Why more information can actually stifle innovation:
Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one—or at least vaguely similar—and has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it’s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have “first-mover advantage” and will have created “barriers to entry.” The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.
What if that person in the corner hadn’t been able to do a Google search? It might have required weeks of library research to uncover evidence that the idea wasn’t entirely new—and after a long and toilsome slog through many books, tracking down many references, some relevant, some not. When the precedent was finally unearthed, it might not have seemed like such a direct precedent after all. There might be reasons why it would be worth taking a second crack at the idea, perhaps hybridizing it with innovations from other fields. Hence the virtues of Galapagan isolation.
Not quite as exciting as space exploration, but you see this in the social sciences, too. Think you have a new idea? Search hard enough you’ll find someone in some field who had a similar idea (likely either ignored or discredited), and then their idea—and its flaws—become your idea, killed before you ever really fleshed it out, and you’re back to designing some study that is more boring, safe, and publishable instead.
many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution. This is a tragedy since every company I work with is absolutely starved for talent. Qualified software engineers, managers, marketers and salespeople in Silicon Valley can rack up dozens of high-paying, high-upside job offers any time they want, while national unemployment and underemployment is sky high. This problem is even worse than it looks because many workers in existing industries will be stranded on the wrong side of software-based disruption and may never be able to work in their fields again. There’s no way through this problem other than education, and we have a long way to go.
As a self-taught programmer currently working as a web developer due in part to slow job market prospects in higher education, I find this fascinating. Even in the lowly Midwest, with no formal credentials and only a resume pointing to real code I’d written and projects I’d developed, I had no problem landing several interviews and getting a damn good part-time gig while I finish up my dissertation—and possibly (or, in all likelihood, probably) beyond that. For a skill that’s in such high demand, it’s ridiculously easy to find all the information and tools you need to get started for free.
“We faced a dilemma as researchers,” Mr. Kaufman said on tape. “What happens if a student has a privacy setting that says, ‘You can’t see me unless you’re my friend,’ and our undergraduate research assistant who is downloading the data is a friend of that person? Then can we include them in our data?”
Wait, you seriously thought this was a dilemma?
Christopher Hitchens on Joseph Levyland’s Great Soul.
I’ve actually been posting on my real blog again. I may or may not keep it up.
~/Library/Application Support/Skype/shared.xml in a text editor, find the
<VoiceEng> section, and add
<EC>0</EC>. Like so:
[One or more <MicVolume>'s. Leave them alone.]
Just tested this and it appears to still work in Skype 5.
This feature is single-handedly responsible for the many noisy podcast interviewers you hear. See, when your channel is quiet, Skype yanks up the gain on your mic, meaning that every little sniffle, sip of coffee, or fan running two rooms away gets picked up while your guest is talking. And then, when you re-enter the conversation, your first few words are way too loud and distorted until Skype re-adjusts the gain.
But not anymore on my podcasts.
To manually adjust your mic gain, open up the “Audio MIDI Setup” application (in
/Applications/Utilities) and select the Input tab for your mic.
My goal is to have every 12-year-old growing up in South Africa in 50 years be able to access the same quality and same quantity of information as a 12-year-old growing up in Sweden or Canada. I think we have the technology to actually, for once in human history, solve that problem. What we don’t have is the political will.
Great interview. I need to read his book.
(Great show, too. But someone needs to get McChesney a mic with a mute switch.)