Write Every Hunch Down

“So part of the secret of hunch cultivation is simple: write everything down.” (Johnson, p83)

Often times we lose track of our hunches and even forget them. Hunches are like a seed, they need to be planted, tended to, and harvested. We need to write our hunches down so that we do not lose them and kill them before they even had a chance to grow. This reminds me of keeping a journal. If you want to remember special occasions for instance, you could keep a journal of all the special occasions of which you have celebrated. Once written down, years could go by and you would still be able to remember those occasions. We make the biggest connection of writing down hunches when we think of Darwin. He kept a log of all of his evolutionary discoveries. We know what we do about evolution today because of his hunches.

 

Write Every Hunch Down

Darwin vs. Einstein

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“In the months before the Malthus reading, we could probably say that Darwin had the idea of natural selection in his head, but at the same time was incapable of fulling thinking it. This is how slow hunches often mature: by stealth, in small steps. They fade into view. “-Johnson, p81

Found this cool quote from Albert Einstein. Einstein explains how he got to the theory of relativity. This provides another example of how great ideas come from hunches growing over time. Einstein says ” Actually, I was led to it by steps arising from the individual laws derived from experience.” Einstein’s discovery can be comparable to Charles Darwin’s discovery of evolution. It shows the some great ideas come with time in a series of steps.

Darwin vs. Einstein

Serendipity and Progress

After reading Chapter 4 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I thought the discussion on serendipities was very interesting. I liked how everything connected back to innovation and even just “happy accidents” coupled with other ideas can lead to progress. As this novel progresses, each chapter seems to build on one another. Ideas came from predictions, those predictions were connected, and those connections lead to “happy accidents” in which connections and networks thrive and lead to innovation. The last line of the chapter was very powerful when relating the idea of serendipities back to a database. Johnson states,

“By making the ideas public, and by ensuring that they remain stored in the database, these systems create an architecture for ogranizational serendipity. They give good ideas new ways to connect” (p128).

Essentially, Johnson is suggesting that good ideas come from the connections that happen to cross and recombine – they are “happy accidents.” I think this idea is very interesting because going through a lot of science classes we are alway taught that things have a definite answer and came about from a definite and specific process. With these ideas, Johnson proposes that not all mechanisms come about from a definite process but rather that process created an innovative mechanism from “happy accidents” or ideas combining by change to create a good idea. Overall, I think this idea is very interesting when relating it back to the scientific world – a world where definite answers are always desired. Essentially, things don’t need to be definite but rather can be spontaneous or accidental.

In addition, it was also interesting to see these ideas related to sexual reproduction. Essentially, we want to understand the mechanisms and answers behind it, but, in reality, it just happened from a happy accident. This is similar to where good ideas come from – happy accidents.

Serendipity and Progress

Write It Down

“Most slow hunches never last long enough to turn into something useful, because they pass in and out of our memory too quickly, precisely because they possess a certain murkiness. You get a feeling that there’s an interesting avenue to explore, a problem that might someday lead you to a solution, but then you get distracted by more pressing matters and the hunch disappears. So part of the secret of hunch cultivation is simple: write everything down.” -Johnson, page 83

This quote stood out to me because it reminded me of a previous post I made regarding Where Good Ideas Come From, when Johnson was talking about how the key to having good ideas is to get more parts on the table. And I connected that to how I usually go about solving writer’s block, by simply writing as much as I can. Because the more material I get onto the page, the more I have to work with and the more likely it is I’ll stumble across something or a few things that I can put together and use for a story. I definitely agree that writing everything down is incredibly important; it’s hard for a fragment of an idea to become anything more if it stays inside your head. Regarding writing, maybe a line or phrase will pop into my head, and I don’t know where it might fit into what I’m writing, if at all. But if I write it down, I can look back at it later. Maybe I’ll have written something else by that point that can work with the fragment I wrote down before. And it’s not very smart to assume that you’ll remember all the pieces of good ideas you’ve had; it’s better to write something down and have it go unused than forget it.

Write It Down

The Adjacent Possible

“The history of life and human culture, then, can be told as the story of a gradual but relentless probing of the adjacent possible, each new innovation opening up new paths to explore.” (33)

Earlier in the chapter Johnson mentions that evolution could be looked at as the constant struggle to explore the adjacent possible, the idea that certain adaptations can only happen after mutation has occurred, a mutation that makes that adaptation possible, before this mutation has happened, the adaptation may never actually happen. Using this thought process, the adjacent possible can be used for human technology and innovation; although a technology may be thought to be impossible, it could simply be that the technology required to transition to this even more preposterous technology, needs to be discovered first.

The Adjacent Possible

Completing Ideas

“Liquid networks create an environment where those partial ideas can connect; they provide a kind of dating service for promising hunches. They make it easier to disseminate good ideas, of course, but they also do something more sublime: they help complete ideas” (Johnson, 75).

    I found this quote very insightful. I never really thought of liquid networks in this sense, but I understand where Johnson is coming from. Not all good ideas are created in one swift motion. Often, they require outside knowledge to be complete. I think we can all relate to this on the educational level. We have all been apart of group work before whether we enjoyed it or not. I would consider group work to be a type of liquid network.  When working with a group of students, coming up with good ideas is more efficient since there are more minds working together. Ideas and “hunches” are able to be bounced off of one another. By the end of the work/project, such idea and “hunches” finally come to together.

We recently discussed different types of learning environments in my Media Ethics class. My professor proposed the idea that the act of working alone allows the mind to wander. She explained how research indicates that our spontaneously technological lives are dampening our creativity. My professor would most likely argue against the quote above. She believes that working alone allows for the greatest ideas to truly develop, and that other people, and even technology, are nothing but distractions.

Completing Ideas

Hunches

You can learn a great deal about the history of innovation by examining great ideas that changed the world. Indeed, most intellectual histories are structured in exactly this fashion, a narrative of breakthroughs and insights and eureka moments that had a transformative impact on human society. (johnson 72)

Great ideas that change the world, they are very rare things. What makes these ideas so much more effective then others? Possibly great ideas are just regular ideas that are pursued for a long time, tirelessly, until eventually they are world changing. These big ideas seem to develop, evolve from just a problem, to a solution. They change from perhaps what they thought was the original idea to something completely different. Those eureka moments are what everyone strives for, but very few actually experience.

Hunches

Ideas

 A new idea is a network of cells exploring the adjacent possible of connections that they can make in your mind. This is true whether the idea in question is a new way to solve a complex physics problem, or a closing line for a novel, or a feature for a software application. (johnson 45)

The thought that an idea is like a network it what strike me most about this passage. This network that can evolve, change, and develop into something completely different than the original idea. This completely inclusive theory about ideas is interesting because it makes an idea changeable, it can adapt to changing circumstances and new information. This passage makes an idea something that is alive, something that can be nurtured and create something new.

 

Ideas

Hidden Answers in Dreams

In his chapter on “Serendipity”, Johnson reports how detailed dreams have inspired several scientists. First he cites Otto Loewi, who subconsciously developed the idea for his experiment with frogs hearts. Next, he explains that several very influential scientists, who had been working in their fields for years, realized a missing piece of their puzzles through deep REM dreams.

The most interesting thing about this is that, according to Johnson, many of the dreams, or “neuronal connections”, we experience “are meaningless”. (Johnson, 101) So when these scientists found inspirations, ideas, and answers hidden in their dreams, it was essentially coincidence.

Johnson also points out that “We conventionally associate dream inspiration with the creative arts…” (Johnson, 101) This leads me to wonder how much creativity is necessary in scientific experimentation. Why do we only associate creativity with right-brain activities, such as writing or painting, when it is so obviously needed in designing experiments? Why do we believe that scientists cannot be “creative”? By that same notion, why do we assume that those who are interested in “creative” things cannot understand science or other “left-brain” activities?

Hidden Answers in Dreams

9/11 Attack

When the 9/11 attack on the US happened, I was still young and I don’t remember much of that day other than our schools sending us all home. The analogy that Johnson uses in chapter 3 is the fact that one man, Williams, had a hunch that the terrorist group sent people to join the academy to learn how to fly plains. It was disappointing to read that a man apart of our government had an hunch that this was happening and his memo to check on it got pushed aside. Its also disappointing to read that the government still uses the same system as they did in 2001. It is also frustrating to see how many people this information has to be passed through in order to be put into action as well. This chapter was pretty enlightening because I truly didn’t know much about it or how the hijackers actually became successful in the destruction they caused. However, it seems as though it could of been prevented if our government had a better way of passing on important information.

9/11 Attack

Liquid Network vs. World Wide Web

“The Web arose as the answer to an open challenge, through the swirling together of influences, ideas, and realizations from many sides, until, by the wondrous offices of the human mind, a new concept jelled. It was a process of accretion, not the linear solving of one problem after another” – Berners-Lee (Johnson 90)

The formal definition of accretion is: “The process of growth or increase, typically by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.” I think this quote from Tim Berners-Lee- the creator of the World Wide Web- outlines Johnson’s liquid network idea perfectly, as well as gives a concrete example. The web as a creation of Berners-Lee did not form from some ingenious spark or eureka moment in his mind. Rather, his idea started from the time he was a child and developed throughout his life, finally culminating from his environment and influences. Johnson argues for something similar in his liquid network. He says that great ideas, even though we tend to think they are some spark of intuition, come from different layers adding up, or different doors opening. Many doors must be opened, as different doors lead to even more different doors. There is never “one” door that leads to innovation. In Berners-Lee’s case, it was a process of opening many doors, while still remembering, connecting, and building upon what was seen through other doors..

Liquid Network vs. World Wide Web

Nature of Innovation

“No doubt some ingenious hunter-gatherer stumbled across the cleansing properties of ashes mixed with animal fat, or dreamed of building aqueducts in those long eons before the rise of cities, and we simply have no record of his epiphany”- Johnson 54

This way this quote is worded makes me wonder about the nature of innovation. Is it fair to assume that a hunter-gatherer simply “stumbled” upon the discovery of mixing ashes and animal fat? Is it possible that he was actually looking for something or experimenting? It also relates to Johnson’s other point of the connection between the concentration of people and the rise of ideas. Was the hunter-gatherer who came across revolutionary ideas simply ingenious or ahead of his time, seeing that he had not city environment to foster his creativity and he came up with the ideas on his own? If this is true, I think that it also applies to many great minds of the modern era, such as Einstein, who seemed to be in a world of his own intuition when it came to new or revolutionary ideas. Yet, I’m sure there are those who would argue that he was equally a product of his environment, upbringing, etc.

Nature of Innovation

New Ways To Help Developing Countries

“The Meulaboh incubators were a representative sample: some studies suggest that as much as 95 percent of medical technology donated to developing countries breaks within the first five years of use”- Johnson 27

This is simply stunning to me as I had no idea that this was the case. When I hear about medical donations to developing countries I have nothing but praise and appreciation for the companies, but now I see them with a new perspective. The developing countries need a way or assistance to develop technology, especially a kind that caters to their environment, not just to be given other’s technology. The human baby incubator made from car parts was truly amazing and a revolutionary idea itself. This makes me wonder what other innovations people can come up with the cater to specific needs in developing countries that can also be renewed, developed, and improved upon easily by the people themselves using their own resources. I can imagine what a difference some kind of water purifier would be to locals and their children if they could build it themselves for minimal costs!

New Ways To Help Developing Countries

Geoffrey West’s Investigation

“Kleiber’s law proved that as life gets bigger, it slows down. But West’s model demonstrated one crucial way in which human-built cities broke from the patterns of biological life: as cities get bigger, they generate ideas at a faster clip”.- Johnson 10

Through intensive research on city’s innovation and creativity, West proved that cities grown more creative as they grow bigger and more connections are made between people. But at what point does this potential for creativity reach its max and at what point does it become counter-productive to bring more people and ideas together? Is there a point where ideas become recycled and refuse to produce more new ideas? I think this is a difficult question to answer because very heavily populated areas can many times be very poor, and so the main focus is survival and staying alive. But this can also foster innovation, when people have little to work with. Then again, many of the most famous or richest innovative cities are the most populated. So maybe an answer is that from different kinds of population concentrations comes different types of new ideas. In turn, the kind of idea being produced leads to a certain attraction for certain people, and they in turn go to that city. Still, I can imagine a city that exponentially grows so much that it becomes entirely too crowded and all connections are put on hold and come second to finding a way to live with mass amounts of people. At this point, people may simply migrate out of the city and the process will start all over again.

Geoffrey West’s Investigation

Ethical Patents?

“The healing potential of plants used by indigenous people may end up providing profits to drug manufacturers as a direct result of their patent rights, while people in poor nations where the plants are found cannot afford basic medical care. The industry argues that a patent is necessary for them to invest in the development of new drugs, whose production benefits everyone” – Eric Grace, 207

I believe this situation is a very serious one and should be taken that way. In theory, there are two legitimate claims to the argument, but in reality, the pharmaceutical industry is taking advantage of their monopoly of industry in society. Indigenous people do not have an obligation to share their medical traditions with modern industry, but at the same time, pharmaceutical industries do have an obligation to use their resources to benefit all of society. This does not mean that they should exploit the indigenous people’s knowledge by using patents unfairly, but should work as hard as possible to first obtain the knowledge fairly with some kind of compensation, and second make the new medicine available and accessible to the indigenous people. If the companies make drugs that are not accessible to everyone, it can be argued that the drugs do not “benefit everyone”, and the companies are simply making profit for their own benefit.

Ethical Patents?

The Slow Hunch

After reading Chapter 3, “The Slow Hunch” in Where Good Ideas Came From I found many of the ideas presented by Johnson very insightful. I thought it was really interesting how everything discussed related back to using others’ ideas, networks, connections, and the adjacent possible. Essentially, everything builds on one another and while individuals can have hunches, those hunches aren’t relevant until they are combined with the thoughts of others. Johnson states,

“Most great ideas first take shape in the in a partial, incomplete form. They have the seeds of something profound, but they lack a key element that can turn the hunch into something truly powerful” (p75).

Johnson is suggesting that hunches while they can be good need to be nurtured by connections and thoughts of other people. The missing piece becomes complete when it is combined with a similar hunch that another individual has. In essence, complete ideas come about through the connections and networks made from a slow hunch instead of one lone idea trying to be proven. In the example of predicting the 9/11, that slow hunch was not complete because it was not built upon by other hunches or other individuals. Thus, this chapter is very important because it emphasizes the role of networks, connections, and the adjacent possible in making a hunch into a complete idea – everything is related and relevant to one another.

I also thought these ideas were really interesting because they related to the reason why we believe in evolution and natural selection. Darwin observed and made hunches, but until those ideas were coupled with other observations and predictions, they were not complete. In understanding evolution and even the scientific method, it is important to understand the role of hunches and ideas that were made to make theories and ideas real. As I learned in my Evolution course, Darwin kept a journal of everything he saw and observed while on his trip to the Galapagos. These ideas and hunches contributed to his theories once he made connections and networks between them.

The Slow Hunch

The Youtube Effect

In “Where Good Ideas come from” Johnson mentions a concept titled the “10/10 rule”, where it takes,

“A decade to build the new platform and a decade for it to find a mass audience” (pg.21). 

Johnson explains how this rule has worked for most technology except for Youtube. When Youtube was created it became an automatic sensation.  Youtube allows the world to share ideas through a platform of videos. These videos give way for people to become aware of social issues, political ideas, and to post personal opinions and more.

Youtube is also a large advertising and marketing platform. Many of the videos on youtube contain advertisements from different companies. Advertising and marketing professional look at the video activity online and monitor a target audience. These professionals then link their advertisements to targeted videos and earn money from the amount of viewers to the advertisement.

Youtube has definitely changed our generation to be innovative in sharing ideas. Whether you are like me and  enjoy watching makeup tutorials or watching inspirational videos, there is something on Youtube just for you!

Here is a link featuring the Top 20 Youtube videos of 2015 : Videoyoutube

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Cold Cases Reheated

In “The Slow Hunch,” Johnson explains how ideas at every step of development are important. While most of the chapter focuses on the beginning of an idea, the “hunch”, Johnson mentions that it is also important to revisit ideas that could not get out of the development stage. He writes, “But those intrinsic causes can easily overshadow the environmental role in the creation and spread of those ideas. This is why it is just as useful to look at the sparks that failed, the ideas that found their way to a promising region of the adjacent possible but somehow collapsed there.” (Johnson, 72)

Immediately this reminded me of the television series Cold Case. In this show, the main character is a Philadelphia detective that reopens unsolved homicide cases in an attempt to finally solve them. As she revisited these cases, she was able to find new evidence and clues that led her to solving the murder.

With new technology, a fresh eye, and her own hunches, she was able to reignite “the sparks” of past detectives “that failed”.

This proves why ideas at every stage of development are valuable. While hunches may need more encouragement, the “failed sparks” also need maintenance.

 

Cold Cases Reheated

I Work Better At School

In the “Liquid Network” chapter, Johnson analyzes how we can push ourselves to think more creatively. He writes, “The answer, as it happens, is delightfully fractal: to make your mind more innovative, you have to place it inside environments that share that same network signature: networks of ideas or people that mimic neural networks of a mind exploring the boundaries of the adjacent possible.” (Johnson, 47)

I reread this statement a few times and realized that I was a prime example of this: While at school, I work so much more efficiently. I manage myself, my time, and my work more effectively than I ever did while living at home. And when I work, whether it is in writing or designing, I can generate better ideas.

Much of that has to do with the campus environment. The people I’ve met here think the same way that I do, so when I explain ideas to them, they understand and help me develop them further than I could have on my own. I also have the opportunity to connect with people in my major. So when I need help with design layouts or revising an essay, I can talk to someone who is equally interested in that subject and at my level of study.

Therefore, this quote is accurate. People who think alike can develop more together.

I Work Better At School

Carbon

“Without the generative links of carbon, the earth would have likely remained a lifeless soup of elements, a planet of dead chemistry” (Johnson 49)

From previous knowledge of biology, I knew of the importance of carbon and how sustainable it was. And in chemistry, we learned of its outer shell, which contains 4 valence electrons, and made it the most stable element. This quote put an image in my head: A planet of nothing, no life. A terribly lifeless and colourless world that would exist without carbon. It makes me wonder, can we create carbon artificially? If nothing else can replace carbon, will it need to created by man with the threat of climate change and carbon footprints?

*Also very interesting how something that sustains life can create deadly substances:(Carbon Dioxide, Methane)

Carbon

Dissolving Gold

“Water is also a fiendishly talented dissolver of things. (Even the famously inert gold is soluble in seawater if you give it enough time.)” -Johnson, pg 51

I thought this entire chapter was really interesting, especially with all the talk of chemistry and the structure of the brain at the beginning. But this is what I found most surprising. I had no idea that gold was even remotely soluble. Hearing the words ‘gold’ and ‘seawater’ together makes me think of divers finding gold from hundreds of years ago on sunken ships, completely withstanding the tests of time.

I already knew a little about what makes water such a good solvent without having to do any research. The polarity of water molecules makes it good at pulling apart molecules (which is to say, separating molecules from each other, not breaking the bonds of individual molecules, which would be creating a chemical change rather than dissolving a material). In addition, Johnson makes it clear that it’s sea water that’s capable of dissolving gold, and seawater has all sorts of ions in it that can help break intramolecular bonds.

I tried to do some research to figure out exactly what it is about seawater that makes it able to dissolve gold, or how long the process could take, but most articles I found were talking about gold that has already been dissolved in the ocean, wondering how to reclaim it. The presence of gold molecules in seawater does provide compelling evidence, but I still can’t help but wonder where those gold molecules came from and if it was because of seawater alone that they were able to dissolve.

Dissolving Gold

The Importance of a Network

“It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network” – Johnson, p58

The network environment helps to bring ideas into the light and propel them into a state of success. This quote stuck out to me because it is significant in showing that the network is not the smart component in the equation, but instead the people that are connected to the network are the smart ones. By being surrounded by people who share your intellect and creativeness, innovation prospers. Johnson does a good job of exemplifying that by bouncing ideas off one another, and sharing thoughts with one another, people gain knowledge.

The Importance of a Network

How Buildings Learn

“Not assigned to any one school, department, or center, it seems to always have had space for beginning project, the graduate student’s experiment, the interdisciplinary research center.” (MIT 63)

I think the concept of a research center is really good way to come up with original ideas.  Students and professors from different departments can collaborate and think about concepts in a much broader spectrum than just focusing on an idea from their own perspective.

How Buildings Learn

Idea Spill Over

Double-entry accounting made it far easier to keep track of what you owned, but no one owned double-entry accounting itself. The idea was too powerful not to spill over into other nearby minds (Johnson 57).

I found this point from chapter 2 to be the most interesting, mostly because I have never thought of an idea spilling over. I usually think of an idea as something one person thinks of and is able to patent. This is also the first time of thinking of how powerful an idea is, and what this means for the magnitude of people that it will “spill over” into and effect.

Idea Spill Over

Efficiency with Recycled Material

So instead, Prestero and his team decided to build an incubator out of parts that were already abundant in the developing world (Johnson 28).

This decision documented in chapter 1 is one that I think we as humans should look to as inspiration to improve the state of our world. With the ever growing mountains of trash and scrapyards, we should be making strides to use recycled materials along with new innovative ideas and inventions. There are a lot of products that are recycled right now, but most of them are small items such as forks, plates, cups etc. Why aren’t there strides to create bigger things such as cars and planes out of scraps. Granted, it may seem like these old materials will not last long if re-used, but that just leads to another issue that could be solved with innovation.

Efficiency with Recycled Material

Connections and Ideas

“For the first time, humans began forming groups that numbered in the thousands, or tens of thousands. After millennia of living in an intimate cluster of extended family, they began sharing a space crowded with strangers. With that increase in population came a crucial increase in the number of possible connections that could be formed within the group” (Johnson, 53).

This quote relates back to the earlier chapter about cities and reefs. Previously, I wondered if cities produced greater ideas than smaller towns did because of their access to resources, but now I better understand that it really is just because of the population. Cities have more people, thus they generate more ideas. People easily bounce ideas off of each other. The people in cities are just like the neurons in the brain — both make connections with the other people/neurons in their environments. Some of the greatest ideas come out of cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Boston — all places where many big businesses and people are located. 

Connections and Ideas

Competition’s Effect on Innovation

The long-zoom approach lets us see that openness and connectivity may, in the end, be more valuable to innovation than purely competitive mechanisms (Johnson 21).

I found this point from the introduction to be interesting because it contradicts one of the prime economic principles that suggests that a competitive market will thrive better than a non-competitive one. Although the main focus of the principle is for the firms to reach their profit-maximizing level, it also suggests that competition will increase the new ideas and innovation. I think that Johnson’s ideas of competition and innovation are more realistic than that of an economist. Innovation comes from clear thoughts and zero restraints, not the stress and pressure of having to outdo your competitor.

Competition’s Effect on Innovation

Good ideas

At the end of Chapter 1, Johnson poses the question, “What kind of environment creates good ideas?”  I think that the best environment for good ideas is a “needy” one.  The best ideas and innovations come from need.  If you cannot complete a task to your satisfaction using the tools available to you then you are going to be more inclined to find another solution to your problem.  Therefore, if you have a need for a new invention then you will be more urgent in trying to actually invent it.

Good ideas

Building 99

Near the end of Chapter 2 Johnson brings up Microsoft Building number 99 which is where their research division is and is supposed to be a building which causes creation and innovation to flourish. This made me very curious as to what a building designed with this purpose in mind. Maybe because I am not in the building but aside from looking open and flowing which was the point as said in the book I do not think I would be more creative working there. Regardless I think its cool that Microsoft has certain buildings for certain things and I included a picture of the building below.

L1030423

Source of Picture found on google images http://blogs.microsoft.com/next/2011/05/03/a-tour-of-my-microsoft-workspace-steve-clayton/

Image

Networks and Connections

I thought Chapter 2 was very interesting because it discussed the ability to thrive and create new ideas by networks and connections in relation to the adjacent possible. I liked how the chapter related these ideas back to liquids as networks, for example, freezing liquid to create solids. In relating to General Chemistry courses, we also learned that solids and liquids exist, not just because, but rather as a result of hot or cold that allow things to melt or freeze. In this case those external forces of hot and cold were the “networks” or connections. In relating to the entire chapter, I thought it was interesting to relate these ideas back to the adjacent possible. Essentially, the adjacent possible is understood through connections, networks, and interactions between things. The last line of the chapter stating,

Exploring the adjacent possible can be as simple as opening a door. But sometimes you need to move a wall” -Johnson, p65

was a very powerful statement. Essentially, there is no strict answer or reason that something exists, but one has to dig deeper to understand the connections and networks as to why things exist or came about. Moving a wall is much harder than opening a door. You have to break it down into pieces to see the connections.

Networks and Connections

Make this fit into this with nothing but that…

Chapter one of good ideas uses an example which really made what the Adjacent Possible an easy concept for me to grasp by talking about the above scene in Apollo 13. As such I thought I’d share the scene because it just perfectly for me summed up what the Adjacent Possible is as an obscure concept. I also just love this movie because it shows how adaptable humans are and how we have really done some amazing things as a species. This movie is also a classic which spawned some really great lines and is scientifically accurate which is really cool. All credit goes to the movie Apollo 13 linked above.

Video

The structure of DNA

A connection I found from reading chapter 1 of “Where Do Good Ideas Come From” was the statement “we take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into one new shape” to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. For the most part, people only know Watson and Crick as the people accountable for discovering the helical structure of DNA. However, after learning about so many scientist whom provided Watson and Crick the tools to piece together the puzzle, they were truly the very last piece that took the ideas of all the previous scientist. Without scientist such as Chargraff, Rosalind Franklin, Levene, etc. Watson and Crick wouldn’t of known that A and T match together, or that DNA was a helical structure without Rosalind’s x-ray diffraction picture of DNA, or the simple fact that there is a sugar attached to the nucleic acid. Before I learned about these previous scientist and their experiments in depth, I only gave Watson and Crick credit for the discovery of the structure, but I quickly learned there was so much more put into discovering the structure than I had previously known.

The structure of DNA

Prometheus and Biotechnology

“Biotechnology is a Promethean risk, another example of humanity’s self-destructive aspiration to play God” (Grace 215)

Are researchers, innovators, and scientists really trying to tamper with nature when they build better inventions that make life easier? Or are we supposed to flow with nature and expect that it will provide for us? I am never sure of my stance on this issue because on one hand, I want to see many human ailments eradicated to limit suffering, but then I question: Is that what makes life, life?

Prometheus and Biotechnology

Discovery

“Sunspots were simultaneously discovered in 1611 by four scientists living in four different countries” (Johnson 34)

I’ve never given much  thought to what would happen if multiple people discovered the same thing, at the same time. Many questions arose from this piece of trivia. Who receives the credit? Why is it that they all happened to discover it around the same time? Did some event happen to influence their research? Did they gather their information from the same sources? It was interesting to learn that 4 unrelated scientists were researching something so far from Earth, in 1611.

Discovery

Spare Parts and Big Ideas

“Part of coming up with a good idea is discovering what those spare parts are, and ensuring that you’re not just recycling the same old ingredients… The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.” -Johnson, pg 42

I was really struck by this passage at the end of chapter one. I really love how inclusive Johnson always is with his discussion of innovation and good ideas; although this is a biotechnology course, so much of what we can learn from this book is applicable to other fields. This part in particular reminds me of how I’ve learned to get over writer’s block. When I get stuck writing a story, it’s tempting to sit and stare off into space, hoping a good idea will come to me, some sort of magical revelation of how to continue the story. But like Johnson says, “[sitting] in glorious isolation and [trying] to think big thoughts” usually won’t get you anywhere. After all that thinking and thinking and thinking, I’m often left with what I started with: a blank page. I’ve found, and Johnson seems to agree, that the solution to writer’s block is simply to write. Maybe I won’t solve my plot problem right away, but I’m giving myself more material to work with. I’m getting “more parts on the table.” Some of those parts may end up going unused, but if I give myself enough parts to work with, eventually I’ll find enough bits that I can piece together, maybe in a way I didn’t expect.
This passage offers wonderful advice for problem-solving, whether you’re a scientist, a writer, or something else entirely.

Spare Parts and Big Ideas

Make it Cheaper

In the year that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Indonesian city of Meulaboh received eight incubators… by late 2008, when MIT professor named Timothy Prestero visited the hospital, all eight were out of order. (27)

In todays society the amount of advanced technology that is available is amazing. But there is one common problem across the board, no matter if it is consumer based or a life saving device, it is all too expensive. It also all will break far too often. Even today, cell phones can barely make it the two year contract you must sign to buy it. This issue continues on into biotechnology and healthcare. If those incubators were more reliable then more babies could have been saved. Because they were broken they could not be useful to the people of Meulaboh. Developing a way to make technology less disposable is necessary. Making something fixable is the next step in technological development.

Make it Cheaper

Body Parts Working Together

“François Jacob captured this in his evolution as a “tinkerer”, not an engineer; our bodies are also works of bricolage, old parts strung together to form something radically new.” (Johnson, p29)

I found this particularly interesting because it is intriguing to think of our bodies as a bunch of parts strung together for a purpose. Each piece of our body is essential, and works towards the productivity of the human body as a whole. Right away I thought of the body systems. Our body is made up of a group of different systems and they all work together to keep us functioning properly and healthily. Below I attached a very cheesy body systems rap video. I haven’t seen it since my freshman year bio class in high school. Although childish, it talks about all the body systems and what they are for. Watch it you may get a laugh out of it.

Body Parts Working Together

Incubators

The Meulaboh incubators were a representative sample: some studies suggest that as much as 95 percent of medical technology donated to developing countries breaks within the first five years.

-Johnson, 27

Seeing the clear issue with donating complex equipment, breakdowns, parts, and labor, Design that Matters created an amazing machine. The incubator that runs off car parts is not only incredible for the creativity that went into making it but because of the possibilities it creates. Instead of having to bring in a technical expert to fix an incubator, people who know how to change a headlight can fix these incubators.

Incubators

Science is Poetry

In Chapter 1, “Reef, City, and Web”, Johnson writes, “Science long ago realized that we can understand something better by studying its behavior in different contexts.” Following this statement Johnson explained that it is sometimes easier to grasp a concept when we stop focusing and researching so much on the concept, and instead relate it to something we know. For instance, non-scientists understand cities and how urban life functions much more than the complex ecosystem of the coral reef. By showing the similarities between the two, as Johnson does further down in his text, a non-scientist is able to comprehend how the coral reef functions through her knowledge of cities and urban life.

What Johnson means is that we understand the scientific world through metaphors. Comparing and contrasting our current understandings of the world with our new experiences or information is how we learn.

Just as Maya Angelou explains her depression as a caged bird, something more tangible for her readers, Robert Hooke named the small organisms that make-up all living things after the tiny rooms of monks called “cells” so that fellow scientists will understand his discovery.

Johnson continues, “…It turns out that we can answer the question more comprehensively if we draw analogies to patterns of innovation…” This essentially confirms that in their discoveries (and attempts to break that “adjacent possible”) scientists try to hold on to what they know at the same time. While they travel from room to room through the doors that Johnson describes, they leave a bread crumb trail for others (scientists or not) to follow them. They recognize that not everyone will see the discovery in the same way, nor does everyone think like a scientist. Therefore by explaining scientific theories, processes, or discoveries in tangible and non-science terms, scientists can reach a broader audience and be more widely accepted.

The use of metaphors and imagery by scientists to explain science makes them poets.

Science is Poetry

Superlinear Scaling

A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn’t ten times more innovative, it was seventeen times more innovative […]  Something about the environment of a big city was making its residents significantly more innovative than residents of a smaller town. But what was it?

-Johnson, 11

The innovation in city can steam from many different things. Is it because of the competition people have between one another, the want to be better than the next person. Could it be the “buzz” of a city that stimulates productivity and innovation. Whatever the reason, or reasons, this is such an interesting finding.

Superlinear Scaling

The Multiple

A brilliant idea occurs to a scientist or an inventor somewhere in the world, and he goes public with his remarkable finding, only to discover that three multiple minds had independently come up with the same idea in the past four years. – Johnson pg. 34

Often times, if an idea is so great that it is often thought of multiple times over by different people, then why does it take so long for them to go mainstream? According to the 10/10 rule, it takes 10 years for an inventor to perfect their idea and 10 years for the idea to be accepted into the population. I believe that if an idea, such as the electrical battery (mention in Johnson, 34), is invented time and time again, then there is a need for it. If there’s such a need for a product, typically it should spark a fad for it and it shouldn’t take 10 years to be recognized.

The Multiple

The Adjacent Possible

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore those boundaries” – Johnson, p31

I think this quote is important because we were reading about how the adjacent possible is “a shadow figure hovering over the edges of the present state of things,” but this quote shows us that in order to take advantage of the adjacent possible, and explore new rooms in the mansion, we must take that first step ourselves. In order for the adjacent possible’s limits to grow, we must push those limits and see where we can take them.

The Adjacent Possible

The Adjacent Possible

“The history of life and human culture, then, can be told as the story of a gradual but relentless probing of the adjacent possible, each new innovation opening up new paths to explore.” This quote struck me for a variety of reasons, but one in particular. With the rapid increase in technology and social media there has been a recent concern over safety. Technology has greatly benefited society in almost every aspect, but over the past couple the years it has also caused problems. One example can various privacy issues facing celebrities and even the US government. Overall the adjacent possible theory has been very beneficial to the science field, yet some question whether or not one’s safety or even country is in constant jeopardy.

The Adjacent Possible

NeoNurture

This is a good invention that is not only more reasonable to make but also easier to fix. The scientists and inventors at work on this project are helping to lower infant mortality rates and improve the quality of life in third world countries. The pros outweigh any cons. Although there is the worry about prices of this invention and if it will be made available to those who really need it who might not be able to afford it.

NeoNurture

The Long Zoom

“When we look at the history of innovation from the vantage point of the long zoom, what we find is that unusually generative environments display similar patterns of creativity at multiple scales simultaneously.” p.20

This quote is showing that you can’t look at a big picture of an environment; you have to look much deeper and look at each singular organism and its part in helping the environment function.

The Long Zoom

YouTube’s 1/1 Rule

The 10/10 rule stuck out to me for the fact of how long it took for these technological advances to become the new norm.  HDTV didn’t rise to mainstream popularity overnight, but YouTube was close to doing so.  One of my questions for this section dealt with if our generation (Generation Y) had large hand in making YouTube successful at such a faster rate.  I believe that our large generation, who is always seemingly on the next social media fad, definitely contributed heavily to YouTube’s success. Even though HDTV seemed to focus on a larger and broader target audience, it still didn’t have the generational focus that Youtube had to give them this “1/1 Rule”.

YouTube’s 1/1 Rule

Building Better Humans

“Once the techniques of gene modification have been developed, they are open to misuse, tempting those in power to alter genes for reasons other than eliminating disease.” p.213

There are many positives and negatives to gene modification. I believe that the positives do outweigh the negatives. Scientists and doctors would be able to work together to find cures for diseases that are killing many people throughout the world. People would be stronger and lead healthier lives due to this research. Although I believe that there should be some government intervention that would ensure that this research would not be used in the wrong way and help to protect the safety of those that use it.

Building Better Humans

Long-zoom Approach

“The long-zoom approach lets us see that openness and connectivity may, in the end, be more valuable to innovation than purely competitive mechanisms” – Johnson, p21

This quote really jumped out at me because I think it is extremely important to have an open mind about things. Johnson continued to explain that to fuel creativity you have to keep an open mind about the people that are around you and the environments that you are in. By doing so, you can think more creatively and collaborate with one another to make ideas even better. Constant competition limits ideas from flourishing because they stay in the mind of one person, or the minds of a small group of people. The key to successful innovation is having an open mind and connecting and sharing your ideas with other people.

Long-zoom Approach

Measuring innovation

“All other things being equal, a breakthrough that lets you execute two jobs that were impossible before is twice as innovative as a breakthrough that lets you do only one new thing.”(Johnson 16)

I don’t believe that innovation should be determined by the amount of tasks you are able to complete but rather by the amount of time and effort it takes to complete the task.  If a new invention allows you to complete a difficult task significantly faster, it should be considered more innovative then an invention that allows you to complete multiple tasks at a slower pace.

Quote

You are who you are around with

“Good ideas are like the NeoNurture device. They are, inevitably, constrained by the parts and skills that surround them”(Johnson 28).

I think this is extremely interesting and furthermore relative to everyday life. In order to improve something, for example bad behavior, you must surround yourself with better people and things in order to succeed. This is relative to some of the ideas included in the adjacent possible, for example it is mentioned that for ideas to bloom, it is vital that the environment and people you are surrounded by must have a similar goal as you. If you are trying to find a cure for cancer, it is best for you to be surrounded by people that wish to do the same, not people with goals that oppose or differ from yours.

You are who you are around with

Intro: Paradox’s to Theories

In chapter 1, I thought it was interesting how Johnson includes many factors of how Darwin’s Paradox came to be, from reading this I can see the how the love Darwin had for the workings of nature and its inhabitants lead up to his most societal influential theory of Darwinism. This can relate to the commonplace book mentioned in chapter 3 because if darwin had not written all this ideas and theories on paper, it would have been likely that his own spectrum of idea would have been too large for his mind to fathom. Every little thing adds to a bigger theme, accounting for each of those little things lies of great importance in constructing the bigger picture.

Intro: Paradox’s to Theories

Coral Reefs

“‘The list of land animals,’ [Charles Darwin] writes, ‘is even poorer than that of the plants.’… Yet just a few feet away from this desolate habitat, in the coral reef waters, an epic diversity, rivaled only by that of the rain forest, thrives.” pg. 4

Here, in the introduction of Where Good Ideas Come From, Charles Darwin notes that in a place where there is little domestic animals or plant life, there thrives a coral reef habitat. This idea is then explained to be called Darwin’s Paradox: coral reefs make up .001% of the earth and yet they contain almost 25 of marine species. Though I already knew that coral reefs were thriving, I was very intrigued and surprised to discover the statistics surrounding them. It led me to wonder, what is it about the coral reefs that make them able to sustain such a variety of life?

Coral Reefs

Where Good Ideas Come from Intro

US_Patents

“This is a book about the space of innovation. Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly.” Johnson 15

I thought this quote was interesting because it reminded me of our discussion about Chapter 7 of Unzipped where we discussed patents. Patents can cause ideas not to flourish but seem to be a necessary factor in our economy. The quote also made me think of what other places can facilitate ideas and colleges and universities often facilitate ideas. I couldn’t think of an environment that doesn’t allow for the facilitation of ideas. I just found an NBC article which says the US is currently in a backlog for patents which is where the image is from. Source http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4788834/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/us-patent-office-swamped-backlog/

Where Good Ideas Come from Intro

Risk Assessment

“We are generally more willing to live with familiar risks than new ones, no matter what the relative dangers” – Grace, p216

This quote stuck out to me because of its relevance to my feelings about GMOs and the issues concerning patenting genes. As relatively new topics, GMOs and patented genes seem scary to me because they are unknown, but everything that is introduced into our society is at one point unknown. We grow to become more comfortable with certain risks because they are functioning in society and we see people interacting with them more and more each day. I think this quote is very applicable to all new inventions and topics that spark controversy because with time new risks will morph into familiar risks that we are more comfortable with.

Risk Assessment

The Long Zoom

In the introduction, Johnson discusses how creativity in the coral reef relates to innovation we experience everyday. His description and image of the “long zoom” caught my eye. I didn’t know there was a way to connect the new technology we see everyday with something as old, and natural, as the coral reef.

“You can’t just explain the biodiversity of the coral reef by simply studying the genetics of the coral reef itself” (Johnson 20)

There are comparisons between nature and culture that may not seem obvious, so learning to examine things through the long zoom (bigger picture) lets us observe similar patterns between multiple scales. It was interesting to see that looking at life this way could give us new facts about creations of the future.

The Long Zoom biotech

The Long Zoom

Good Ideas

“We take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape. We like to think of our ideas as $40,000 incubators, shipped direct from the factory, but in reality they’ve been cobbled together with spare parts that happened to be sitting in the garage” (Johnson, 29).

This passage really stood out to me. It is so true — the best ideas do not always have to be the ones that are unprecedented. Sometimes, the best ideas come from prior knowledge and experience; from taking what you know and using it to your advantage. For example, Facebook, one of the most successful websites, started as a small idea that eventually blossomed into what it is today. (The movie, The Social Network, portrays Mark Zuckerberg’s transition from small idea to success very nicely). There are so many expectations in the world today, and this quote is just a nice reminder that you do not always have to be the best of the best to succeed.

Good Ideas

Superlinear City

“Something about the environment of a big city was making its residents significantly more innovative than residents of smaller towns” (11).”

West brings up a very interesting study here. His research suggests that those residents who live in big cities as compared to smaller towns are able to generate ideas quicker and overall, are more creative. Reading this made sense to me. Large cities always seem to be the first places where ideas/inventions generate from. Perhaps it is because they are more wealthy, so they are able to afford more resources. Or perhaps there more people working together to come up with these ideas/inventions. Either way, I found this interesting to consider as I never have done so before.

Superlinear City

All Kinds of Innovation

“The academic literature on innovation and creativity is rich with subtle distinctions between innovations and inventions, between different modes of creativity: artistic, scientific, technological… The good ideas in this survey range from software platforms to musical genres to scientific paradigms to new models for government. my premise is that there is as much value to be fond in seeking the common properties across all these varied forms of innovation and creativity as there is value to be found in documenting the differences between them.” -Johnson, pg 22

I really liked this section here, where the author is acknowledging that the development of good ideas isn’t unique to one discipline. I think this is an especially important idea given that this is a biotechnology class, all about combining science and technology. But Johnson also acknowledges the arts, giving credit to the innovations of musicians and writers. Scientists can learn something from artists, looking at how their ideas are developed. I think it’s important for everyone to know that something can be learned by looking at the work of someone in a different field than yourself. Good ideas and innovation don’t need to be strictly categorized into art or science or technology. Sharing ideas and collaborating with others will bring success much faster than keeping ideas to yourself.

All Kinds of Innovation

Darwin’s Reefs

After reading this section of the novel, I thought it was very interesting to start off with Darwin. I found this portion very relatable as I have taken an Evolution course and learned about Darwin’s ideas and theories of natural selection and competition. I think it is very interesting to understand advancements in an ecosystem through the new innovations that arise from competition and natural selection among species. This quote really stood out to me. The author states,

“Darwin’s coral reefs create and environment where biological innovations can flourish” -Johnson, p17.

Essentially, Darwin suggests that changes in the environment and things affecting ecosystems cause changes that are innovative. These changes or advancements allow things to flourish, survive in a new way, and become more complex. These all relate to the ideas of evolution and biotechnology in that new innovations create a more complex world.

Darwin’s Reefs

Adjacent Possibles

After reading Chapter 1 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I found it very interesting when they discussed the ideas of new advancements or innovations as adjacent possible’s. Essentially, everything we do in a society builds on one another, an adjacent possible, the next invention. I think this idea is interesting because, while science often is described as the exploration of new things or new developments, I never thought machinery or technology as the gathering of many ideas to increase complexity. Everything is based off of the previous and builds in it complexity. While this is believed to be true, I thought the example of Babbage’s Analytical Engine was noteworthy. In this example, it was proposed that the

“machine was so complicated it never got passed the blueprint stage” -Johnson, p37.

I think this idea is extremely important, because while technology leads to  the future, one consequence deals with complexity. Are we ever going to get to a point in which the world is too complex to keep moving forward? Will things come to a halt? I think these ideas are very important to think about especially living in a world today in which technology is so advanced and new things are created every day.

Adjacent Possibles

Gene Patenting Controversy

“Scientists are obtaining genetic samples from isolated populations to preserve a record of human diversity and evolution before these rare groups disappear into history.” (Grace, p200)

Gene patenting is a very controversial topic that has even caused a supreme court case. After reading Chapter 7 of Biotechnology Unzipped, I was curious to do a little more digging in to the whole gene patenting case. I found a short video that is against gene patenting, and a short article that is pro gene patenting. I will attach them below, check them out if you have time it’s interesting stuff.

Pro Gene Patenting:

http://www.genengnews.com/gen-articles/in-defense-of-gene-patenting/2052/

Against Gene Patenting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v8sfc36OtI

Gene Patenting Controversy

Patented Drugs

The price of patented drugs, however, is often artificially inflated due to the monopoly, putting them out of reach of many people and increasing health insurance costs (Johnson, 207).

Before reading this chapter, I had no idea that this happened and was very surprised to discover that it does. Although these patented drugs have the potential to benefit so many, they are out of reach for most people financially. I understand why people could have ethical issues with this. Maintaining a healthy life should not come at an inflated price. Personally, I find it unfair for the individuals and families who may need these drugs but cannot afford them.

Patented Drugs

Should we eat GMO’s?

In one of its last paragraphs, the article notes that McDonald’s, one of Simplot’s oldest customers, is refusing these new GM potatoes. Since these new potatoes are approved by the FDA and USDA, and more resistant to bruising, it doesn’t make much sense why McDonald’s wouldn’t want to use them.

McDonald’s resistance to GM potatoes raises the question: if a company that is known for unhealthy foods is rejecting these potatoes, should all of us?

The FDA has stated that these new potatoes are “as safe as any other potato on the market”, though people’s general aversion of GMO’s makes them wary to trust the statement. In a survey of UK citizens, “most rejected genetic modification, even though most people who responded agree that they did not know much about it.” (194, Unzipped) The opponents of GMO’s “who knew more about the technology…were convinced that no one knows enough about its long-term effects on human health.” (195, Unzipped)

In addition to McDonald’s rejecting GMO products, about 65% of people surveyed were likely to reject GMO’s based on their views of religion, science, and environmental issues, 25% believing that “biotechnology offers more danger than benefits.” (196, Unzipped)

There is a lot of confusion that floats around GMO’s, but does it all have to do with actual biotechnology? Is it partially our fear of science and natural dislike for change? Should we trust a major food company opinion on GMO’s, even though they were proven extremely unhealthy by the famous documentary Super Size Me? Are there genuine concerns with trusting a plant, something that is supposed to be “natural”, once it has been manipulated in a lab?

 

Should we eat GMO’s?

Beliefs

People in this group are most likely to see the world as a manifestation of “God’s plan” and feel modern technology is responsible for environmental crises.

This quote really interested me, because it is talking about how the views are influenced by religion, science, nature, etc. This quote however, is specifically on how really religious people may blame this on the environmental crises. It brought my attention since I was raised in a religious household never thought like that. Modern technology is to facilitate our lives and there are other factors that contribute in the environmental crises. There are things that affect the environment more negatively than this. It was also brought to my attention because I feel like people should analyze the world with what is best for it without religion, because not everyone has the same beliefs. So, it is better to come to an agreement with something that speaks to every human, regardless of their religious background.

Beliefs

Building Better Humans

While reading Chapter 7 of Biotechnology Unzipped I found it very interesting when the authors touched upon the ideas of “building better humans” referring to the use of gene therapy and genetic modification/alteration to either detect and prevent serious genetic illness or disease as well as genetic modification of genes to get a desired phenotype for one’s offspring. I thought that these ideas were very interesting and relate back to a lot of discussion I had in my Genetics course and the ethics of using gene therapy for these particular reasons. Specifically, I think it is strange how there are sometimes no boundaries on the use of gene therapy. Gene therapy and detection of genes and modification of genes should be used for detection of diseases and prevention of those diseases from being passed to later generations. While this is a benefit of gene therapy, this form of biotechnology can be taken advantage of when individuals desire certain traits in their offspring and thus genetically modify their gametes. These ideas directly relate to  the quote in the passage when it says

“It’s the start of a slippery slope. Once the techniques of gene modification have been developed, they are open to misuse, tempting those in power to alter genes for reasons other than eliminating disease” -Grace, p213.

I think this is a very powerful statement, because while biotechnology can be beneficial and leads to many medical advancements and preventative measures, there is a great deal of misuse in which this form of technology is not being used for the correct reasons it was invented for. Overall, I thought this quote was very powerful and really opens the mind to discussion on whether boundaries should be set in regards to the use of gene modification in humans.

Building Better Humans

Prometheus

“Prometheus was the Greek demigod who stole a spark of fire and was punished by Zeus for his presumption. To many people, the enterprise of biotechnology is a Promethean risk, another example of humanity’s self-destructive aspirations to play God… Powerful though our species has become, it is a mark of hubris to believe that we can play God.” -page 215

I thought it was interesting that the section on ethics ended with a reference to Greek mythology. Myths and storytelling have always been used to teach, warning audiences not to make the same mistakes that the characters in the story did. And by comparing genetic modification to Prometheus stealing fire, an act that was punished with being sentenced to have his liver torn out daily, Grace drives home the point that scientists need to be careful with what they use their discoveries to accomplish.
But I’d like to disagree with Grace. I don’t think it’s a sign of hubris at all, nor do I think scientists intend to play God. Hubris means great arrogance. But accomplishments made through biotechnology are hundreds of years in the making. It’s taken scientists centuries to get to where we are now, a great deal of time and effort, trial and error. And using that knowledge to make better food or cure disease doesn’t seem at all arrogant to me.

I’d also like to point out that Prometheus was not a demigod, but a Titan. According to Greek mythology, he was tasked with helping to create mankind, which is why he stole fire in the first place, as he felt responsible for helping them. A demigod is the offspring of a god and a mortal, and as mortals had not yet come into being, Prometheus couldn’t possibly have been a demigod.

Prometheus

Geographical Differences

“[In America] Some 73 percent favored biotech crops if they would help farmers cut back on pesticide use. In the United Kingdom, by contrast, public attitudes were distinctly anti-biotech, at least where foods are concerned.”

Biotechnology Unzipped pg. 194

In the United Kingdom, and in Europe in general, attitudes towards GMO’s are much more severely negative in comparison to the United States. In the United States is seems as if only a percentage of the population is aware of GMO’s and recognize the possible negative effects. Even when these possibilities are acknowledged, genetically modified products are still sold in supermarkets in the US without much caution. Perhaps Americans are more accustomed to processed foods then Europeans and this is the cause of our high tolerance for high risk foods. Americans eat a very high amount of foods that come from factories, not farms. This routine of eating unnatural foods could be driving Americans tolerance of GMO’s. In time we will see the consequences of genetically modifying our crops in comparison to a part of the world who has rejected these practices.

Geographical Differences

Regulation

After reading this article the biggest part that struck me was the genetically alter mice that Harvard Medical School patented. I never knew someone could genetically engineer mice to contain a certain gene that would be repetitively passed on from generation to generation. One of the questions that arose from this was that people could simply buy a female and male mouse and than reproduce them on their own for future experimental uses. How would this be regulated? It doesn’t seem plausible that a company could regulate this seeing how the patent was in place in many different countries. The countries that would not accept their mice as “novel” and did not give them a patent could do the same experiment and produce their own genetically engineered mice. It doesn’t seem as if Harvard would be able to monopolize this “invention”.

Regulation

Genetic Screening

“In Human Terms, the easy access of genetic screening might place people under pressure to be tested for all sorts of situations, including marriage planning, traveling, starting a new job, or deciding when to retire. If screening comes to be seen as a social good there might be prejudice against those who choose not to be screened.” -Unzipped page 211.

I thought it was interesting that genetic screening could become advanced enough that it can be used to detect stress levels before job interviews or if you’ll have a successful marriage. I am not sure if its going to be a good or bad thing that we might be able to dodge future consequences but it is very interesting to think about.

Genetic Screening

Profiting From The Poor

“The global distribution of modified crop seeds and livestock, for example, reduces the diversity of food grown around the world, increases costs to farmers, and makes everyone dependent on a few large corporations for this most basic of commodities.”

-pg. 206 Biotech Unzipped

The problems with globally distributing modified seeds and livestock are not ones to be ignored, yet I just learned about it from this chapter. It can be argued that reducing the diversity of food around the world is not a good thing, incase of an outbreak with the crop for example. Also imposing a liscencing fee on farmers for using a patented and modified seed is not, in my mind, the right thing to do. There should be more exposure to the problems with global distribution of modified seed and livestock.

Profiting From The Poor

Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is also affected by familiarity. We are generally more willing to live with familiar risks than new ones, no matter what the relative dangers. – Grace, p216

I’ve spoken to many people (students included) who refuse to get a flu vaccine because they don’t consider flu to be a “serious” disease despite the fact that the flu can also result in death and as Americans, they have a higher chance of contracting the flu virus than the ebola virus.

flu or ebola

It’s also worth asking what role media plays in skewing the public’s perception of risk.

Risk Assessment

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