In chapter 8, the Pitchfork case is discussed as an example of a criminal being brought to justice by a “marriage of science and police work.” DNA played a huge role in not only bringing a killer to justice, but also saving an innocent man from spending the rest of his life in prison. Using blood samples, the police were able to match Pitchfork’s DNA to the blood at the crime scene and confirm him as the killer and sex offender. But, this case is a prime example of the platforms that the criminal justice system is built on all coming to together and working in unison. Research and development of DNA testing, fingerprinting, and behavioral analysis all came together to catch a killer. Science was now being successfully implemented in the field of criminal justice
“To Dr. Katsuyama, these were all classic signs of death by manual strangulation” -Weinberg, p76
It is very interesting to me that an autopsy can detail so much about a person’s death in such a short amount of time. Weinberg noted that Helena’s autopsy was performed the day after she was killed and that it uncovered multiple indications of how she was killed. Since Dr. Katsuyama saw multiple signs of strangulation being the cause of her death, it was found that Helena’s attacker must have been a large man with a lot of strength. This crucial piece of evidence could not have been discovered so quickly if the autopsy was not performed. The autopsy also uncovered that there was trauma to the back of Helena’s head, which the detective recognized as being the same shape as the latch on Helena’s fence. It was directly established from the autopsy that Helena was repeatedly pushed into the latch on her gate, and from this the crime scene investigators were able to collect DNA from that latch. Clearly this autopsy lead the investigative team in directions they may not have gone on their own. In a way the autopsy provided the police with a platform from which to work. It provided the team with crucial information about where to start the investigation. In certain religions or personal beliefs autopsies are considered controversial for obvious reasons. In this case however, the allowance of an autopsy on Helena’s body may help the investigative team reach a conclusion faster than if she did not have one.
Imagine you are driving along a busy highway in an area you are unfamiliar with. You miss your exit and end up in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. Panicked, you grab your GPS and it reroutes to the correct destination. In this moment, do you think to yourself, where did this invention come from? How did it become so successful?
Steven Johnson’s novel, Where Good Ideas Come From, is successful in answering these questions as he proposes the seven steps to creating good ideas in a page-turning and thought provoking novel meant for individuals of all disciplines. Johnson offers insight on how good ideas arise in such a way that has never been considered before. He proposes that good ideas come from adjacent possibles, slow hunches, liquid networks, serendipities, platforms, error, and quadrants. Johnson focuses on the theme that ideas build off one another by coexisting in a prosperous environment. Specifically, Johnson’s fascinating and flawless discussion of hunches, platforms, and serendipities are perfect examples of how readers understand some ways in which good ideas form and thrive. Continue reading “The Root of Ideas: A Review of Where Good Ideas Come From”
Chapter four explains the process by which Mendel was able to come up with the idea of inheritance. On page 32, Weinberg goes into the explanation of how William Bateson coined the term ‘genetics.’ Weinberg writes, “Bateson subsequently immersed himself in the life and work of Gregor Mendel, translating his paper into English, and lecturing on its significance around the world. In 1909, one of his fellow disciples, the Danish evolutionary biologist Wilhelm Johannsen, game a name to Mendel’s units of inheritance – “genes” – and the science of their study became known as genetics” (Weinberg, 32). Relating this back to the book Where Good Ideas Come From, I think that Bateson and Johannsen took what they knew from Mendel’s discovery and applied to to their own. In this case, one may say that Mendel’s discovery acted as the first platform or the initial hunch which then others built upon. Likewise, all heredity discoveries can be considered platforms that are expansions of Mendel’s experiment/discoveries.
While reading chapter 3 of Weinberg’s book, I noticed that many of Johnson’s ideas on how to come about a great innovation were used by many scientists who played a role in discovering how DNA worked. This was very interesting for me to see how the ideas that we read about in our last book were implemented in a different context.
“So instead of pooling their resources—Wilkins’s theoretical advances and Franklin’s photographs of DNA…they huddled in separate labs, and moved far more slowly than they should have” – Weinberg, p37
This is a great example of how sharing your ideas with other people, one of Johnson’s main arguments, is the most efficient way of creating monumental innovations. If Wilkins and Franklin shared their ideas with one another instead of working separately, they would have been able to reach the discovery that they eventually stumbled upon much sooner in their careers.
Platforms were another one of Johnson’s ideas that was present in chapter 3 of Weinberg’s book.
“In the spring of 1900, three botanists, working separately in three countries, simultaneously stumbled upon Mendel’s paper, and credited it in their own writings on patters of inheritance” – Weinberg, p31
Without the early work of Mendel, later discoveries of DNA would not have been possible. Mendel created the platform that many other scientists were able to work off of. The lack of resources at the time impacted Mendel’s discovery, but because of Mendel’s initial interest in DNA, scientists were able to discover the secret behind it.
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.
“Scientists have long recognized the importance of the relationship between the coral and a microscopic algae called zooxanthella” pg. 201
In a coral reef system it is normal for symbiosis to occur. Symbiosis comes from the word “sym” which means together and “biosis” which means life. When symbiosis occurs two organisms get together and benefit from each other. Corals have a symbiotic life. Inside each coral polyp lives an algae called zooxanthella. The zooxanthella gives off oxygen and other nutrients for the coral polyp to live. In return, the polyp gives the zooxanthella carbon dioxide and other things that the algae needs. Coral reefs usually grow closer to the surface of the water. There the sunshine is closer for photosynthesis to occur.
Here is an interesting video featuring coral reef symbiosis : Video
“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.
This article was very interesting and talked about modern day platforms and the advantages that this business model provided. It also says that this will create the most value in a business and help it to grow.
Something starting out of virtually nothing, this is what this section of Johnsons book talks about. How something can be the platform for a web to eventually grow out of it. How coral polyps can eventually make an atol, how a beaver dam can create an ecosystem with many new animals coming into it, or how a talk at lunch can eventually lead to GPS. I think this is not only very interesting, but can also be also applied at every level, you could say that the platform of gold got people to go out west and the eventually settlement community of the western united states. or the platform of youtube leading to the almost dominance of internet cable.
The idea of platforms is ultimately formed off the notion that ideas can always build off one another in order to improve innovation all together. When thinking about this idea I come to realize that if this idea is such a success renovator then why do governments suggest the use of patents? Patents are basically the complete opposite of the idea of platforms. In my eyes I see less problems and controversy arising from the use of patents. Due to the uncertainty of creation that would arise from platforms I do see cons in this theory. Although it may help innovators come up with ideas in a much more smooth and speedy way it will eventually cause ownership problems.
“Platform building is, by definition, a kind of exercise in emergent behavior” (Johnson, p182).
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of platform innovations is Google. Google began as an idea for a search engine back at Stanford University. Two college students were looking for a way to bring endless amounts of information to people using an online search engine, so Google “emerged”. The Google search engine was the base foundation, or “platform” that set the ground for the large amounts of information that one can find today online. In fact Google even led to more search engines. As people saw that the innovation of Google was successful they wanted to gain some of the glory. So, they adapted the idea of Google and turned it into new search engines.
Johnson has made social media a very prominent theme throughout each chapter of “Where Good Ideas Come From. In the chapter, Platforms, he shows how different social outlets can be used as a source of information. The internet can help us share information, and help us find answers quickly, and with less effort than 30 years ago.
“Stacked platforms are like that: you think you’re fighting the Cold War, and it turns out you’re actually helping people figure out where to have lunch” (Johnson 210)
This ties back into exaptation, and using information/inventions in ways that it was not originally intended create to perform to do. With the information we have available to us on the internet, we are able to mold information into the answers we need.
The platform for the GPS system that is commonly found in cars nowadays and most definitely on everyones cellphone was set up over fifty years ago. It all started with the use of satellites to track the Sputnik in outer space, but Guier and Weiffenbach probably never imagined what would result from it. This development of satellites for GPS purposes and even other types of timing and tracking is a great example of exaptation. The general idea for the satellite was to serve one purpose, but its uses now reach in many different fields. It is used for the times on your phone, geotagging pictures on social media, and even certain apps that children play with on computers or phones.
After reading Chapter 7 of Where Good Ideas Come From, I found it interesting that Johnson described coral reefs as a platform. In the introduction of this chapter, much of the focus was on Darwin’s observations of a coral reef and the ecosystem. He often noted the life forms that existed as well as the way in which they play a role in their environment. While this was known, this chapter focused on the ideas that the coral reef is the platform for many life forms that carry out different functions, making the ecosystem successful. Essentially, coral reefs were present, and intricate food webs, flow of energy, symbiotic relationships, and functions of organisms came about. The link below details the energy flow of the coral reef and the new “innovations” or “functions” that many organisms possess due to living in a reef. It is clear that coral reefs gave rise to new relationships between organisms and their environment. Reefs set the stage for the formation of food webs, energy flow, and symbiotic relationships between animals, thus making the ecosystem successful. Therefore, Johnson’s understand of a platform as a something that sets the stage for other uses or innovations was clearly conveyed through the example of coral reefs, its inhabitants, and the success as a result of formed food webs, energy webs, and biological relationships.
“The most generative platforms come in stacks, most conspicuously in the layered platform of the Web.” – Johnson, page 189
Out of the whole chapter, the way platforms came stuck most my attention. That was because the way platforms are made help innovation. Like it all starts from small to bigger ideas. And so, when small ideas and platforms come to be, bigger come to be. For example, social media started out as something small and now it is something incredibly big where people are able to communicate. Not only are they able to communicate, but now it is a place where they can watch and read the news.
“Platforms have a natural appetite for trash, waste, and abandoned goods… Emergent platforms derive much of their creativity from the inventive and economical reuse of existing resources…” -Johnson 199
“Nature has long built its platforms by recycling the available resources, including the waste generated by other organisms. Two things we have in abundance on this planet right now are pollution and seawater. Why not try to build a city out of them?” – Johnson 205
The first quote and idea of Johnson really struck me in regards to new ways and places of human habitation. A common theme in sic-fi books taking place in the future is proposing places where the author imagines humans will be living come some 50, 100, or even a thousand years from now. One that I came across was underground cities. At this point in life, humans had polluted the earth so much that the decided to move underground and build vast networks and infrastructures that were prosperous and habitable while sparing the earth’s bounty above. Other story lines suggest that humans trash their habitats so much that they just move on to other places and must start from scratch.
I think these two proposed situations illustrate an aspect that Johnson’s doesn’t really address about platforms and their efficiency. For one, I think that for used platforms to be successful in fostering new ideas and having ideas built on top of them, they cannot be overused or dried up. For example, humans being forced to move underground or completely abandon cities because of the level of pollution and destruction does not allow for new ideas to grow or human life to prosper, unless they be animals or organisms that can make use of the environment.
Secondly, Johnson suggests that we build cities out of pollution and seawater, his point being that we can use waste and products which are just sitting idly but largely at our disposal to create things. This lead me to wonder, with all this recent craze about moving to space and inhabiting it, are we moving/thinking in the wring direction? Should we focus on allowing human life to expand into space, which I am sure that scientists are going to be able to do, or should we focus on making use of the tons of untapped resources that are still on the earth (and maybe make existing resources a bit cleaner while we are at it)? I think it this is such a hard question to answer because there are so many factors involved. Ethics, government, profit, wealth, individual and corporate interests, country’s interests, these are all factors that make the issue complicated.
“The elevation variation in volcanic islands was immense: some tapered off a dozen feet above sea level; others, like Mauna Kea, surged ten thousand feet into the sky. Most volcanic peaks lay thousands of feet below the surface.” (Johnson, 178)
Immediately the first image that came into my head was the volcano from Disney Pixar’s short “Lava”. The animated short traces the tale of a volcano singing a love song for years. As he sings, he is eroded away. But the lava he emits creates a new volcano. So while he is descending, she shoots through the water. He descends below sea level, but because he is so much closer to the peak of the water, when she emits lava, he immediately grows to meet her.
I think it’s incredibly how accurate the short portrayed volcanic evolution. Granted it was not the most accurate representation, but it was still rather informative. If I really thought about it, I could probably recover a lot of valuable information from cartoons that I watched when I was younger.