“Boyer and Swanson, holding 925,000 shares apiece, became instant multimillionaires, each reaping a one-day profit of nearly $70 million… The founders’ initial $500 investments in Genentech had vaulted the sons of a railroad man and an airplane mechanic to an inconceivable peak of fame and fortune.” -Hughes, pg 158
This quote reminded me of one of the subjects discussed in Where Good Ideas Come From, the concept of being able to take a single idea (in this case, Swanson’s idea to use recombinant DNA to start a biotech company) and make an enormous profit off of it. It’s a very American idea–intelligence combined with hard work can earn you a great deal of money. The example Johnson used was that of the invention of air conditioning. But looking back in Johnson’s book, I realized there’s a difference between the gold mine that Willis Carrier (inventor of air conditioning) found, and that of Genentech.
Looking back at Johnson’s book, I was reminded of his idea of the four quadrants, combinations of market and non-market innovations, and those created by individuals and those created by networks. The creation of air conditioning was an individual effort.
But the creation of Genentech was far from individual. Even at the company’s very beginning it was a network of business and science; both were needed in order to turn Genentech into a success. Johnson would certainly put Genentech’s manufacturing of insulin and all their other biological products in the second quadrant–market, networked innovations. It was Swanson’s intention from the start to make a profit off of what Boyer and the other scientists could accomplish, so Genentech’s achievements were market innovations. And given the numerous contributions from all kinds of scientific and business-oriented fields, it’s impossible to deny that Genentech’s success was the result of a vast network.
In this chapter there was confusion as to who should have gotten all the credit in the discovery made by Mullis and Erlich. This makes me think about the importance of patenting. Without a doubt, the confusion that was present would have easily been dismissed with the use of a patent. On the contrary, if both innovators deserve an equal amount of credit for both of their works, do you think a patent would be the best option? If there was equal contribution to the overall discovery then both men deserve an equal amount of recognition. Then again, competition would have contradicted the idea of equal recognition because one man will always want more then the next.
“The majority of geneticists were still concentrating on protein at the time, and were apparently loath to abandon something into which they had poured so much time and intellectual energy.”
A scientist may devote years to conducting their research, only receiving small advancements. They do this because of their passion for the field of study they are in, but when is enough, enough. Think of the discoveries that could have been made if scientist moved to another project after a certain amount of time. Contradictory, how many discovers wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for their persistence? I think it a topic that needs to be discussed, when is it time to move on to anther project if you only making minor advances in the current project. Could the passion and persistence of scientists be hindering the discovery of other products, at what point should I scientist move on from their projects if they are only processing slowly?
“there were two different communities; the white coats and the suits” (Weinberg 15)
It seems that the world’s corporations, businesses, anybody that is a force of technological change, always are in these two categories: the suits and white coats. To me it doesn’t make sense that these are two separate communities, as a business it is in your best interest to make sure that the technology that the white coats are able to “sell” their products. Additionally, the suits, the marketers should be very involved in coming up with new concepts and ideas for the white coats to work on, just because they are not scientists does not mean that they don’t have unique insights and ideas that may help a scientist.
After reading Chapter 2 of Pointing from the Grave, I found it very interesting that Weinberg discussed Helena’s participation in the biotechnology industry in great detail. It is interesting that she works in this industry while also being a part of a court case in which their is a great value to the use of DNA. One idea that struck me was the fact that Weinberg stated,
“It was Kohne who had developed a revolutionary new method for diagnosing infectious diseases, using DNA probes instead of traditional cultures. . . She had been following the developments in DNA as they rolled through the scientific literature like a snowball on virgin snow, and she knew it was the way the biotech industry was heading” -Weinberg, p21.
After reading this sentence, I immediately related this new innovation of a DNA probe that is being used in the medical field to the ideas that Johnson suggested in his novel, Where Good Ideas Come From. Essentially, DNA is the building block that paves the way for many new innovations to arise. In this sense it could be understood that this DNA probe is an innovation that arose from the properties and prior uses of DNA – an exaptation. However, it can also be understood that this new probe is a platform that will allow other innovations that arise from it to reach the fourth quadrant. Just like Helena suggested that this is a new discovery snowballing and leading to others, the DNA probe can be a platform or stack in which a new innovation will come about. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see the complexity of DNA and the technologies associated with it that arise through platforms or exaptations.
When Helena mentions she wants to be the bridge or connection between those that work in suits, which is referencing those working in the law field with people that work in her science based field. I wondered if she meant she would want to use her knowledge in science to improve the way law works, or did she mean she wants to use the ideas used in the field of law to improve her knowledge in her job field. From this speculation I realize that many different ideas can contribute to both fields i.e DNA. Since this discovery, the world of forensics was discovered, I wonder if any more connections between the two can help revolutionize ideas used in either 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?
“It’s not that mistakes are the goal— they’re still mistakes, after all, which is why you want to get through them quickly. But those mistakes are an inevitable step on the path to true innovation” -Johnson, p148
I thought this quote did a good job of summarizing the message of this chapter. In this excerpt, Johnson emphasizes that mistakes are important in the process of creating a successful innovation, and that they are pieces of the puzzle that we cannot avoid. I also thought it was important that Johnson made sure to explain to his audience that he was not saying to make mistakes on purpose, but he was instead assuring his readers that when mistakes do happen they can be helpful instead of hurtful. For me personally, I always thought of mistakes as bad things, things that set me back in whatever I was doing, but after reading this chapter I feel more confident in the fact that mistakes can be beneficial and act as stepping stones that lead to great innovations.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.