Blood Types

He analyzed the different reactions, and came to the conclusion that blood could be broken down into four groups (now known as A, B, AB, O,”-Weinberg (51).

Today we do not think twice when we learn what our blood type is or need blood and receive some from the same blood type.  This classification of blood types went on to become very important in the world of criminology because it allows prosecutors to get that much more specific in identifying a criminal.  One thing that stuck me about the discovery about blood types is how long it took for the find to get the recognition it deserved.  When Paul Uhlenhuth, in 1900, found out that blood could in fact be analyzed to see if it is from a human, the world of prosecutors jumped on the idea with great interest.  When Karl Landsteiner discovered the different types of blood his work wasn’t properly praised until around 20 years after the initial finding in 1901.  Why was this finding viewed as not as important as Uhlenhuth’s?

Blood Types

Ideas Helped by a Collective Process?

One thing that struck me while I was reading this particular chapter was how many scientists and people contributed to uncovering much of the mystery of DNA.  I firmly believe that without any one of these intellectuals, we would not have the knowledge on DNA that we have today.  Although never given the proper credit while he was alive, Gregor Mendel set the stage for future thinkers to pursue a study on DNA.  Without his extensive work with plants, would Johann Friedrich Miescher have been able to discover that chromosomes in each cell nucleus were made up of more than just protein?  Each geneticist building off the work of another through the years ultimately allowed Francis Crick to head the charge in uncovering the main mysteries of DNA.  DNA that could one day help rightfully charge criminals like the one that broke into Helena’s house.  The challenging concept that developed into DNA was a collective creative process, that although took decades to answer, was unearthed by many intelligent minds.  Referring to what we discussed in class, bouncing ideas off of each other can in fact provide a better, and more complete, answer to a question or concept.

Ideas Helped by a Collective Process?

Women in Biotech Field

While reading Pointing from a Grave, I noticed how high up Helena was climbing in the biotechnology field.  Women have mad great strides in the workforce in the last 60 or so years and Helena serves as a prime example of that if you are a passionate hard worker, your gender should not matter.  Earlier in the book, it was mentioned that Helena’s male colleagues were almost waiting for her to slip up so they could have a position like hers, and in 1984 I’m sure there was more gender discrimination in the workforce than there is today.  As I was curious, I did some research about how women fit into the biotech field today, and I found this article.     

Generation Stem talks about how women are more than capable and more than interested in pursuing jobs dealing with science, technology, engineering, and math, but are outnumbered to men 3:1 in science and tech jobs.  Underneath the article there are some blog posts, but why do you think women are not pursing these jobs as much as men? Is it that men care more about careers with a high paycheck? Or is it something else?

Women in Biotech Field

Serendipity

“The problem with these closed environments is that they inhibit serendipity and reduce the overall network of minds that can potentially engage with a problem.” (124)

I have never understood why people, scientists, corporations, could be so caught in the prospect of making a profit that they forget that they should be inventing because it betters society. Besides a small percent of innovations, everything we have today is a product of building upon others achievements, improving and perfecting them; patents and intellectual property rights are in place to protect the inventor but at what cost? R & D departments are the most secretive parts of corporation but they also are the ones on the cutting edge of science, science that, if shared with other R & D departments, could not only be perfected faster but also help a lot of people in the process.

Serendipity

Platforms

“APL was a superb environment for inquisitive young kids, and particularly so in the Research Center. It was an environment that encouraged people to think broadly and generally about task problems, and one in which inquisitive kids felt free to follow their curiosity.” (187)

The Advanced Physics Lab is world famous for its innovation, and in its making the impossible, possible. What caught my eye in this particular passage was the fact that Johnson made sure to say that these scientists, were “inquisitive young kids”, I think the importance of these scientists being just kids is crucial to the success of the APL. Young minds ask more broad questions because they haven’t been conditioned by the older members of society to think and act a certain way, they (we) let our minds wander and wonder about the impossible because our species has proven time and time again that the impossible is most certainly possible, as long as you have the new generations asking the questions. The day we truly let our kids, and I mean kids, not young adult scientists, question everything and not chastise them for not being realistic or possible, is the day we raise the smartest and most innovative generation the world has ever seen.

 

Platforms

Exaptation

“Apple’s approach, by contrast, is much messier and more chaotic at the beginning, but it avoids this chronic problem of good ideas being hollowed out as they progress through the development chain.” (171)

I found Apple’s chaotic approach to innovation very interesting because people were encouraged to think outside the box, and those ideas were embraced. However, I thought that there could be a side effect of this process, that being could the openness of Apple’s system also side track some of their employees? As in, I feel as though many of their employees could get side tracked with ideas that are simply not feasible at the time, not because their ideas impossible, but they include technology that doesn’t exist yet. Apple has been slowly but surely making their phones thinner and thinner, however, an employee who designs a paper thin phone, as genius and innovative as it is, while not be able to make that dream possible because no technology exists to make it real. Being Apple, they could invest billions into the R &D of said paper thin phone, but they still have other projects that need that money too, making this employee’s design, that may have taken him hundreds of hours, unable to be made.

 

Exaptation

Now It’s Your Turn

The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, invent. Build a tangled bank.” -Johnson, pg. 246

I think this is a really effective way to end the book. By offering all of these simple suggestions, Johnson goes through a quick summary of all the ideas he discussed: hunches, serendipity, errors, liquid networks, the strength of weak ties. But he’s also encouraging his readers to cultivate good ideas of their own. And maybe we won’t pioneer new platforms that spark a change in the lives of millions of people, or create an invention that changes the world. But as we’ve seen throughout the book, good ideas can come from and can be found anywhere; they’re not limited to any particular field. We can use this advice to help us come up with the topic for our next essay in our writing class, or maybe we can use it to become better problem-solvers, putting pieces together to see the big picture. Maybe we can apply this knowledge in our chemistry or biology labs, and it comes time to make a hypothesis regarding the experiment we’re about to do. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we do with what we’ve learned from Johnson’s book, because he’s shown us a wide enough variety of innovations from all over the world and from throughout history for us to know that this knowledge can be applicable anywhere.

Now It’s Your Turn

Twitter the Exaptation

“When it first emerged, Twitter was widely derided as a frivolous distraction that was mostly goof for telling your friends what you had for breakfast.”-Johnson (192)

When Twitter was dreamed up in 2006, the founders were not expecting the many uses for Twitter that it is used for now.  I find it interesting to see how the web platform evolved from just a place to write simple thoughts to one that fosters news such as political protests, provides customer support for large corporations, and acts as a place to bypass government censorship.  I would argue that, like the wings of birds from chapter 6, Twitter is an exaptation.  Wings are recognized as originally existing for the purpose of being a dinosaur wrist bone, which would provide flexibility.  Wings however, turned out to be used in other ways such as flying.  Twitter has many better uses than just letting your friends know your every thought.

Twitter the Exaptation

Apple’s Coffeehouse

“Apple’s development cycle looks more like a coffeehouse than an assembly line.”-Johnson (170)

As a marketing major I am not only interested in the way a good company builds consumer relationships with consumers, but also what makes their creative process so great.  I found Apple’s coffeehouse technique fascinating, as well as, useful.  I feel that one of the reasons why Apple is at the top of the game when it comes to computers and phones is because of this creative process.  Instead of using a more traditional approach and losing the creative vision along the line of what can and can’t be done, Apple makes sure each line of production has a say.  Apple takes group brainstorming to a whole new level as sales people and engineers of a product will sit down and talk about the one central creative vision.  This  makes me wonder what other companies use this type of coffeehouse approach.

 

Apple’s Coffeehouse

Expectation

“The most creative individuals in Ruef’s survey consistently had broad social networks that extended outside their organization and involved people from diverse field of expertise. Diverse, horizontal social networks, in Ruef’s analysis, were three time more innovative than uniform, vertical networks. In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformity and convention tended to dampen any potential creative sparks.”

-Johnson, 166

I think this is an interesting excerpt for many reasons. One, being the connection to open platform and liquid networks. Throughout the whole book Johnson has written about how surrounding yourself with a variety of different people leads to more productivity, like in his comparison between city and town. Johnson really focuses on the environment of someone who is trying to create something, and here he is saying that you should be surrounded by people that think differently than you in order for ideas to be shared more quickly.

Expectation

The Coffeehouse Model of Creativity

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“Many of history’s great innovators managed to build a cross disciplinary coffeehouse environment within their own private work routines”

This is Nikola Tesla. He was an Serbian American scientist focused on the development of new technology for society. He was heavily involved in many different fields of science including physics, electrical and mechanical engineering. His interest in these different fields along with his futuristic ideas allowed for the creation of inventions that were beyond his time. By the late 1800’s Tesla went to pursue his ideas of wireless lighting and electricity. He also speculated the possibility of wireless communication, a technology used so often today. These hobbies and interests in these different fields proves as an example of how scientists can come up with great ideas by integrating concepts together.

The Coffeehouse Model of Creativity

Write in Your Diary!

“–Just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book.”- Johnson 84

Both this quote and this whole chapter gave me inspiration to start up my journal again. It’s something I’ve been trying to do since I entered college, but I could never keep up on it. But after hearing about the wonderful things that keeping a journal can do, I’ve been inspired to keep one once again. It’s very hard to get into the habit of writing every single night, but its worth it just to organize your thoughts for one hour or so a day. Not only that, with the modern push to bring everything onto the Web, there are plenty of apps that one can use to journal, not to mention blogging or just writing in the notes section in cell phones. I found this article. I also found this great article that goes in-depth into different ways you can jot down your thoughts.

Write in Your Diary!

Metropolitan Creativity

“After a formidable series of measurements in his Davis lab, Kleiber discovered that this scaling phenomenon stuck to an unvarying mathematical script called “negative quarter-power scaling.” If you plotted mass versus metabolism on a logarithmic grid, the result was a perfectly straight line that led from rats and pigeons all the way up to bulls and hippopotami.”  Johnson, p8

Johnson goes on to describe how Kleiber’s equation to determine metabolic rates in differently sized species applies to the “metabolism” of cities. I never really thought of any city being one big organism, but in a way the thought makes sense. Cities exists as large networks of people working constantly to make the city grow and thrive. As more people come together within the confines of a city, they’re bound to form bigger and brighter ideas when so many unique minds have access to one another.

Metropolitan Creativity

How to encourage innovation?

“The most creative individuals in Reuf’s survey consistently had broad social networks that extended outside their organization and involved people from diverse fields of expertise… Diverse, horizontal social networks, in Reuf’s analysis, were three times more innovative than uniform, vertical networks. In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformity and convention tended to dampen any potential creative sparks” -Johnson 166

I think that most people would agree with this quote (even though it was already proven in a scientific study). Johnson alluded to this idea earlier when he suggested that the more people collaborate, the more innovative they are. But he also suggested an example where offices tried to encourage more talking between employees by having an “open” workspace, where people weren’t separated by desk barriers and behind computer screens all day. But he said that this design did not work because people preferred privacy where they could work. So if bringing people and their diverse ideas and ways of thinking together is the best way to move forward, how do we promote it? How do we “force” people to become innovative without actually “forcing” them to?

I think so far, Google has the best example. Like Johnson said, Google gives its employees mandatory time every day to work on their own project. But I think there are ways to improve upon this idea, and I think especially for companies that rely on new ideas to stay prosperous and afloat, it is a must to encourage more innovation. I think one way to do this is definitely to give employees time to work on their own projects like Google. But I think to take it a step further, employees should have to make their projects public at all times to other employees and mandatory for them to respond to a piece of positive and negative criticism once  a week. This will encourage more human interaction and connections and force the more “diverse” and “horizontal” networks that Johnson refers to.

How to encourage innovation?

Errors

“The error is needed to set off the truth, much as a dark background is required for exhibiting the brightness of a picture.”-William James

I found this quote by William James very convincing, if one has the drive to never quit.  Growing up, I was raised to never give up at things I truly wanted and it is almost impossible to imagine a world without the many inventions discovered through trial and error.  As Johnson talks about, errors open new doors to the adjacent possible and I too feel they are necessary to find truths.

Errors

The Great Mind

“The errors of the great mind exceed in numbers those of the less vigorous ones.” Johnson 137

Here, Johnson is stating that quantity takes precedence over quality. Those who attempt time and time again in several different ways to create something stand a better chance at actually succeeding than those who put all their eggs in one basket. I found this interesting because I have always heard “quality over quantity” rather than what Johnson is suggesting. Is there proof to his statement or is that an over-generalization?

The Great Mind

9/11 Hunches

Being from the New York/New Jersey area, 9/11 can be a touchy subject.  A fellow student that went to my high school lost his father from the attack, as well as many other people in my area that lost a loved ones.  These hunches that were brought up in chapter 3 definitely make me question whether or not things could have went differently, but at the same time I realize the time needed for a slow hunch to turn into something better.  Darwin’s hunches took a while to turn into concrete theories and ideas.  Its hard to not question if, with the proper time, Ken Williams hunches could of had put security on more of an alert all the way back in 2001.

9/11 Hunches

Another Carbon?

“Without the generative links of carbon, the earth would have likely remained a lifeless soup of elements, a planet of dead chemistry,” (page 49).  I thought it was interesting to ponder if if this was the actual case, or if earth could have still have began sustaining from another element.  Could this have been possible? Or would earth still be a lifeless soup of elements without carbon.

Another Carbon?

Connections are better than separation

I thought it was interesting how the lack of connection between certain hunches proved to be a disastrous problem, if hunches about the 9/11 attack had be intertwined, maybe the attack could have been prevented. There are also many ideas contradicting to this. When certain hunches are connected and eventually work to get together to get to one implementation it could cause problems like who gets the credit for the one hunch. This result can bring us to other conclusions and ideas that hunches could be better off forming individually in order to avoid future problems between the innovators of these hunches.

Connections are better than separation

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

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

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