Sunday, June 22, 2008

On Innovation

Do we invest mathematics or do we discover it ?

“Mathematical objects are just concepts; they are the mental idealizations that mathematicians make, often stimulated by the appearance and seeming order of aspects of the world about us, but mental idealizations nevertheless.” (Roger Penrose)

While the mathematical language is a human invention, the objects it describes seems to have an existence of their own.

Examples are the phenomenon like the Laser and Black Holes that were calculated and predicted to exist by Einstein and Schwarzschild decades before they were actually found in the real world.

Mathematics base on pure logic and there is reason to believe mathematics maybe true without any dependence on Universe. That means one has only to uncover it using the state of the body of knowledge in a given field and bring some predisposition, manifested in his experience and personal knowledge as well as the scientific principle.

In my opinion the same holds true for any kind of invention.

One can think of any body of knowledge as the area inside a rubber band, where the rim limits everything we know on a given topic at a certain time.

So if we discover things around us, we push a little lump into the edge of the rubber band based on the knowledge we acquired, increasing the area just a notch. If we publish it, this becomes then the new area of the rubber band. Rubberband 2.0 so to say.

If we look into the last 2000 years, we can see that access to knowledge was limited but that access to Information and Knowledge has been steadily increasing with Gutenberg, Radio, Television, and finally the Internet.

So in short: Cultural Advancement has been heavily depended on the speed of information diffusion. And the groundbreaking Inventions have always reduced the time a process needs to produce the wanted results and be consumed by an individual, whether it was bookprinting, ginving more people access to knowledge and education, the light bulb increasing time to produce and consume, the steam and combustion engine, extending the radius of operation, telegraph and telephone diffusing information almost instantly, reducing the time to make decisions, or the Internet, where anyone can consume information on anything. But that evolution is not yet complete, to the contrary if you take the work by Ray Kurzweil it is gaining speed fast.

I believe innovation works much the same way. You start with the body of knowledge on any given topic and then you connect some dots, that were disconnected at first.

Example (I could have thought of that)

If inventions are discovered not invented, it is only a matter of time until someone will invent something. It is not the matter who will invent it, as it will be invented anyway.

A nice example is that many groundbreaking inventions have been invented around the same time by different people. And there is the saying that “no invention is named after its original inventor (###quelle)

The more people collaborate on innovation, the faster it output will be produced. I you cant think of it, maybe someone else has the winning idea.

If you add that the human knowledge is available to you, that puts any individual with access to that knowledge into a historically unique position.

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