Monday, September 8, 2008

Innovation Plan -- Concept Overview

Google Docs is an easy-to-use, "Web 2.0" approach to presenting ideas, or collaborating on presentations. I'll use it to provide an overview of my Prediction and Socio-Technical Plan:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Exploring the Future

I think Nanomanufacturing represents one of the most drastic changes for the future. Nanomanufacturing is based on molecular-level construction, which means we can build absolutely anything that we can describe in the form of a molecular-level blueprint (which is obviously a major challenge, but we're exploring the future here).

I saw a Discovery channel TV show the other night that talked about the possibilities. They described the concept of "personal fabrication devices", which could be used to manufacture anything we wanted. They compared this to "printing" a hard-copy represenation of a document -- push the "print" button on the personal fabricator and create whatever you want (e.g. new pair of shoes, new car, new boat).

What about cloning? From a physical perspective, we're just a carbon-based life form built from a collection of molecules (e.g. 60% water, etc). Do you think our memories, personality, etc would be replicated? In other words, do you think a molecular-based "print" of yourself would retain all your memories and personal charactersics? Freaky. Identity theft takes on a whole new meaning. But imagine the potential of our Olympic swim team if we simply replicate Mike Phelps using Mike Phelps blueprints.

I guess that also means we could manufacture any food source (with the molecular blueprint of the food source). That basically means we could take all the pollution in the world -- as raw molecular material -- and transform it into food, water, shelter, luxuries, a Saturday night date, etc.

Our economy would be driven by the purchase and sale of molecular blueprints. Creating these blueprints would probably be the only other job on the planet, since we no longer need retail stores, or manufacturing,... or banks, because we can build our own money from molecular blueprints.

Useful Web Tool

I never liked the way Browsers managed my favorite links, and I was never that excited about as a 'social bookmarking site', so I didn't bother...  but I did finally try Furl. 

I like Furl's full text search, and the fact that Furl saves copies of my content to my personal storage area, creating what Furl folks call your 'personal web'.  I find this great for saving my research-related content. I can search, access, organize, or update a consolidated set of favorite links from any one of my 12 computers, or any other computer I happen to be working from. 

Here is a useful review of Furl, which includes a comparison with

Think Tanks

The web is full of definitions for Think Tanks, including the top Google search result from Wikipedia. So I'll spare the world from having to sort through another one, and offer a more personal perspective on the concept instead.

I work at a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), which is a special type of Think Tank. It's a great place to work -- we've been listed on Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" for the past 7 years.

The National Science Foundation describes an FFRDC as "R&D-performing organizations that are exclusively or substantially financed by the Federal Government and are supported by the Federal Government either to meet a particular R&D objective..."

Yep, that's right. The DoD is one such sponsor. One of the DoD's current R&D objectives involves the transformation to net-centric operations. This involves a full spectrum of considerations for people, process, and technologies.

Regarding innovation (the topic of our course), I think the past decade's explosion of computer technology advancements (e.g. processing, storage, and network) have out-paced our ability to fully utilize these technologies. In other words, I think we have many opportunities for innovative design (aka applied research).

There are obvious benefits in speculating about the distant future, and basic research for discovery of new technologies.... but I think we have real challenges right now, along with the technologies to meet these challenges right now. Innovation can occur within the process of applied research and design... my favorites.

Back to Think Tanks... The National Center for Policy Analysis provides an interesting historical perspective on Think Tanks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Web 2.0 - Podcasts

As I've mentioned, I'm not an active participant of the Web 2.0 social scene. I spend my entire day (and many nights) working with computer technology, so I prefer to explore other adventures when I get some free time....

There are times when I find these new Web toys useful. I have a simple set of criteria for choosing my tools: 1) free, and 2) easy to use. I also prefer to host my content on my own server, or a server that I have file-level control over. I avoid the public "cloud" form of content storage.

With those criterion in mind, I performed the following steps to create the podcast below:
  1. Recorded the audio in mp3 format with a digital recorder
  2. Cleaned up the audio with Audacity (free), which exports to mp3
  3. Moved the mp3 content to one of my file servers
  4. Embedded the link to the mp3 file using an Odeo player

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Innovation in other fields

Innovation is not limited to technology. Cris Angel has revolutionized "magic". If you haven't seen his work, check out these videos. There's lots more on YouTube.

This is an innovative approach to a classic magic trick:

I'd say this an innovative approach to getting from one side of a pool to another:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Satellite Communication - Analysis of a Successful Prediction

I raised a few questions in my previous post: why were early predictions of satellite communication successful? Was satellite communications inevitable, or was it driven by the creative minds of the people who predicted it's development?

David Whalens postulates that John Pierce, from AT&T's Bell Telephone Lab, identified satellite communications as a billion-dollar technology. Hmmmmm.... could that impact the likelihood of success for this prediction? By 1960, AT&T filed for permission from the FCC to launch an experimental communication satellite.

Richard Albright provided some interesting perspectives on technical forecasts. He notes that 80% of forecasts in computers and communications are correct, while forecasts in other areas are less than 50% correct. He lists a few potential reasons why:

  1. Sustained exponential trends in enabling technologies. It's easier to extrapolate (predict) when you have more sample points to work with.
  2. Lower investment for innovation. Technology advances have dropped the cost barriers, so we can effectively iterate more solutions for less cost. This allows many people from many organisations to make contributions to the progression.

Personally, I believe that the likelihood of success for any prediction will be directly proportional to the potential profit that can be made from it's success. Of course there are other factors (like gravity and other technical, political, organizational hurdles), but I believe that greed is a powerful force that can significantly impact the success of any technological prediction.