Tag: Innovation

Then and Now: What My Great Grandmother Saw


Great Grandma was born in 1900 and died in 1998. What would it have been like to witness these advances in medicine, technology, and opportunity for all?

  In her early years  By the end of her life 
  Expansion and Development: The American West was dominated by miners, ranchers, and cowboys who wouldn’t hesitate to use guns to defend themselves and rode horses right into the saloons.  A hub of innovation and wealth, the West is irrigated, tame, and high-tech, with fantastic freeway systems. 
  Education for the Masses: Schooling was basic, and students were still taught in one-room schoolhouses. Not many advanced beyond grade school.   Most students are encouraged to go on to college and beyond. Schooling for the wealthy looks similar to education for the middle and lower classes. Scholarships and loans abound for both the ambitious and not so ambitious.  
Travel: Continental train travel was just beginning. Horses were still the norm, and roads were rough. Travel by land or sea took weeks.   We board a plane, watch in-flight movies, reach our destination in a matter of hours, and consider an overnight delay to be a huge failure of the system. We all own efficient, fast vehicles. 
Air and Space Technology: Flight had not yet been invented.   Supersonic jets, moon landing, the launch of the International Space Station  
  Quality of Daily Living: The majority of our ancestors still sustained themselves on farms or in factories, going barefoot in the South and getting hookworms, supporting large families, and laboring with cooking and cleaning. Refrigerators and indoor bathrooms were slow in coming. Daily bathing and showering was not a thing.   Most people expect to own their own homes, enjoy modern appliances and daily entertainment, have access to more mass-produced and affordable goods. The way is paved for politicians to use the lack of in-home Internet as an example of poverty in the US. Most people take hot showers or baths every day.  
Medicine: Diabetes was a killer. The first open-heart surgery was decades away. Years of agonizing trial and error lay ahead to pave the way for advanced life-saving surgeries. At least we’d stopped bleeding patients and knew about germs.  Heart, liver, and kidney transplants. Diabetes as a manageable disease. Standardized care and efficiency. We all know someone who wouldn’t be here without modern medicine.   
Mysteries of Life: There were painstaking fruit fly experiments to isolate inherited traits and recognize patterns in genetics.  We began to sequence worm genomes. Human eggs could be fertilized outside the womb.  

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Gerard Robinson and Cara Candal talk with Dr. Marc Seifer, author of the acclaimed biography Wizard: The Life & Times of Nikola Tesla. He reviews what teachers and students should know about the life of Nikola Tesla, the world-renowned engineer, physicist, and inventor who is more widely known nowadays for the electric car and clean energy companies named for him. Dr. Seifer describes the remarkable variety of world-changing gadgets Tesla invented, along with his hundreds of patents, including the alternating-current electricity system (AC), the induction motor, radio-controlled technology and what students today can learn about STEM, inventions, and innovation from studying his work. They explore Tesla’s bitter rivalry with Thomas Edison, their “war of the currents,” and Tesla’s deep struggles with the business and commercial aspects of his work. They also delve into Tesla’s experience as a Serbian immigrant, interacting with a variety of powerful, Gilded Age elite figures, and the renaissance that his reputation has more recently enjoyed. The interview concludes with a reading from Dr. Seifer’s biography of Tesla.

Stories of the Week: What will President Biden’s Build Back Better plan mean for universal pre-Kindergarten education? Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is launching a five-year, $750 million effort to open access to charter schools for 150,000 more children in 20 cities across America. The Department of Education is expanding the Second Chance Pell program, allowing 200 colleges and universities to participate in prison education programs that can transforming lives and help people reenter society.

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Many of us are familiar with some of the great things Mitch Daniels is doing as president of Purdue University including not raising tuition for a decade ( Press Release from Purdue ) or standing up for free speech on campus ( Mitch Daniels on Free Speech on Campus ) but many are not aware that […]

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Eli Dourado, a senior research fellow at Utah State University, joins Brian Anderson to debunk myths about the great stagnation, discuss new technologies that are on the precipice of unleashing growth, and detail the regulatory strictures and complacency that stand in their way.

Find the transcript of this conversation and more at City Journal.

The entrepreneurial spirit among immigrants and refugees allows them the flexibility to pursue unexpected courses of action, adapt, accept risk and make the most of opportunities they didn’t even know of before. For Dr. Amar Sawhney from India, that started at the University of Texas at Austin with 30 job rejections out of 30 applications. But he charted a path that would see him go in directions hitherto unknown to him: getting a PhD, helping found a company, journeying to Boston, and starting a string of new companies, using his chemical engineering background to save lives through remarkable local therapy innovations. To date, he has founded eight companies accounting for 4,000 jobs and more than $2 billion in revenue. He’s been named a “Champion of Change” by The White House, one of the “five most innovative Medical Device CEOs” by MassDevice, the EY regional entrepreneur of the year, The Immigrant Learning Center’s own Immigrant Entrepreneur Awardee for Life Science Business. But his influence extends well beyond that space into environmental conservationism, safeguarding refugees, mentoring and promoting STEM education, and building public understanding of America’s Sikhs, as you’ll hear in this week’s episode of JobMakers.


Gloomy Coronavirus Forecasts Ignore American Innovative Genius


Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the government’s coronavirus task force, on a tour of 3M’s Innovation Center in Maplewood, MN, March 5, 2020.

“Technology” and “innovation” aren’t magic words. And saying we need to “science the s—” out of the coronavirus pandemic (to paraphrase a quote from the 2015 film The Martian) isn’t some modern incantation. Doing things in a better way or a totally new way is how we solve problems. It’s how we make the future we want.

Of course, it’s easier to make forecasts if you assume none of that stuff is going to happen. That tomorrow will be pretty much the same as today. But such forecasts will miss a lot. A vibrant and open democratic capitalist society will have a powerful, bottom-up reaction function. In Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, a Greg Ip piece includes this great quote from Northwestern University economic historian Joel Mokyr: “We have this huge reservoir of creative energy spread around the economy. When you have an event like this all of a sudden, everyone says, ‘Oh wow let’s look at this problem let’s see what I can do to solve it.’”

Delayed Innovation


Sometimes the best thing that can happen to an inventor is for him to be ignored.

Take for example German archery enthusiast Jörg Sprave. He pitched his bow designs to manufacturers for years. None purchased his plans. But Sprave did not idly wait for broader success. He continued to iterate until building something he wished he had thought of years ago. 

Stian Westlake joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss the future of productivity and how institutions and policymakers can adapt to the new “intangible” economy.

Throughout history, as documented in the book Capitalism Without Capital by Westlake and coauthor Jonathan Haskel, firms have invested in physical goods like machines and computers. As society has grown richer, companies have invested increasingly in “intangible” assets: research and development, branding, organizational development, and software. Today’s challenge is to build the institutions and enact the policies that will maximize the new economy’s potential.

Eating Cheetos with Chopsticks


Chopsticks are, in a general manner, inferior to the fork. Forks are more effective over a wider range of food, and they’re easier to master as well. Really in this day and age, the major reason to learn chopsticks is to look sophisticated. You don’t want to look like a dolt in front of your friends. So I’m using chopsticks to eat Cheetos.*

Cheetos are pretty much on the opposite end of the sophistication spectrum from sushi.** If you learn chopsticks to look suave in one of those swanky Japanese restaurants that’s one thing. You simply can’t look debonair eating bright orange cheese puffs. So why bother with the chopsticks? Aren’t they a finger food? They are if you don’t mind leaving blaze orange fingerprints everywhere.

Once you’ve determined you need to avoid orange gunk on your digits you’ve got to settle on an implement. Forks are inferior to chopsticks in this circumstance; neither the scooping action or the stabbing motion do you much good. Chopsticks, on the other hand, can pick up puffs one by one, with great accuracy. You’re rate-limited by the speed you chew in either case.

The Anatomy of Disruption


I’ve been doing some thinking recently about the life cycle of industries. “Industries” in this context means anything that you can make a living at. If you have an idea, a new idea, something that will genuinely change the world, what happens with it? It seems to follow the old adage about every political cause (probably because political causes qualify as industries in this regard.) Let’s take a walk through it:

It Begins as a Movement

Quote of the Day: Two-for-One from Edmund Burke


On this day in 1790 Edmund Burke published an epistolary pamphlet, Reflections on the Revolution in France. It was prescient for the time and still seems so today. The magic of it, which gives so much prescience, is that it encapsulates large dollops of knowledge of human nature. In a thousand years, it shall be as relevant as it was in the Eighteenth Century and is now in the Twenty-First.

A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.

This week on Banter, AEI Visiting Scholar Rick Geddes joins the show to discuss hyperloop technology. Geddes has written extensively about how hyperloop technology could dramatically reduce travel time in the United States as well as the regulatory, environmental, and financial challenges such a system would need to overcome. Geddes hosted a public event at AEI headquarters on hyperloop in April. You can view the full event video below.

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The article I link to below is quite awesome, although on the Dem side of things, they currently attribute every empty college classroom seat as being due to the evil white Americans not allowing foreigners into the country. And the comments are also worth a read. Preview Open

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(Click on the image above or HERE to view the video) What does it take for advances in technology to become mainstream? It’s a question few people think about, especially those who rail against capitalism, but perhaps they should. This video explains how entrepreneurs and the price system work hand in hand to create products […]

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Occupational Licensing Is a Whole Quilt of Crazy


Here’s a bit of trivia: New Hampshire’s tallest building was erected by a general contractor unlicensed by the state. Before you decide to avoid forever Manchester’s 20-story City Hall Plaza, you should know no building in the state, including every house, was built by a state-licensed general contractor — because New Hampshire doesn’t license general contractors. I’ll be focusing on New Hampshire here, but the crazy quilt of occupational licenses smothers opportunity in every state.

The state doesn’t license carpenters, auto mechanics, welders or asphalt layers either. Yet your home does not fall apart, commercial buildings don’t tumble down, roads don’t dissolve in the rain.