing 99% of enemy soldiers in a war. The cells that resist the near‑cure multiply, enabling the tumor to make up lost ground. And while we can address this problem with better targeting, there is a persistent gap between the near‑cure and the cure. As Siddhartha Mukherjee shows in his best‑selling “biography of cancer,” The Emperor of all Maladies, that is why the fight against cancer has been a long story of dashed hopes and overwrought expectations.

Suppose we could go back to 1971 and talk to the scientists who advised US President Richard Nixon when he launched the original “War on Cancer.” I suspect they would be amazed by today’s treatments, such as immunotherapy and biotech interventions that interact in sophisticated ways with the molecular bases of our immune systems. To earlier generations, these technologies would look like the stuff of science fiction: The Cure.

But then we would have to show our colleagues in 1971 the current cancer statistics. They would see vast improvements over the cancer trends of their own time. But they doubtless would be dismayed to realize that a cure has eluded even such technological marvels. (We would then have to tell the Apollo 11 generation that we have not set foot on Mars, either.)

Owing to our current understanding of the human body and our rapidly advancing technological capabilities, we take it for granted that cancer is curable “in principle,” just as we assume that carbon capture and storage technologies could, in principle, offer a simple fix for climate change. Because we can see – or at least envision – the horizon, we think that we can reach it in due time. But cancer is an endemic feature of our organic existence. As Mukherjee puts it, to rid ourselves of cancer we must seemingly “rid ourselves of the processes in our physiology that depend on growth – aging, regeneration, healing, reproduction.”

Still, for as long as we have been searching for a cancer cure, we have fallen victim to the “horizon bias.” In the 1940s, the American physician Sidney Farber gave antifolates to leukemia patients and produced unprecedented – but temporary – remissions. Upon first witnessing this breakthrough, it would not have been unreasonable to think that the end of leukemia was in sight.

Similarly, in the 1990s, the medical researcher Judah Folkman discovered that angiogenesis inhibitors could be used to cut off the blood supply to tumors. “Judah is going to cure cancer in two years,” predicted James D. Watson, the Nobel laureate who co‑discovered DNA. Folkman himself was more modest: “If you have cancer and you are a mouse, we can take good care of you.” Even this more considered assessment exaggerated the immediate therapeutic benefits of the discovery. Nonetheless, Watson doubled down two years later: “I said that Judah Folkman would cure cancer within two years. I was wrong. But he will do it in another two years.”

The horizon bias prevented these otherwise informed observers from appreciating the complexity of the challenge at hand. Two decades later, the most notable application of Folkman’s discovery is bevacizumab (Avastin), a cancer drug that modestly extends some patients’ lives at massive expense.

Clearly, the outcomes we can imagine are not necessarily those we should rationally expect. Missing from the confident forecasts of cancer’s impending demise is the role played by evolution. 

According to the “second rule” of Leslie Orgel, one of the foundational theorists of the origins of life, evolution is cleverer than we are. In terms of complexity, human hearts, eyes, and immune systems remain far beyond the scope of anything humans could design themselves.

The cancer that will kill many of us if we live long enough starts from a single cell that divides continuously while evading the immune system. A disease that emerges within us and evades our own immune system can probably evade our most powerful immunotherapies, too. Methods of tweaking our immune systems may yield many treatments, but they will not provide The Cure.

The persistence of autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and lupus underscores our incomplete knowledge of the immune system. Once we have defeated these diseases, we might be closer to becoming as clever as evolution – at least in our understanding of immunity. And only then could we start betting on immunotherapies that can wipe out cancer.

This is not an argument for fatalism or inaction. We should remain hopeful that the societies of 2525 will have eliminated cancer, fixed the climate, and opened up hotels on Mars. But we should expect that they will not have overcome the powerful bias that leads those with knowledge of a problem to believe that a solution is imminent.

The horizon bias is a double‑edged sword. The ability to imagine alternative futures and answers to far‑reaching questions is the source of all human ingenuity and innovation. Throughout history, and especially since the Enlightenment, the recognition that we can decipher the operations of nature has fed the pursuit of knowledge and allowed for the invention of ever‑more sophisticated technologies.

We should not regret this thirst for understanding, but nor should we overestimate our own capabilities. When ambitious promises go unmet, the public’s inflated expectations can quickly give way to cynicism and distrust. As we celebrate the marvels of our technological age, we should be careful not to succumb to hubris. The universe will always be cleverer than we are.

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The pandemic is liberating firms to experiment with radical new ideas

Posted by hkarner - 29. April 2020

Date: 28‑04‑2020

Source: The Economist

Some of these will persist after the crisis passes

When mount tambora erupted in April 1815 the dust and ash from the volcano in what is now Indonesia blotted out the sun and lowered global temperatures, hurting harvests everywhere. As food prices soared, tens of thousands of people died from famine and disease. So did thousands of horses, because their owners could no longer afford to feed them oats. It was against this dismal backdrop that Karl von Drais, a German inventor, dreamed up the Laufmaschine to replace equine locomotion. Today his “running machine” is known as the bicycle.

The pandemic is, like Tambora, an unmitigated calamity. But in some quarters it, too, is spurring innovation, as firms come up with new ways to keep making existing products despite disrupted supply chains, or, as demand collapses amid self‑isolation, create new ones. Some are changing the very way they innovate. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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In Memoriam Clayton Christensen: Storyteller Extraordinaire

Posted by hkarner - 29. Januar 2020


Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who became world-famous for his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma (HBR Press, 1997) and his ideas on disruptive innovation, passed away last night as a result of complications from leukemia treatment at the age of 67.

Christensen was a member of the Latter-day Saint (LDS) community for over 40 years. Unusual for the management field, Christensen held explicit moral and religious convictions. “When I have my interview with God at the end of my life, he’s not going to ask me to show how high I went in anybody’s org chart or how much money I left behind in the bank when I died,” Christensen said. “It’s actually really important you succeed at what you’re succeeding at, but that isn’t going to be the measure of life.”

As a young man, Christensen had studied economics at Brigham Young and, after a two-year leave of absence in which he served as a volunteer full-time missionary for the LDS Church, he earned a master’s degree at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and got an MBA at Harvard Business School. He then worked at Boston Consulting Group before heading back to Harvard for a Ph.D. so he could teach. Over the ensuing decades as a business school professor, Christensen wrote ten books and founded several consulting firms.

Christensen was a charismatic ambassador for his ideas and became a key influence in Silicon Valley. His fans included Apple’s Steve Jobs, Intel’s Andy Grove, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings. He was repeatedly named as the world’s most influential living business thinker. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Lesson I Learned from Steve Jobs

Posted by hkarner - 13. Oktober 2019

Date: 12-10-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Marc Benioff

A challenge from technology’s greatest showman led Marc Benioff to a breakthrough insight about how to find true innovation at Salesforce.com.

Long before Marc Benioff became CEO of Salesforce.com, one of the first companies to deliver enterprise software to customers as a subscription over the internet, he was a summer intern at Apple in 1984. That’s where he met Steve Jobs.

I first met Steve Jobs in 1984 when Apple Inc. hired me as a summer intern. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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China Will Live Or Die by Its Digital Economy

Posted by hkarner - 24. September 2019

Date: 23-09-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Nathaniel Taplin

The digital economy is one of the few good options China has to keep growing rapidly

China’s dynamic, entrepreneurial information-technology sector is a reason for optimism.

For China, technological leadership is an existential question.

The world’s second-largest economy has a lot of problems: heavy debt, a rapidly aging population and increasing hostility from its largest trading partner, the U.S. Yet the nation’s dynamic, entrepreneurial information-technology sector is a reason for optimism.

Recent research from the International Monetary Fund highlights just how important this growth driver has become in recent years—and how critical keeping up the momentum is for the nation’s prospects.

Technological innovation is key to all economies, but the fate of China’s high-productivity IT sector has taken on outsize importance. One reason is the government’s failure in recent years—partly for ideological reasons—to make many key reforms which could boost the productivity of the rest of the economy and keep growth chugging along. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Despite What You Might Think, Major Technological Changes Are Coming More Slowly Than They Once Did

Posted by hkarner - 15. August 2019

Date: 14-08-2019
Source: Scientific American By Wade Roush

Major technological shifts are fewer and farther between than they once were

On June 22, 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew into Dayton, Ohio, for dinner at Orville Wright’s house. It had been just a month since the young aviator’s first ever solo nonstop crossing of the Atlantic, and he felt he ought to pay his respects to the celebrated pioneer of flight.

Forty-two years later, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong was allowed to bring a personal guest to the Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch of NASA’s towering Saturn V rocket. Armstrong invited his hero, Charles Lindbergh.

That’s how fast technology advanced in the 20th century. One man, Lindbergh, could be the living link between the pilot of the first powered flight and the commander of the first mission to another world.

In our century, for better or worse, progress isn’t what it used to be. Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon argues that by 1970, all the key technologies of modern life were in place: sanitation, electricity, mechanized agriculture, highways, air travel, telecommunications, and the like. After that, innovation and economic growth simply couldn’t keep going at the breakneck pace set over the preceding 100 years—a period Gordon calls “the special century.” Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Mahrer sucht „radikale Ideen“

Posted by hkarner - 12. April 2019

WKO-Präsident Mahrer will die Forschungsprämie für Mittelständler zugängig machen und Start-up-Investoren steuerlich entlasten.

Wien. Dramatische Musik, Donnerknallen aus dem Lautsprecher, Wirtschaftszahlen flimmern über den Schirm: China, USA, Indien. Alles steigt. Nur Österreich nicht. Da bleibt die Kurve flach, wie das EKG eines sterbenden Patienten. So dramatisch präsentierte die Wirtschaftskammer am Mittwoch ihre neue Innovationsstrategie für Österreich. „Die globalen Entwicklungen sind quasi festgeschrieben“, sagte Kammer-Präsident Harald Mahrer: „Die Wirtschaftsmacht wird sich verschieben. Nach Asien. Aber wir haben die Möglichkeit, uns als extrem innovativer Standort zu positionieren.“

Die neue Strategie der WKO beinhaltet den Aufbau eines „Innovationsradars“. Ein Netzwerk, in dem sich große Konzerne und KMU gleichermaßen zu Innovationen informieren und austauschen können sollen. Zudem soll die Forschungsprämie, welche derzeit bei 14 Prozent liegt, erhalten bleiben – aber besser für kleine und mittelständische Unternehmen zugänglich gemacht werden, sagte Mahrer. Wie heuer Anfang Februar bekannt wurde, geht die Forschungsprämie in Österreich derzeit zu fast 90 Prozent an Großkonzerne.

Wichtig sei auch das Thema Finanzierung. Er sprach sich für einen Beteiligungsfreibetrag für Start-up-Investoren aus. „Hier unterstütze ich die Wirtschaftsministerin voll“, sagte Mahrer. Dies wäre ein Anreiz, um mehr Risikokapital für die Start-up-Branche nach Österreich zu bringen. Wie hoch der Freibetrag sein soll, sagte Mahrer nicht. Von der Jungen Wirtschaft (JW) wurde aber im Jänner ein über fünf Jahre verteilt absetzbarer Freibetrag von 100.000 Euro vorgeschlagen.

„Innovationszonen“ in Salzburg?

Und Mahrer geht noch weiter: Er wünscht sich den Aufbau eines oder mehrerer Fonds, die „radikale Innovation“ und „radikale Ideen“ unterstützen sollen. Dabei solle es um „mutige Experimente“ von Unternehmern gehen. Solch ein Fonds müsste aber aus der Privatwirtschaft kommen, so der Kammer-Chef. Der Staat könne aber die Rahmenbedingungen schaffen. „All das wird nicht funktionieren, ohne dass wir intensiv in Menschen investieren. Das ist die magische Formel. Wir müssen in Bildung investieren, damit die Menschen auf neue, vielleicht radikale Ideen kommen.“

Um die Bedingungen für Unternehmen zu verbessern, will die WKO „Innovationszonen“ einführen. So sollen sich bestimmte Regionen auf einen Innovationszweig konzentrieren und damit zu Hotspots entwickeln. So wäre Salzburg an einer Tourismus-Innovationszone interessiert, führte Mahrer als Beispiel an. Für diese Zonen könnten dann auch gesonderte, „innovationsfreundliche Regulatorien“ gelten, heißt es in dem schriftlichen Papier zur Strategie. (jil/ag.)

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Could robots make us better humans?

Posted by hkarner - 7. März 2019

Date: 06-03-2019
Source: the Guardian

Machines can already write music and beat us at games like chess and Go. But the rise of artificial intelligence should inspire hope as well as fear, says Marcus du Sautoy

Marcus du Sautoy … ‘We often behave too like machines.’

As Marcus du Sautoy greets me at the entrance to New College, Oxford, his appearance is a quiet riot of colour. His clothes rather suggest someone who ran into White Stuff or Fat Face and frantically grabbed anything he could find – in this case, a salmon zip-up top, multihued check trousers and shoes that are a headache-inducing shade of turquoise. When we settle down to talk in a nearby meeting room, he repeatedly glances at a notepad – whose pages, just to add to all the garishness, are a bold shade of yellow.

They are full of what look like scrawled equations, mixed with odd-looking shapes: the raw material, he explains, of a project involving very complicated geometry. “There’s an infinite symmetrical structure that I’m looking at,” he says, “and I think the top bit of it will tell me everything that’s going on inside it. It’s almost like an infinite lake, and I should be able to know everything that’s happening in it by looking at the first centimetre.”

He suddenly looks rather pained. “But I don’t know.”

Du Sautoy, 53, is a professor of maths and a fellow of New College. Eleven years ago, Oxford University made him its Simonyi professor for the public understanding of science, a role ideally suited to a prolific author who is a regular presence on the TV. But a lot of his day-to-day life still seems to revolve around the fascinatingly abstract and complex world of pure maths – which, as his current quest suggests, is becoming ever more onerous and complex. Modern mathematicians stand on top of a body of knowledge that stretches back centuries. A great many theorems have been proved; even some of the most complicated fields of research have been fully explored, and closed off. To appreciably extend human understanding often seems to require unfathomable intellectual leaps. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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