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To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow There are a lot of destructive myths about creativity, but one of the most dangerous is the “lone genius” myth: An individual with superhuman talents appears out of nowhere at certain points in history, free of influences or precedent, with a direct connection to God or The Muse. When inspiration comes, it strikes like a lightning bolt, a lightbulb switches on in his head, and then he spends the rest of his time toiling away in his studio, shaping this idea into a finished masterpiece that he releases into the world to great fanfare. If you believe in the lone genius myth, creativity is an antisocial act, performed by only a few great figures—mostly dead men with names like Mozart, Einstein, or Picasso. The rest of us are left to stand around and gawk in awe at their achievements.
Longitude by Dava Sobel
LONGITUDE The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time DAVA SOBEL Contents 1. Imaginary Lines 2. The Sea Before Time 3. Adrift in a Clockwork Universe 4. Time in a Bottle 5. Powder of Sympathy 6. The Prize 7. Cogmaker’s Journal 8. The Grasshopper Goes to Sea 9. Hands on Heaven’s Clock 10. The Diamond Timekeeper 11. Trial by Fire and Water 12. A Tale of Two Portraits 13. The Second Voyage of Captain James Cook 14. The Mass Production of Genius 15. In the Meridian Courtyard Acknowledgments Sources For my mother, Betty Gruber Sobel, a four-star navigator who can sail by the heavens but always drives by way of Canarsie. 1. Imaginary Lines When I’m playful I use the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude for a seine, drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Publisher. First published in the United States of America in 1995 by Walker Publishing Company, Inc. Published simultaneously in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son Canada, Limited, Markham, Ontario Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Sobel, Dava. Longitude : the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time / Dava Sobel. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. eISBN: 978-0-802-77943-4 1. Longitude—Measurement—History. 2. Harrison, John. 1693-1776. 3. Clock and watch makers—Great Britain—Biography. I. Title. QB225.S64 1995 526’.62’09—dc20 95-17402 CIP Illustration of H-4 on title page spread used by permission of the National Maritime Museum, London.
How to Fix Copyright by William Patry
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, barriers to entry, big-box store, borderless world, business intelligence, citizen journalism, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, en.wikipedia.org, facts on the ground, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, Gordon Gekko, haute cuisine, informal economy, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, lone genius, means of production, new economy, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, The Chicago School, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, web application, winner-take-all economy
If we permit others to copy from lone geniuses, the argument goes that we will have fewer of them. We therefore need the strongest copyright laws possible in order to provide the strongest protection for our superstars. Moreover, we need distributors to own the copyright in superstars’ works because it is distributors who know the markets and marketing, and know how to effectively make money for the superstars. The myth of the Lone Genius is a distributors’ myth that some artists buy into, but it ill-serves copyright and the majority of artists.37 Creativity is furthered not by limiting success to a few superstars, but by opening up audiences and the channels of distribution to the many. Culture is the result of sharing creative experiences, not walling creativity off as the province of only a select few. The hostility of gatekeepers to platforms like YouTube stems not from the existence of some unauthorized content on them, but rather from such platforms’ direct challenge to the superstar system.
In a statement that deﬁnes irony, the Walt Disney-created product Miley Cyrus dismissed thirteenyear-old songwriter and performer Rebecca Black (whose song “Friday” achieved a worldwide audience thanks to YouTube) by claiming, “It should be harder to be an artist.You shouldn’t just be able to put a song on YouTube and go out on tour.”39 This posture against creativity by the many shows how the “marketplace is egalitarian” argument is false.The marketplace for copyrighted products is one of deliberate scarcity, in which our place is as passive consumers, not as creators. We are supposed to 90 HOW TO FIX COPYRIGHT show our respect for the lonely geniuses by consuming their products, and by recognizing that their genius requires us not to create and certainly not to copy from them, since we cannot be like them. Creativity is served, however, not by prohibiting copying, but by encouraging it: as often as possible, by as many as possible. The myth of the Lone Genius drives a stake through the heart of the central, actual requirement for creativity to ﬂourish: the ability to copy. If policymakers truly want to increase creativity, then they must greatly liberalize the ability of one person to transformatively copy from another.40 CREATIVITY IS BASED ON COPYING If we genuinely want to encourage creativity, we must encourage copying. This approach is consistent with copyright’s history, although one would never know this from current perceptions.
A Remix Manifesto, Eyesteel Film and National Film Board of Canada, 2009, http://nfb.ca/rip_a_remix_manifesto/. November 16, 2010, available at: http://www.npr.org/2010/11/15/ 131334322/the-fresh-air-interview-jay-z-decoded. The Rza, The Wu-Tang Manual 192 (2005). See Olufunmilayo Arewa, The Freedom to Copy: Copyright, Creation and Context, 41 University of California at Davis Law Review 477 (2007). Alfonso Montouri and Ronald Purser, Deconstructing the Lone Genius Myth:Toward a Contextual View of Creativity, 35 Journal of Humanistic Psychology 69, 82 (1995). The U.S. Copyright Act deﬁnes “derivative work” as: A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, ﬁctionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell
agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, nuclear winter, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route
Leblanc process, early industrial pollution, Solvay processes: Deighton (1907), Reilly (1951), Mokyr (1990). William Crookes quote: Standage (2010). nitrogen gas is the least reactive diatomic substance: Schrock (2006). Haber-Bosch process: Standage (2010), Kean (2010), Perkins (1977), Edgerton (2007a). 12: TIME AND PLACE Adam Frank, About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang. Eric Bruton, The History of Clocks & Watches. Dava Sobel, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Epigraph: Denis Diderot as quoted by Goodman (1995). constancy of sand time (hourglass) compared to water clock: Bruton (2000). sundials: Oleson (2008). Manhattan as a city-size Stonehenge: Astronomy Picture of the Day, July 12, 2006, http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap060712.html. mechanical clocks: Usher (1982), Bruton (2000), Gribbin (2002), Frank (2011). 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours: Crump (2001), Frank (2011).
Appropriate Technology for Water Supply and Sanitation: Night-soil Composting. (ATL 17-389) Washington, DC: The World Bank. Silverman, Steve. 2001. Einstein’s Refrigerator: And Other Stories from the Flip Side of History. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing. Smith, Gerald. 2009. “The Chemistry of Historically Important Black Inks, Paints and Dyes.” Chemistry Eduction in New Zealand, (May): 12–15. Sobel, Dava. 1995. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. New York: Walker & Company. Solomon, Steven. 2011. Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization. New York: Harper Perennial. Solomon, Susan, Gian-Kasper Plattner, Reto Knutti, and Pierre Friedlingstein. 2009. “Irreversible Climate Change Due to Carbon Dioxide Emissions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (6): 1704–09.
3D printing, AI winter, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, Automated Insights, Bernie Madoff, Bill Joy: nanobots, brain emulation, cellular automata, cloud computing, cognitive bias, computer vision, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, data acquisition, don't be evil, Extropian, finite state, Flash crash, friendly AI, friendly fire, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, lone genius, mutually assured destruction, natural language processing, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, prisoner's dilemma, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, semantic web, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, smart grid, speech recognition, statistical model, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, traveling salesman, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero day
Furthermore, even if it were a low probability event, its risk factor should promote it to the front tier of our attention. Put another way, I believe the Busy Child will come very soon. The fear of being outsmarted by greater-than-human intelligence is an old one, but early in this century a sophisticated experiment about it came out of Silicon Valley, and instantly became the stuff of Internet legend. The rumor went like this: a lone genius had engaged in a series of high-stakes bets in a scenario he called the AI-Box Experiment. In the experiment, the genius role-played the part of the AI. An assortment of dot-com millionaires each took a turn as the Gatekeeper—an AI maker confronted with the dilemma of guarding and containing smarter-than-human AI. The AI and Gatekeeper would communicate through an online chat room. Using only a keyboard, it was said, the man posing as the ASI escaped every time, and won each bet.
MIRI invites talks from believers and nonbelievers alike, people who don’t think the Singularity will ever happen, and people who think MIRI is an apocalyptic techno cult. Vassar smiled at the cult idea. “People who come to work for MIRI are the opposite of joiners. Usually they realize AI’s dangers before they even know MIRI exists.” I didn’t know MIRI existed until after I’d heard about the AI-Box Experiment. A friend had told me about it, but in the telling he got a lot wrong about the lone genius and his millionaire opponents. I tracked the story to a MIRI Web site, and discovered that the experiment’s creator, Eliezer Yudkowsky, had cofounded MIRI (then called the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence) with entrepreneurs Brian and Sabine Atkins. Despite his reputed reticence, Yudkowsky and I exchanged e-mails and he gave me the straight dope about the experiment. The bets placed between the AI played by Yudkowsky and the Gatekeeper assigned to rein him in were at most thousands of dollars, not millions.
The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity From Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs by Alexa Clay, Kyra Maya Phillips
3D printing, Airbnb, Alfred Russel Wallace, Berlin Wall, Burning Man, collaborative consumption, conceptual framework, double helix, fear of failure, game design, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, lone genius, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, Occupy movement, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, union organizing, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, Zipcar
A misfit alone is a recluse, alienated and cut off from the world. A misfit with a tight community can be far more influential. In 1921 the young aspiring American writer Ernest Hemingway moved to Paris, where he faced poverty, drank himself senseless, fell deeply in and out of love, and, having found his voice as a writer, became a true innovator of the written word. But Hemingway’s transformation isn’t a story of lone genius; like many an innovator, he owed a substantial debt to a collective, notably the expatriates who gathered in Paris in the 1920s. Beyond the myth of rugged individualism surrounding him, Hemingway benefited from the commitment, mentoring, and support of this small group of people—an entourage, if you will. While our modern culture tends to associate the word with celebrities and motorcades, the pure definition is more commonplace, referring not to the rank or importance of the person at the center of the circle but instead to “one’s associates” or (from the Old French entour) “one’s surroundings.”
What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response by Bernard Lewis
The same qualities may be seen, in a more obvious form, in the work of the historian, and indeed distinguishes his writing from that of the chronicler or annalist. All these involve some degree of harmonization—by the novelist or playwright, the party leader or team captain, the composer and conductor. The same applies, perhaps with even greater force, to modern scientific research, which is no longer the preserve of the lone genius, but has come to rely increasingly on teamwork and organization. Modern science has extended our capacity to observe and to measure both time and space to a previously inconceivable degree, extending the scale from the nanosecond to the light year. Polyphony, in whatever form, requires exact synchronization. The ability to synchronize, to match times exactly, and for this purpose to measure times exactly, is an essential feature of modernity and therefore a requirement of modernization.
Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson
airport security, algorithmic trading, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Sanders, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, future of journalism, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, HyperCard, Jane Jacobs, John Gruber, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, lone genius, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Naomi Klein, Nate Silver, Occupy movement, packet switching, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, pre–internet, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social graph, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Tim Cook: Apple, urban planning, WikiLeaks, working poor, X Prize
For more on the Royal Society of Arts, see A History of the Royal Society of Arts, by Henry Trueman Wood, and Joseph Banks and the English Enlightenment: Useful Knowledge and Polite Culture, by John Gascoigne. On the innovation threat posed by intellectual property restrictions, see Lawrence Lessig’s The Future of Ideas, and my own Where Good Ideas Come From. Ayn Rand’s views on patents come from an essay, “Patents and Copyrights,” included in the collection Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. John Harrison’s story is told in Dava Sobel’s popular Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Beth Noveck’s inspirational work with crowdsourced patent review, dubbed “peer to patent,” is described in her WikiGovernment. For more on Jon Schnur and the origin and implementation of the Race to the Top program, see Steve Brill’s entertaining Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools. Interviews with both Noveck and Schnur are included in an anthology I edited, The Innovator’s Cookbook.
Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, cleantech, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, digital Maoism, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Ernest Rutherford, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, greed is good, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invention of air conditioning, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, online collectivism, packet switching, PageRank, patent troll, pattern recognition, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Oldenburg, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, urban planning
It Takes a Nation went on to become one of the most sonically influential records of its decade, reverberating through the wider culture—in everything from cell phone jingles to billboard chart-toppers to avant-garde experimentation—just as Highway 61 Revisited and Pet Sounds had done a generation before. Eno’s original innovation was brilliant, to be sure, and from a distance it almost looks like the classic “lone genius” eureka moment: the innovator locked away in his lab, stumbling across an idea that would transform the wider culture. But it is crucial to the story that Eno was not, technically speaking, alone with his tape recorder: he was tapped into a network of wildly different voices, all of them ranting at different frequencies. Eno didn’t need a coffeehouse. He had AM radio. In the late nineties, a Stanford Business School professor named Martin Ruef decided to investigate the relationship between business innovation and diversity.
centralized clearinghouse, index card, lone genius, market bubble, Merlin Mann, New Journalism, Results Only Work Environment, rolodex, side project, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, supply-chain management, Tim Cook: Apple, Tony Hsieh, young professional
Your mind was held in suspense all the time, you spurred the others on to sincere, disinterested inquiry and were spurred on yourself, you laid in a stock of enthusiasm that kept you going for weeks on end until you could give final form to the idea you had in mind. You always went home afterwards better steeled for the fray, with a new sense of purpose and a clearer head.4 Despite prevailing notions of the lone genius, this story of how the Impressionists, a circle of friends, spurred each other on to achieve major breakthroughs in the world of painting is more common than you might think. Circles like this play a critical role in making ideas happen across creative industries. In some cases, the use of circles has been institutionalized, while in others, formal circles are nonexistent. Regardless, circles are relevant and hugely beneficial for all leaders with ideas.
The Year Without Pants: Wordpress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun
barriers to entry, blue-collar work, Broken windows theory, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, future of work, Google Hangouts, Jane Jacobs, job satisfaction, Lean Startup, lone genius, Mark Zuckerberg, minimum viable product, remote working, Results Only Work Environment, Richard Stallman, Seaside, Florida, side project, Silicon Valley, six sigma, Skype, stealth mode startup, Steve Jobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the map is not the territory, Tony Hsieh, trade route
And since there are people working from nearly every time zone in the world, there was always someone online to help with a problem or joke around with when you're working. One of the accounts I needed to set up had a problem, so Hanni handed me off to Barry Abrahamson, the benevolent lord of all of WordPress.com's systems. If you imagine a secret underground bunker with endless rows of humming web servers and a lone genius conjuring spells to keep it all running, that's Barry. The only difference is there is no bunker. And no rows of servers, at least not in his presence. All the machinery used to power WordPress.com is housed in data centers around the United States, and Barry controls everything from his home in Texas. He's among the most important people in the company, since all the work everyone else does depends on the systems he manages so well.
The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph E. Stiglitz
affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, Andrei Shleifer, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Basel III, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collective bargaining, colonial rule, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dava Sobel, declining real wages, deskilling, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Flash crash, framing effect, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, inflation targeting, invisible hand, John Harrison: Longitude, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Kenneth Rogoff, labour market flexibility, London Interbank Offered Rate, lone genius, low skilled workers, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, medical bankruptcy, microcredit, moral hazard, mortgage tax deduction, obamacare, offshore financial centre, paper trading, patent troll, payday loans, price stability, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, spectrum auction, Steve Jobs, technology bubble, The Chicago School, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, trade liberalization, transaction costs, trickle-down economics, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, very high income, We are the 99%, women in the workforce
Providing better social protection can help create a more dynamic economy. The adverse effects of so-called incentive pay The Right, like many economists, tends to overestimate the benefits and underestimate the costs of incentive pay. There are certainly contexts in which monetary prizes have the potential to focus minds on a thorny problem and deliver a solution. A famous example is detailed in Dava Sobel’s Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. As she reports, in the Longitude Act of 1714, the British Parliament set “a prize equal to a king’s ransom (several million dollars in today’s currency) for a ‘Practicable and Useful’ means of determining longitude.” This was critical to the success of transoceanic navigation. John Harrison, a watchmaker with no formal education but a mechanical genius, devoted his life to this quest and ultimately claimed the prize in 1773.55 However, it is a great leap from the power of monetary incentives to focus minds on a great quest to the idea that monetary incentives are the key to high performance in general.
Wealth in the form of collateral plays a kind of catalytic role rather than a role of input that gets used up in the process of producing output. See K. Hoff, “Market Failures and the Distribution of Wealth: A Perspective from the Economics of Information,” Politics and Society 24, no. 4 (1996): 411–32; and Hoff, “The Second Theorem of the Second Best,” Journal of Public Economics 25 (1994): 223–42. 55. The exciting story is told in the bestseller by Dava Sobel, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (New York: Walker, 1995). 56. Technically, the problems with incentive pay arise when there are information asymmetries. The employer doesn’t fully know the quality of the products produced by the worker (otherwise, he would specify that). In a trial, the judge and jury worry that the strength of an expert’s opinion might be affected if his compensation depended on the outcome of the trial. 57.
A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asperger Syndrome, availability heuristic, Benoit Mandelbrot, biofilm, Black Swan, British Empire, conceptual framework, corporate governance, Danny Hillis, Douglas Engelbart, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Flynn Effect, Frank Gehry, Google Earth, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, index card, information retrieval, Internet Archive, invention of writing, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, out of africa, Ponzi scheme, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, smart grid, social graph, social software, social web, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, telepresence, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, trade route, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize
In contrast, members of the Invisible College shared their work, describing and disputing their methods and conclusions so that they all might benefit from both successes and failures and build on one another’s work. The chemists were, to use the avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman’s phrase, “pancake people.” They abandoned the spiritual depths of alchemy for a continual and continually incomplete grappling with what was real, a task so daunting that no one person could take it on alone. Though the history of science we learn as schoolchildren is often marked by the trope of the lone genius, science has always been a networked operation. In this, we can see a precursor to what’s possible for us today. The Invisible College didn’t just use the printing press as raw capability but created a culture that used the press to support the transparency and argumentation that science relies on. We have the same opportunity. As we know from arXiv.org, the twentieth-century model of publishing is inadequate to the kind of sharing possible today.
We-Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production by Charles Leadbeater
1960s counterculture, Andrew Keen, barriers to entry, bioinformatics, c2.com, call centre, citizen journalism, clean water, cloud computing, complexity theory, congestion charging, death of newspapers, Debian, digital Maoism, double helix, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, frictionless, frictionless market, future of work, game design, Google Earth, Google X / Alphabet X, Hacker Ethic, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jean Tirole, jimmy wales, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, lone genius, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microcredit, new economy, Nicholas Carr, online collectivism, planetary scale, post scarcity, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social web, software patent, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Whole Earth Catalog, Zipcar
Guitar 90 did not have to ask Funtwo’s permission to take his video from the Mule and upload it to YouTube. None of the thousands of people who have created their own versions of the video, by impersonating, imitating and adapting Funtwo’s work asked permission. They just did it. Nothing was planned or scheduled months in advance. As with most things that get big on the web the video was not the work of a lone genius. Funtwo opened a window on a global micro community of classically trained electric guitar players who avidly play, share and comment on each other’s work. These guitarists are classic Pro Ams: they play for the love of it, not for money or fame, but they play to extremely high standards, enthusiastically learning from one another. It is now easier than ever for Pro Ams in many fields to create, publish and share content – whether in the form of music, film, software or text.
call centre, clean water, correlation does not imply causation, Dean Kamen, double helix, edge city, germ theory of disease, Google Earth, Jane Jacobs, John Nash: game theory, John Snow's cholera map, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, megacity, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, peak oil, side project, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, trade route, unbiased observer, working poor
Snow’s taciturn demeanor would have helped him as the brothers described their regular deliveries of pump water to Hampstead; a more volatile investigator might have responded to the revelation of that crucial clue with more emotion. But whatever emotion he showed the Eley brothers, when he stepped out of the factory into the bright light of Broad Street, he must have thought to himself with some satisfaction that the case was coming together quite nicely indeed. The miasmatists might finally have met their match. THERE IS A KIND OF MYTHOLOGY THAT STORIES LIKE THIS one tend inevitably to drift toward: the lone genius shaking off the chains of conventional wisdom through the sheer force of his intellect. But in explaining Snow’s battle against the miasma theory and the medical establishment, it’s not sufficient to point to his brilliance or his tenacity alone, though no doubt those characteristics played a crucial role. If the dominance of the miasma model was itself shaped by multiple intersecting forces, so, too, was Snow’s ability to see it for the illusion that it was.
3D printing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, clean water, collapse of Lehman Brothers, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, declining real wages, demographic dividend, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, Fall of the Berlin Wall, follow your passion, game design, housing crisis, Hyman Minsky, industrial robot, invisible hand, James Dyson, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, John Gruber, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, lone genius, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, new economy, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, race to the bottom, reshoring, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, six sigma, Skype, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, supply-chain management, Tesla Model S, The Chicago School, The Design of Experiments, the High Line, The Myth of the Rational Market, thinkpad, Tim Cook: Apple, too big to fail, tulip mania, We are the 99%, Y Combinator, young professional, Zipcar
And when scanners get smaller and more complex, we may discover more insights into what happens to the brain when we act and feel. But even then, neuroscience runs the risk of being just like the shadow on the screen in a Javanese puppet play, revealing the reflection of reality, rather than the reality itself. And so, as fascinating as the new research on creativity from neuroscience is, as much as it has helped to debunk the idea of the lone genius, it’s time to also toss out the old lightbulb, and turn a more wary eye on the brain wave machines that so beguile us. As cool as “aha moments” are, and as interesting as it is to understand what parts of our brain are working when we’re improvising or solving a problem when we’re in the shower, creativity is about so much more than that moment . . . and it’s about so much more than the individual experiencing that moment.
Sextant: A Young Man's Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who ... by David Barrie
centre right, colonial exploitation, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, Maui Hawaii, Nicholas Carr, polynesian navigation, South China Sea, trade route
The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders RN. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. Shackleton, S. E. (1999). South: The Endurance Expedition. London: Penguin Books. Skelton, R. A. (1970). Explorers’ Maps: Chapters in the Cartographic Record of Geographical Discovery. London: Hamlyn. Slocum, J. (1956). Sailing Alone Around the World. New York: Dover Publications. Sobel, D. (1996). Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. London: Fourth Estate. South America Pilot Volume II (1993 ed.). Taunton, UK: Hydrographic Office. Sterne, L. (2005). The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. London: Folio Society. Suthren, V. (2004). The Sea Has No End: The Life of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville. Toronto: Dundurn. Taylor, E. G. (1956). The Haven-Finding Art: A History of Navigation from Odysseus to Captain Cook.
Conscious Capitalism, With a New Preface by the Authors: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey, Rajendra Sisodia, Bill George
Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, business process, carbon footprint, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, crony capitalism, cross-subsidies, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fear of failure, Flynn Effect, income per capita, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, lone genius, Mahatma Gandhi, microcredit, Occupy movement, profit maximization, Ralph Waldo Emerson, shareholder value, six sigma, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, union organizing, women in the workforce
Teams make their own decisions regarding hiring, the selection of many products, merchandising, and even compensation. Teams have profit responsibilities as well. Most of our incentive programs are team-based, not individual. For example, gain-sharing bonuses are awarded according to team performance. Teams allow people to feel safe and have a sense of belonging. The creative ideas of individuals bounce around within the team and get improved upon. Especially in the United States, there is a myth of the lone genius coming up with brilliant ideas that change the world. While that occasionally happens, the more common scenario is that an individual comes up with an idea and shares it with other members of his or her team; they become excited and improve upon it. The spirit of collaboration allows the idea to evolve and mature. It is natural for people to both collaborate and compete. At Whole Foods, we have found it very effective to have different self-managing teams compete with each other in a friendly way.
Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, lone genius, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Solar eclipse in 1919, The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics
Research scientists know that progress in any field is usually incremental, taking place over years or even decades. Groundbreaking 223 Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat discoveries are few and far between. Often a scientist needs to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to make a mark. Most scientific research today is completed by large teams, rather than by single individuals. Yet the myth persists of the lone genius changing everything around us. Type “next Einstein” into any Internet search engine and expect to be bombarded with results—everything from recipes for educational success to claims made in resumes or personal ads. Here are a few assorted examples of recent media musings: Will the next Einstein be a “surfer dude”?1 Is he a child prodigy with an exceptional IQ?2 What if the next Einstein is a computer?
Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, clockwork universe, complexity theory, double helix, Edmond Halley, Isaac Newton, lone genius, music of the spheres, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, Simon Singh, Stephen Hawking, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
Perhaps we would do better to acknowledge the gulf than to try to bridge it. At Cambridge, Newton could occasionally be seen standing in the courtyard, staring at the ground, drawing diagrams in the gravel with a stick. Eventually he would retreat indoors. His fellow professors did not know what the lines represented, but they stepped carefully around them, in order to avoid hindering the work of the lonely genius struggling to decipher God’s codebook. Acknowledgments My first career ambition, years ago, was to play professional basketball. This plan did not long endure. It was succeeded by a far longer-lived but perhaps equally foolish notion, to spend a lifetime studying theoretical mathematics. After several years wandering dazed through infinite dimensional spaces, I left the hunt to those better suited to it.
Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
Ada Lovelace, Alfred Russel Wallace, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Book of Ingenious Devices, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, colonial exploitation, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Drosophila, Fellow of the Royal Society, game design, global village, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, HyperCard, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Landlord's Game, lone genius, megacity, Minecraft, Murano, Venice glass, music of the spheres, Necker cube, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, pattern recognition, pets.com, placebo effect, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Oldenburg, spice trade, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, talking drums, the built environment, The Great Good Place, the scientific method, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, Victor Gruen, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, Whole Earth Catalog, working poor, Wunderkammern
It was the game’s exciting promise of fame and fortune that prompted Darrow to initially produce this game on his own.” Both the game itself—and the story of its origins—had entirely inverted the original progressive agenda of Lizzie Magie’s landlord game. A lesson in the abuses of capitalist ambition had been transformed into a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit, its collectively authored rules reimagined as the work of a lone genius. — Game mythologies habitually seek out heroic inventors, even when those invention stories are on the very edges of plausibility. Every year, millions of baseball fans descend on the small town of Cooperstown, New York, to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame because Abner Doubleday invented the game in a cow pasture there in 1839. Most such origin stories overstate the role of the inventor, reducing a complex lineage down to a single individual genius.
The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki
AltaVista, Andrei Shleifer, asset allocation, Cass Sunstein, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, experimental economics, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, Howard Rheingold, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, interchangeable parts, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, lone genius, Long Term Capital Management, market bubble, market clearing, market design, moral hazard, new economy, offshore financial centre, Picturephone, prediction markets, profit maximization, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Toyota Production System, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Yogi Berra
And the result was that this cobbled-together multinational alliance found an answer to its problem as quickly and efficiently as any top-down organization could have. THE SCOPE AND SPEED of the SARS research effort made it unique. But in one sense the successful collaboration between the labs was simply an exemplary case of the way much modern science gets done. Although in the popular imagination science remains the province of the lone genius working alone in his lab, in fact it is, in more ways than one, a profoundly collective enterprise. Before World War I, collaboration was relatively rare for scientists. But that began to change in the decades before World War II, and in the postwar years teamwork and group projects proliferated rapidly. Researchers, particularly experimental researchers, routinely work in large groups, and it’s no longer strange to see scientific papers that are co-authored by ten or twenty people.
Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Our World by Greg Milner
Ayatollah Khomeini, British Empire, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, experimental subject, Flash crash, friendly fire, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, land tenure, lone genius, Mars Rover, Mercator projection, place-making, polynesian navigation, precision agriculture, race to the bottom, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, smart grid, the map is not the territory
David Lewis: “[N]o one seems to have asked [Tupaia] how he oriented himself, or what his actual concepts and methods were” (We, the Navigators, 9). Chapter 2: The When and the Where 24 the transit of Venus: Steven Cherry, Transit of Venus: The Other Half of the Longitude Story, Techwise Conversations, n.d., http://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/geek-life/profiles/transit-of-venus-the-other-half-of-the-longitude-story. 26 “discovering the longitude”: Dava Sobel, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (New York: Walker and Co., 1995), 56. 27 In 1800, Chevalier de Lamarck: Walter Sullivan, “The IGY—Scientific Alliance In a Divided World,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 14, no. 2 (February 1958): 68–72. 28 first international organization: Ibid., 68. 28 “the largest organized intellectual enterprise”: John A. Simpson, “The International Geophysical Year—A Study of Our Planet,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 13, no. 10 (December 1957): 351. 29 “Contemplate the satellite,” “that we puny people”: Daniel Lang, “Earth Satellite No. 1,” New Yorker, May 11, 1957. 29 “the greatest boon”: Ibid. 29 “This is our first step”: Ibid. 30 “I wouldn’t care”: “National Affairs: PROJECT VANGUARD,” Time, October 21, 1957. 30 “I wish to congratulate,” “really fantastic”: C.
Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets by John McMillan
accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, Andrei Shleifer, Anton Chekhov, Asian financial crisis, congestion charging, corporate governance, crony capitalism, Dava Sobel, Deng Xiaoping, experimental economics, experimental subject, fear of failure, first-price auction, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, George Gilder, global village, Hernando de Soto, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, income inequality, income per capita, informal economy, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job-hopping, John Harrison: Longitude, John von Neumann, land reform, lone genius, manufacturing employment, market clearing, market design, market friction, market microstructure, means of production, Network effects, new economy, offshore financial centre, pez dispenser, pre–internet, price mechanism, profit maximization, profit motive, proxy bid, purchasing power parity, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Stewart Brand, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, transaction costs, War on Poverty, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, yield management
The market, unlike a firm, can commit to richly rewarding an entrepreneur in the event of an unanticipated blockbuster success. The location of ownership affects investment and performance. In situations that demand exceptional effort and where outcomes are highly responsive to such effort, decision-making cannot be effectively delegated; the owner needs to be directly involved. For innovation, in particular, ownership matters greatly. The lone genius driven to invent—Thomas Alva Edison dreaming up the light bulb or Alexander Graham Bell the telephone—is legendary. But it is not obvious that this is the best way to organize research today. Should innovators own the rights to their ideas? Or is innovation more effectively achieved in a large organization? Economies of scale arise in research. Large laboratories with seemingly limitless resources can afford to acquire the best people, the most advanced equipment, and armies of assistants.
3D printing, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Arthur Eddington, Benoit Mandelbrot, bioinformatics, Black Swan, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, constrained optimization, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, data is the new oil, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Erik Brynjolfsson, experimental subject, Filter Bubble, future of work, global village, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information retrieval, job automation, John Snow's cholera map, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Netflix Prize, Network effects, NP-complete, P = NP, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, planetary scale, pre–internet, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, theory of mind, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight
Pace Stephen Hawking, it may ultimately tell us more about the mind of God than string theory. Some may say that seeking a universal learner is the epitome of techno-hubris. But dreaming is not hubris. Maybe the Master Algorithm will take its place among the great chimeras, alongside the philosopher’s stone and the perpetual motion machine. Or perhaps it will be more like finding the longitude at sea, given up as too difficult until a lone genius solved it. More likely, it will be the work of generations, raised stone by stone like a cathedral. The only way to find out is to get up early one day and set out on the journey. Candidates that don’t make the cut So, if the Master Algorithm exists, what is it? A seemingly obvious candidate is memorization: just remember everything you’ve seen; after a while you’ll have seen everything there is to see, and therefore know everything there is to know.
To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov
3D printing, algorithmic trading, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Automated Insights, Berlin Wall, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, citizen journalism, cloud computing, cognitive bias, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, Dava Sobel, disintermediation, East Village, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, frictionless, future of journalism, game design, Gary Taubes, Google Glasses, illegal immigration, income inequality, invention of the printing press, Jane Jacobs, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Julian Assange, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, license plate recognition, lone genius, Louis Pasteur, Mark Zuckerberg, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Narrative Science, Nicholas Carr, packet switching, PageRank, Paul Graham, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, pets.com, placebo effect, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Thaler, Ronald Coase, Rosa Parks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, smart meter, social graph, social web, stakhanovite, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stuxnet, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the medium is the message, The Nature of the Firm, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, transaction costs, urban decay, urban planning, urban sprawl, Vannevar Bush, WikiLeaks
Sol Schwimmer is suing me”: Woody Allen, The Complete Prose of Woody Allen (New York: Wings Books, 1991), 105. 35 “when we think of information technology”: David Edgerton, Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 (London: Profile Books, 2011), xvi. 36 “the most wrenching cultural transformation since the Industrial Revolution”: “‘Antichrist of Silicon Valley,’ Andrew Keen Wary of Online Content Sharing,” Economic Times, May 29, 2012. 37 they don’t always capture the historical complexity: on the longitude problem, see Dava Sobel’s accessible history Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, reprint ed. (New York: Walker & Company, 2007). On early crowdsourcing efforts by the Smithsonian, see “Smithsonian Crowd-sourcing since 1849!,” Smithsonian Institution Archives, April 14, 2011, http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/smithsonian-crowdsourcing-1849. I learned of Toyota’s efforts via this blog post on pre-Internet crowd-sourcing efforts: “Crowdsourcing Is Not New—the History of Crowdsourcing (1714 to 2010),” DesignCrowd, October 28, 2010, http://blog.designcrowd.com/article/202/crowdsourcing. 37 “Knowledge is taking on the shape of the Net”: David Weinberger, Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now that the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room (New York: Basic Books, 2012), 17.
4chan, Airbnb, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, banking crisis, bitcoin, blockchain, Burning Man, capital controls, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Extropian, fiat currency, Fractional reserve banking, Jeff Bezos, Julian Assange, Kickstarter, life extension, litecoin, lone genius, M-Pesa, Mark Zuckerberg, Occupy movement, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, price stability, Satoshi Nakamoto, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, Skype, slashdot, smart contracts, Startup school, stealth mode startup, the payments system, transaction costs, tulip mania, WikiLeaks
The creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi, disappeared back in 2011, leaving behind open source software that the users of Bitcoin could update and improve. Five years later, it was estimated that only 15 percent of the basic Bitcoin computer code was the same as what Satoshi had written. Beyond the work on the software, Bitcoin, like all money, was always only as useful and powerful as the number of people using it. Each new person who joined in made it that much more likely to survive. This, then, is not a normal startup story, about a lone genius molding the world in his image and making gobs of money. It is, instead, a tale of a group invention that tapped into many of the prevailing currents of our time: the anger at the government and Wall Street; the battles between Silicon Valley and the financial industry; and the hopes we have placed in technology to save us from our own human frailty, as well as the fear that the power of technology can generate.
The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life When Robots Rule the Earth by Robin Hanson
8-hour work day, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, blockchain, brain emulation, business process, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, correlation does not imply causation, demographic transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, ethereum blockchain, experimental subject, fault tolerance, financial intermediation, Flynn Effect, hindsight bias, job automation, job satisfaction, Just-in-time delivery, lone genius, Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, market design, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nash equilibrium, new economy, prediction markets, rent control, rent-seeking, reversible computing, risk tolerance, Silicon Valley, smart contracts, statistical model, stem cell, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Turing test, Vernor Vinge
Advocates also often assume that innovation is vastly underfunded today, that most economic progress comes from basic research progress produced by a few key geniuses, and that the modest wage gains that smarter people earn today vastly underestimate their productivity in key tasks of theft and AI innovation. In support, advocates often point to familiar myths of geniuses revolutionizing research areas and weapons. Honestly, to me this local intelligence explosion scenario looks suspiciously like a super-villain comic book plot. A flash of insight by a lone genius lets him create a genius AI. Hidden in its super-villain research lab lair, this genius villain AI works out unprecedented revolutions in AI design, turns itself into a super-genius, which then invents super-weapons and takes over the world. Bwa-ha-ha. Many arguments suggest that this scenario is unlikely (Hanson and Yudkowsky 2013). Specifically, (1) in 60 years of AI research high-level architecture has only mattered modestly for system performance, (2) new AI architecture proposals are increasingly rare, (3) algorithm progress seems driven by hardware progress (Grace 2013), (4) brains seem like ecosystems, bacteria, cities, and economies in being very complex systems where architecture matters less than a mass of capable detail, (5) human and primate brains seem to differ only modestly, (6) the human primate difference initially only allowed faster innovation, not better performance directly, (7) humans seem to have beat other primates mainly via culture sharing, which has a plausible threshold effect and so doesn’t need much brain difference, (8) humans are bad at most mental tasks irrelevant for our ancestors, (9) many human “biases” are useful adaptations to social complexity, (10) human brain structure and task performance suggest that many distinct modules contribute on each task, explaining a common IQ factor (Hampshire et al. 2012), (11) we expect very smart AI to still display many biases, (12) research today may be underfunded, but not vastly so (Alston et al. 2011; Ulku 2004), (13) most economic progress does not come from basic research, (14) most research progress does not come from a few geniuses, and (15) intelligence is not vastly more productive for research than for other tasks.
Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns
anti-communist, bank run, barriers to entry, centralized clearinghouse, collective bargaining, desegregation, feminist movement, financial independence, George Gilder, invisible hand, jimmy wales, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, laissez-faire capitalism, lone genius, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, new economy, offshore financial centre, Ponzi scheme, profit motive, RAND corporation, rent control, road to serfdom, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, side project, Stewart Brand, The Chicago School, The Wisdom of Crowds, union organizing, urban renewal, white flight, Whole Earth Catalog
When artists embraced realism and modernism, she championed Romanticism. Implacably opposed to pragmatism, existentialism, and Freudian psychology, she offered instead Objectivism, an absolutist philosophical system that insisted on the primacy of reason and the existence of a knowable, objective reality. Though she was out of fashion, Rand was not without a tradition or a community. Rather than a lonely genius, she was a deeply engaged thinker, embedded in multiple networks of friends and foes, always driven relentlessly to comment upon and condemn the tide of events that flowed around her. This book seeks to excavate a hidden Rand, one far more complex and contradictory than her public persona suggests. Although she preached unfettered individualism, the story I tell is one of Rand in relationship, both with the significant figures of her life and with the wider world, which appeared to her alternately as implacably hostile and full of limitless possibility.
The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution by Charles R. Morris
air freight, British Empire, business process, California gold rush, clean water, colonial exploitation, computer age, Dava Sobel, en.wikipedia.org, glass ceiling, hiring and firing, if you build it, they will come, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, lone genius, manufacturing employment, new economy, New Urbanism, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, refrigerator car, Robert Gordon, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), 99–118, quote at 102. 10 K. C. Barraclough, Steelmaking Before Bessemer, vol. 2: Crucible Steel (London: The Metals Society, 1984), 102. 11 David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (New York: Norton, 1998), 215–220. 12 N. A. M. Rodger, Command of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 1649–1815 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), 172. 13 Dava Sobel, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Mystery of His Time (New York: Penguin Books, 1995); David S. Landes, Revolution in Time (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 145–170. 14 K. R. Gilbert, “Machine-Tools,” in Singer, ed., The Industrial Revolution, 417–441; K. R. Gilbert, Henry Maudslay: Machine Builder (London: Science Museum, 1971); Joseph Wickham Roe, English and American Tool Builders (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1916), 33–49. 15 Maurice Damaus, “Precision Mechanics,” in Singer, ed., The Industrial Revolution, 379–416, quote at 414. 16 Gilbert, Henry Maudslay, 4. 17 James Nasmyth, An Autobiography, Samuel Smiles, ed.
From eternity to here: the quest for the ultimate theory of time by Sean M. Carroll
Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Columbine, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, gravity well, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, lone genius, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pets.com, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Schrödinger's Cat, Slavoj Žižek, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, the scientific method, wikimedia commons
Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe. New York: Fourth Estate, 2004. Sklar, L. Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Smolin, L. The Life of the Cosmos. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Snow, C.P. The Two Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Sobel, D. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. New York: Penguin, 1995. Spergel, D. N., et al., WMAP Collaboration. “First Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Determination of Cosmological Parameters.” Astrophysical Journal Supplement 148 (2003): 175. Steinhardt, P. J., and Turok, N. “Cosmic Evolution in a Cyclic Universe.” Physical Review D 65 (2002): 126003.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
Al Roth, Albert Einstein, Andrew Wiles, Brownian motion, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, experimental economics, fear of failure, Henri Poincaré, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Rogoff, linear programming, lone genius, market design, medical residency, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, Paul Erdős, prisoner's dilemma, RAND corporation, Ronald Coase, second-price auction, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, spectrum auction, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, upwardly mobile
“To me one of the best things about the Heisenberg paper is its restriction to the observable quantities,” he wrote, adding that “I want to find a different and more satisfying under-picture of a non-observable reality.”49 It was this attempt that Nash would blame, decades later in a lecture to psychiatrists, for triggering his mental illness — calling his attempt to resolve the contradictions in quantum theory, on which he embarked in the summer of 1957, “possibly overreaching and psychologically destabilizing.”50 31 The Bomb Factory What’s the matter with being a loner and innovative? Isn’t that fine? But the [lone genius] has the same wishes as other people. If he were back in high school doing science projects, fine. But if he s too isolated and he’s disappointed in something big, it’s frightening, and fright can precipitate — PAUL HOWARD, McLean Hospital JÜRGEN MOSER had joined the M I T faculty in the fall of 1957 and was living with his wife, Gertrude, and his stepson, Richy, in a tiny rented house to the west of Boston in Needham near Wellesley College.
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
airport security, anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Fall of the Berlin Wall, invisible hand, Khyber Pass, lone genius, Mahatma Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, rolodex, Silicon Valley, uranium enrichment, urban planning, Y2K, Yom Kippur War
Qutb responded that his room was equipped with only one bed. “A single bed can hold two people,” she said. Appalled, he closed the door in her face. “I heard her fall on the wooden floor outside and realized that she was drunk,” he recalled. “I instantly thanked God for defeating my temptation and allowing me to stick to my morals.” This is the man, then—decent, proud, tormented, self-righteous—whose lonely genius would unsettle Islam, threaten regimes across the Muslim world, and beckon to a generation of rootless young Arabs who were looking for meaning and purpose in their lives and would find it in jihad. QUTB ARRIVED in New York Harbor in the middle of the most prosperous holiday season the country had ever known. In the postwar boom, everybody was making money—Idaho potato farmers, Detroit automakers, Wall Street bankers—and all this wealth spurred confidence in the capitalist model, which had been so brutally tested during the recent Depression.
The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton
agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, British Empire, clockwork universe, Commentariolus, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, germ theory of disease, Google X / Alphabet X, Hans Lippershey, interchangeable parts, invention of gunpowder, invention of the steam engine, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, knowledge economy, lone genius, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, QWERTY keyboard, Republic of Letters, spice trade, spinning jenny, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions
‘William Whiston, Isaac Newton and the Crisis of Publicity’. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35 (2004): 573–603. Snow, Charles Percy. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959. Snow, Vernon F. ‘The Concept of Revolution in Seventeenth-century England’. Historical Journal 5 (1962): 167–74. Sobel, Dava. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. New York: Walker, 1995. Sokal, Alan D. Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Soll, Jacob. The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Making and Breaking of Nations. London: Allen Lane, 2014. Spencer, John. A Discourse Concerning Prodigies. Cambridge: W Graves, 1663. Sprat, Thomas.