More from less: the aluminium drinks can

Adding information (in the form of better design and processes) to aluminium cans has seen the weight of metal used drop from 85g to 12.75g – that’s 6.8 times less. Here’s a great video about the design and process innovations that made that saving possible: And here’s an article from Andrew McAfee on More from Less. More here from Wired.

Making things better

There are plenty of problems you could solve. Your job is to choose a couple of important ones and bring energy and intelligence to bear on them in order to find a workable solution. Energy means the effort you bring, but also effort from outside – finding people and resources (including machines) to help you achieve more and better results…

The parent of prosperity

Innovation is the child of freedom and the parent of prosperity. Matt Ridley – How Innovation Works I finished this in audiobook form today. Highly recommended as an overview of the impact of innovation and the messy process by which it happens. More from Matt Ridley: On Invention vs Innovation On innovation as gradual (feat. the Wright Brothers) On innovation…

Matt Ridley on the Wright Brothers: innovation is gradual

… with very few exceptions, man-made technologies evolve from previous man-made technologies and are not invented from scratch. This is a key characteristic with evolutionary systems: the move to the adjacent possible step. Perhaps I’m exaggerating – after all, there was a moment when the Wright Brothers’ Flyer became airborne on the 17th of December 1903. Surely this was a…

Autocatalysing innovations

Autocatalysing innovations are innovations whose outputs lead to a virtuous cycle of further adoption and innovation. Steam engines The earliest steam engines were used to pump water out of coal mines, where coal was as cheap as it could be and the size, efficiency and noise of the engine didn’t much matter. Pumping out the mines made coal easier to…

Innovation as network phenomenon: Matt Ridley on who invented the motor car

So who invented the motor car running on an internal combustion engine? Like the steam engine – and as I will show later, the computer – there is no simple answer. Ford made it ubiquitous and cheap; Maybach gave it all its familiar features; Levassor provided crucial changes; Daimler got it running properly; Benz made it run on petrol; Otto…

Contribution

Skimming a book of biographies of mathematicians I see few originators but many contributors: “She advanced the study of…” “He made many invaluable contributions…” “He shaped the teaching of mathematics…” “She vitally affected the development of the field…” “He helped to introduce the method…” “He founded two academies…” “She enhanced the methods…” “By combining field X and Y, he opened…

Virginia Postrel on textiles and technology, nature and magic

Here’s a great highlight from a fascinating and very entertaining podcast from a16z: Textiles as Tech, Science, Math, Culture… or Civilization. Recommended. Sonal Chokshi: “We suffer textile amnesia because we enjoy textile abundance.” … Viginia Postrel: “This really has mostly happened in my lifetime – I’m sixty – where textiles have just become so abundant and so cheap that we…

The Atlantic on trust and on the remote working revolution

These two articles from The Atlantic are worth reading. On Social Trust The first is about politics in the broadest sense of “how we live together.” Social trust is a measure of the moral quality of a society—of whether the people and institutions in it are trustworthy, whether they keep their promises and work for the common good. When people…

Your team of AIs

Kevin Kelly’s writing about AI, and specifically types of AI (rather than the monolithic general-intelligence-that’s-smarter-than-we-are-and-gets-rapidly-smarter-still that we worry about) has got me thinking about my colleagues: is it helpful to imagine them as if they were AIs available for collaboration? It raises thoughts and questions like: They are really smart and very valuable collaborators; What is their intelligence optimised for?…