reflections on the technium

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay

Brown Bag at the Movies – Selected technical topics(1)

At the office — to while away my lunch hour (since I can’t go home for lunch) — I’ve started viewing compelling videos I find around the internet.  I got a conference room with a projector and invited anyone around to come watch.  I do this every couple of weeks.

This was my invitation:

In the spirit of “It is always good to see how someone else cooks in there kitchen” I’m reserving a conference room for every other Tuesday during lunch to view videos on interesting technical topics.

On YouTube, Google has been hosting their internal TechTalks which present subject matter experts talking about their work. Another conference that presents compelling ideas is TED. If you know of any videos that we’d find interesting/educational let me know and we’ll work them in! If you know someone that’s doing something interesting/educational/compelling let me know and maybe we can get them in to start our own TeckTalk series.

I kicked off this series with Meaningful Innovation: Whether to Design or Evolve? (below).  See my page Future Candidates for additional video recommendations.

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CEP COMMENT: China has 1300 electric vehicle manufacturers… Koza on genetic programming…

Meaningful Innovation: Whether to Design or Evolve? (1:11:14)


Many of the interesting challenges in computer science, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology entail the construction of complex systems. As these systems transcend human comprehension, will we continue to design them or will we increasingly evolve them? As we design for evolvability, the locus of learning shifts from the artifacts themselves to the process that created them. There is no mathematical shortcut for the decomposition of a neural network or genetic program, no way to “reverse evolve” with the ease that we can reverse engineer the artifacts of purposeful design. The beauty of compounding iterative algorithms (evolution, fractals, organic growth, art) derives from their irreducibility.

Google itself is a complex system that seeks to perpetually innovate. Leadership in complex organizations shifts from direction setting to a wisdom of crowds. The role of upper management is to tune the parameters of communication. Leaders can embrace a process that promotes innovation with emergent predictability more than they can hope to dictate the product of innovation itself.

Innovation is critical to economic growth, progress, and the fate of the planet, yet it seems so random. While innovation may appear inscrutable at the atomic level, patterns emerge in the aggregate nonetheless. A critical pattern, spanning centuries, is that the pace of innovation is perpetually accelerating, and it is exogenous to the economy. Rather, it is the combinatorial explosion of possible innovation-pairings that creates economic growth.

Steve Jurvetson is a Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson (<http:\\>), a leading venture capital firm with affiliate offices around the world and one of the most active early-stage investors. Internationally, DFJ was the main investor in Baidu and Skype. Steve’s current board positions include Tesla Motors, Synthetic Genomics, D-Wave (quantum computers), NeoPhotonics, SpaceX, Boxbe, and Wowd. Steve was the founding VC investor in Hotmail, Interwoven, and Kana, and led DFJ’s investments in various other companies acquired for $8B. Previously, he was an R&D Engineer at HP, where seven of his communications chip designs were fabricated. His prior technical experience also includes programming, materials science research and computer design at HP, the Center for Materials Research, and Mostek. At Stanford, he finished his BSEE in 2.5 years and graduated #1 in his class. He also received an MSEE and MBA from Stanford.


Written by Chuck Petras

May 30, 2011 at 09:15

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