The Maintainers

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Published on: January 31, 2017

An interesting movement/conference that caught my eye recently:

Many groups and individuals today celebrate “innovation.” The notion is influential not only in engineering and business, but also in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. For example, “innovation” has become a staple of analysis in popular histories – such as Walter Isaacson’s recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

This conference takes a different approach, one whose conceptual starting point was a playful proposal for a counter-volume to Isaacson’s that could be titled The Maintainers: How a Group of Bureaucrats, Standards Engineers, and Introverts Made Technologies That Kind of Work Most of the Time. Conference participants come from a variety of fields, including academic historians and social scientists, as well as artists, activists, and engineers.  All share an interest in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world.

[The Link]

[NYT: 2016] What was the greatest era of innovation?

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Published on: May 14, 2016

An interesting article in NYT..

“We thought a better way to understand the significance of technological change would be to walk through how Americans lived, ate, traveled, and clothed and entertained themselves in 1870, 1920, 1970 and the present [2016]. This tour is both inspired by and reliant on Robert J. Gordon’s authoritative examination of innovation through the ages, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” published this year. These are portraits of each point in time, culled from Mr. Gordon’s research; you can decide for yourself which era is truly most transformative.”

 

NYT: [The link]

[The verge] Current state of tech industry hypes [2014]

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Published on: August 14, 2014

 

A nice article summarizing (from Verge/Gartner) the tech life cycle of various ideas floating around.

 

 

More of this here: [The Verge]

[Techreview] Why the next silicon valley does not exist

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Published on: November 8, 2013

Some food for thought. An interesting article and report from MIT Technology Review about the ecosystem of silicon valley…

 

“It’s understandable that so many places around the world want to re-create the economic engine of Silicon Valley, as MIT Technology Review wrote about in its recent business report (“The Next Silicon Valley”). But creating another Silicon Valley will be far harder than anyone imagines. That’s because the Silicon Valley ecosystem is now far more sophisticated than just startups. ”

3 main reasons:

  • critical mass of large tech acquisition companies
  • large tech companies are used to disruption
  • people & culture: large, global, and weird

More of this here: [The Link]

Origins of Microsoft Research

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Published on: October 2, 2013

Microsoft research is well established and does some quite good work in many areas of computing technologies. Couple of early memos have surfaced which show how such a research group came to be. The memos and the slide-deck are an interesting read for anyone interested in research. The memo layout the plan for its activities, how it is structured, what processes need to be in place for successful adoption of the research outputs and indeed what useful research outputs should be (not just publications)..

 

Here are the links:

A consumer’s guide to 3D printing [engadget]

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Published on: July 25, 2013

Next revolution in manufacturing is to bring manufacturing from industrialized factories to homes. A nice overview of recent developments and available 3D printing devices that one can buy… The prices are still high and there are some quality issues. But they are improving steadily in recent times.

 

More of this here: [3D printer guide @engadet]

Is innovation slowing down?

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Published on: January 31, 2013

A question of introspection  often asked, at various times, whether things are going well or not. Now, what seems to be a world in recovery from the recent economic crisis, it is no wonder that this question is being asked and discussed. Interesting thoughts and discussion from both pessimists and optimists… I’d like to think I am one of the optimists.

Few links discussing this question:

Intense Competition among Scientists Has Gotten out of Hand [SciAm]

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Published on: January 15, 2013

An interesting article from Scientific American about state of competition among scientists for grants, positions and in general to resources needed for scientific endeavors. Especially when most of the credit is assigned to groups who publish first (priority criteria)….

Interesting excerpt from the article:

“The importance of teamwork in science has never been greater. Studies of publications over the past 50 years show that teams increasingly dominate science and are contributing the highest-impact research. Collaborators, consortia and networks are essential for tackling interdisciplinary problems and massive undertakings, such as the Human Genome Project. The priority rule may be undermining this process.

The appropriateness of the priority rule for science has never been seriously questioned. Is it best suited to the modern scientific age, in which scientists operate in large teams that put a premium on cooperation? An alternative system that celebrates team effort toward solving problems may work better. Industry, which favors collective goals over individual achievement, and the NIH Intramural Research Program, which encourages risk taking and collaborative partnerships with industry and academia, provide contrasting but instructional examples. Perhaps scientists would gladly trade the benefits of the priority rule (individual reward) for a system that offers greater stability of support and collegiality, freer sharing of information, more fairness, and improved scientific rigor and cooperation. This would be a discovery of enormous benefit to the scientific enterprise and the society it serves.”

 

More of this here: [The Link]

 

 

 

Finally a whole cell computational model

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Published on: July 20, 2012

An entire organism is modeled in terms of its molecular components
Complex phenotypes can be modeled by integrating cell processes into a single model
Unobserved cellular behaviors are predicted by model of M. genitalium
New biological processes and parameters are predicted by model of M. genitalium
Summary

Understanding how complex phenotypes arise from individual molecules and their interactions is a primary challenge in biology that computational approaches are poised to tackle. We report a whole-cell computational model of the life cycle of the human pathogen Mycoplasma genitalium that includes all of its molecular components and their interactions. An integrative approach to modeling that combines diverse mathematics enabled the simultaneous inclusion of fundamentally different cellular processes and experimental measurements. Our whole-cell model accounts for all annotated gene functions and was validated against a broad range of data. The model provides insights into many previously unobserved cellular behaviors, including in vivo rates of protein-DNA association and an inverse relationship between the durations of DNA replication initiation and replication. In addition, experimental analysis directed by model predictions identified previously undetected kinetic parameters and biological functions. We conclude that comprehensive whole-cell models can be used to facilitate biological discovery.

More info  [The Science Direct Link] [The Cell.com Link]

Interesting interview with Stephen Wolfram [theeuropean-magazine]

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Published on: July 5, 2012

Here is an interesting interview with Stephen Wolfram of Mathematica, WolframAlpha from theeuropean-magazine. Couple questions that I found interesting in the interview.

The European: The New York Times Magazine recently published a profile of Craig Venter, who led the team that decoded the human genome. Two things about it struck me as very interesting: One, he argued that the main challenge for innovation is not to do more, but to spread the benefits of innovation around the globe. Two, the best way to do that is through private enterprises and not through academic research. What’s your take on that?
Wolfram: I was an academic for a while, but I really like energetically doing projects. What I tried to do is build a very efficient mechanism to turn ideas into things. Right now, entrepreneurial companies seem to be the best way to do that. I look at my friends in academia and think: “Wow, things moved so slowly there in the last 25 years!” When we hire academics to work on WolframAlpha or Mathematica, the biggest shock for them is always how quick everything moves. We sit down, and an hour later we have decided what we are going to do and moved on. We can do crazy projects! If you want an immediate impact on the world, that’s what you need.

 

The European: So there are limits to the intrusiveness of data searches that violate personal privacy. Is there a similar limit where we might say: Even if it were technologically possible to automate most everyday processes, we should not do so for the sake of intuition or creativity.
Wolfram: It’s interesting that you mention creativity. We did an experiment a few years ago where we randomly plucked music from the universe of possible musical arrangements, and it actually sounded quite decent. I have been hearing from composers that they use that website for inspiration, which is the exact opposite of what I had expected. But the question remains what we humans should do if everything became automated. The answer, I think, is that we figure out what we should do. Let’s assume that everything is automated and wonderful. What do you choose to do in that case? As humans and as individuals, we have certain purposes that we are trying to achieve and which cannot be automated. Highly advanced artificial intelligence can be programmed to have a particular purpose but it cannot answer the question of what’s the right purpose to have. I find it highly interesting to figure out how human purposes evolved and how technology might affect them. At different times in history, we have said that our purpose is religion, or maximizing pleasure, or maximizing money. Some of the purposes we have today would seem rather bizarre from a historical perspective. Imagine a paleolithic ancestor trying to figure out why someone would walk on a treadmill indoors! So when lots of things are automated and possible, what purposes will we value? My personal and rather bizarre answer is that future generations will return to the wisdom of the ancients. The times we live in right now mark the first time in human history that data is permanently recorded on a large scale, so future generations can study us and say: “These people lived finite lives and had to make tough choices. So maybe those choices can tell us something about what it means to be human, and about what endpoints our idea of progress should aspire to.”

 

More of this here: [The Link]

 

 

 

 

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