Innovation

Move along, nothing to see here!
7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Image


I am simultaneously reading a few different books in which the concept of innovation is addressed.
Just as bounded growth in biology follows from the sublinear scaling of metabolic rate, the superlinear scaling of wealth creation and innovation (as measured by patent production, for example) leads to unbounded, often faster-than-exponential growth consistent with open-ended economies. This is satisfyingly consistent, but there's a big catch, which goes under the forbidding technical name of afinite time singularity In a nutshell, the problem is that the theory also predicts that unbounded growth cannot be sustained without having either infinite resources or inducing major paradigm shifts that "reset" the clock before potential collapse occurs...

...Theory dictates that such discoveries must occur at an increasingly accelerated pace; the time between successive innovations must systematically and inextricably get shorter and shorter...

...Independent of how superbly innovative we are, ultimately everything is driven and processed by the use of energy, and the processing of energy has inevitable deleterious consequences.

-"Scale" - Geoffrey West
IOW, the time between each S curve intersection on the business graph above should be decreasing. Innovation is not particularly well-understood or well-defined. Does competition drive innovation and/or does innovation drive competition? If necessity is the mother of invention, what is the effect of sufficiency? How would you define it?

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 12964
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Innovation

Post by jacob »

Well, for starters, the graph for energy resources look differently.

Going from wood fire to charcoal to mined coal to oil. All these follow the graph above in the sense of performance. However, the next steps have been somewhat of a downgrade. While energy density (relative performance) has increased (probably the only reason humans bother to innovate), the absolute performance has decreased for each subsequent innovation: nuclear to battery to solar to wind.

Insofar what drives what ... everything and everyone is ultimately food. For example, just like plants and livestock are food for humans, so are humans food for microbes. This is why human infectious diseases didn't really exist in a large variety 2000 years ago (only a few kinds) whereas there are now multiple different kinds. Also why infectious diseases aren't much of an issue for animals. It's simply because there's now an enormous amount of "human flesh" around and people keep making more of it.

If you see everything as food (or resources), competition doesn't really enter the picture until the resource becomes limited; but in that case all agents have overshot their carrying capacity. Conversely, if competition is high, another way out is to turn the competition into food. This applies both at the brute level (cannibalism) and the idea-level in which people who don't have original ideas (business people?) eat those of others (engineers?).

J_
Posts: 735
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:12 pm
Location: Netherlands/Austria

Re: Innovation

Post by J_ »

On a more personal level the following changes we made can be described as innovation:

a.living in two different places so that we have a "healthy and sportily" climate also in winter. (winters we stay in the Alps at a high altitude, rest of the year Netherlands on sea level)
b. the idea of working to*, and some time later, becoming financial independent resulted in a complete other way of living our lives. (It gives time to reflect, to study what food to eat and time to prepare it, to do all kinds of outdoor sports, it gives time to rest and sleep enough)

The drive was and is: living the good life.

*credits: YMOYL, the Ere book

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@jacob:

I mostly agree with you. I am trying to understand the argument that Geoffrey West is making in defense of Donella Meadows vs. Julian Simon as championed by Thomas Sowell in "Basic Economics." I am also reading "100 Million Years of Food" by Le, so I find the "everything is food" perspective valid also. However, it seems to me that primary energy funds must be treated differently from secondary energy carriers, which must also be considered differently from end-uses.

@J_: So, given sufficient financial resources, innovation towards quality of life would still apply?

J_
Posts: 735
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:12 pm
Location: Netherlands/Austria

Re: Innovation

Post by J_ »

@7Wannabe5: in a world where the norm is: Work and Consume! the anti-these: Reflect and Re-use! can be seen as an innovation.
Re-use contains also how you treat your own body.

(It is not a given that you get enough financial resources, as you know, you have to save (and invest) to get them)

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@J_:

I agree. I typed out a much longer set of responses yesterday, but they were lost along with my train of thought.

Let me try again. "Innovate" is a verb. I think the question I am trying to ask is what is the actual behavior or set of behaviors that humans exhibit when they innovate, and under what circumstances do humans commence to engage in these behaviors.

In "Scale", Geoffrey West clearly correlates metabolism with growth, both in biological and social systems. For instance, across the planet, humans who live in bigger cities actually walk faster than humans who live in smaller cities, and this behavior scales predictably. Level of innovation (as measured by patents) also predictably scales with city size. But, in order for growth to continue unimpeded, walking pace and innovation pace would have to keep increasing, and it seems as though there are biological limits involved here.

Humans have biologically evolved to be dependent on the technology of fire for nutrition. It seems pretty clear that we have already socially evolved to be absolutely dependent on high technology for continued increasing pace of innovation.

The natural lifespan of a species of mammal is approximately the same number of heartbeats, no matter what size, because the cells that must be nourished are same scale, so only the speed of metabolism (rapidity of heartbeat) varies. Planned obsolescence of the individual can not be avoided, because it happens across every level and system. Eradication of current top 3 killers only adds approximately 8 -10 years. Dietary mechanisms capable of slowing metabolism are most (although still limited) effective in pre-pubescent phase of growth.

I'm babbling a bit here, but what I am trying to get at is something like an ideal balance of reduced stress due to relaxed lifestyle combined with positive aspects of innovation towards continued growth. So, for instance, "commuting in traffic" would be a clear behavior to minimize, because it is both stressful and routine. Whereas, something like "leisurely taking note of the varieties of insects in your garden" might be behavior to maximize, because it is interesting, but not stress-inducing.

J_
Posts: 735
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:12 pm
Location: Netherlands/Austria

Re: Innovation

Post by J_ »

7W5 wrote:
..but what I am trying to get at is something like an ideal balance of reduced stress due to relaxed lifestyle combined with positive aspects of innovation towards continued growth"


I see. But is it not more: innovation to a way of life, where the "growth" is getting the insight of "enough"? To escape given social habits and start thinking for yourself again? The insight that you can be at least as happy by spending less and live more free? And the insight that many "innovations" are not really helpful and therefore superfluous?

Eg. here in bicycle country the Netherlands, we see an explosion in the number of electric bikes, called by some an innovation! Many here, young and old, are changing their bike. Result: more accidents while biking faster, older people with less reaction capability: bingo for hospitals and funeral entrepreneurs. Plus the advance of using your body for transport disappears.

Is continued growth a blessing? Only in very, very limited (technical) cases I think.
Can you accept the postulation that growth in the number of people with YMOL or Ere insights/practice would be a greater innovation than almost any technical innovation?

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@J_:

Good question. My answer would be "Yes, because systems thinking is at least a paradigm beyond linear improvement or maximization." However, I would still like to purchase a microscope with a digital camera attachment, so that I can take pictures of soil microbes :lol:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSLWx-u_b1I

And, I am having difficulty figuring out how I might successfully re-boot my rare book business, and perhaps expand into other realms of junk reclamation, and be a truck farmer with 3 garden projects spanning a 150 mile region, without purchasing a small truck. I can't ride my bicycle with a trailer that far, and I am afraid to ride it through some parts of the city.

I guess my continuing minor gripe, which I keep approaching from different angles, is that if one person is choosing the "invest in the stock market and live off of proceeds" version of ERE, and another person is choosing the "engage in low-key part-time self-employment" version of ERE, the ERE investor is simply out-sourcing his need to invest in high tech or cheap-energy/high-power tools in order to compete way out in Zone 17b, whereas the mini-self-employed person has to actually buy some such tools and store them in her Zone 1 or 2 in order to effectively compete.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I am still semi-obsessed with the concept of innovation. Reason being that our entire civilization is based on the notion of “progress” or continued economic growth, and according to majority of economists, economic growth is dependent upon innovation. Yet innovation itself , as far as I can determine, has only been weakly defined.

In Paul Romer’s paper on the topic, he assumes that although education (human capital)is expensive, an educated human has free access to all previously created ideas, even if that human does not have the ability to directly profit from copying an innovation that is under patent or other such protection. Steven Johnson in his book on the natural history of innovation refers to the concep of the “adjacent accessible.” Growth of this free commons of “adjacent accessible” ideas explains why simultaneous independent development of new ideas/innovations often occur.

IMO, there are a lot of interesting questions to explore related to this concept. For instance, modern(ish) economics generally doesn’t take into consideration goods that are “free”, such as many ecological resources, yet many of its equations/theories are dependent upon the existence and continued growth of another “free” resource known as “ideas” or “innovation*.” How does that make sense?

*difference between idea vs. innovation maybe being whether it has been “engineered” or developed far enough towards practical production. This “engineering” may have some cost, but the idea is still created out of stuff to be found on the freebie table.

Jason

Re: Innovation

Post by Jason »

https://www.hoover.org/research/how-inn ... att-ridley

If you don't want to click, it's an interview with Matt Ridley discussing his recent book "How Innovation Works" on the Hoover institute website. Seemed good to me but I'm not very innovative.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@Jason:

I just recently read or reread (my bookmarks don’t always stick)the last couple chapters of “The Rational Optimist.” When I first read the book, somewhere on this forum I declared Matt Ridley to be the Anti-Jacob.

The interesting thing is how much disagreement there is about what innovation is or how it happens among those who are huge advocates of the notion that it is what will save us by ensuring continued economic growth. For instance, in his renowned paper, Romer makes it very clear that it mainly results from R&D investment by firms, whereas Ridley suggests that it is a bottom-up trade-driven process, and others argue that it most often results from the unpaid activities of devoted hobbyists, or the activities of firms that organize in a manner not wholly consistent with efficiency, etc. etc.

Anyways, I do want to read Ridley’s new book, if only because I am obsessed with the topic.

Jason

Re: Innovation

Post by Jason »

From what I understand, Ridley believes innovation comes from creating environments that are conducive to improbability.

I'll leave it to Daylen and JLF to XYZ that shit out.

daylen
Posts: 1700
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Innovation

Post by daylen »

The premise of "The Rational Optimist" is completely unoriginal. Trade -> Prosperity ... probably the most boring story ever told. :)

daylen
Posts: 1700
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:17 am

Re: Innovation

Post by daylen »

@7w5 What do you think about the role of mistakes? There are quite a few stories about how scientific innovation starts with either a mistake or an unexpected observation. Generally speaking, our perception is one derivative removed from reality so we only become aware of "parts" or "new wholes" when they move in an unexpected pattern relative to the "original whole"(*). We tend to err on the side of false positives, but overconfidence can counter this and lead us to false negatives (stagnating innovation). Aligns with the idea that paradigm shifts tend to happen early in life whereas "normal science" is more steadily conducted later in life (unknown unknowns versus known unknowns).

Anyway, overall innovation seems to partially be a cycle of top-down engineering failures and bottom-up engineering successes that learned from the failures. Though, what constitutes "top" and "bottom" is a bit relative. It seems to me that economic growth is completely insane because entropy. Any analysis that indicates growth is either ignoring the output of high-entropy waste or ignoring future generations. A more coherent approach would be to start with a total entropy budget and work from there. Though, measuring this precisely is not practical and precision is necessary for exchange/allocation.

(*) This can be generalized to layers of expectation or higher-order derivatives. Closely related to higher-order inferences.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@daylen:

I have to agree that Ridley’s take on innovation isn’t very innovative. In the video Jason linked his solution to coming up with the energy needed to reverse the arrow and create/maintain the improbable is (ta da!) nuclear fusion. Also, in the near future China will be the hotbed of innovation because of limited regulatory environment.

I agree that mistakes are important for the reasons you offered and also for the same reason that mutations are critical to evolution.

Geoffrey West concurs with what you mentioned about high-entropy waste in his physics based take on the topic in “Scale.”

I did like Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From.” In particular, the section where he describes the process of carrying a puzzling question and/or large acquired related collection knowledge around in your head for years, and then suddenly happening upon something seemingly unrelated and then the disparate pieces suddenly click into place.

However, I think this is actually an argument against the notion that all previous ideas are just floating about free for the plucking. In addition to the expense of loading your brain with expertise through education/experience that would allow you access to newest knowledge accessible
only at that pinnacle, you also have the opportunity cost of keeping your brain loaded with that expertise and the expense of randomly sifting or wandering around until small revelatory bits of information are loaded/exploded into wondrous new branching connections.

IOW, I think the economists need to start considering what actually happens in human brains.

sky
Posts: 1185
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:20 am

Re: Innovation

Post by sky »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Wed Apr 04, 2018 10:09 am
However, I would still like to purchase a microscope with a digital camera attachment...
The Rhizospere is the new frontier.

https://youtu.be/R3XmQgyvDHY

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@sky:

Cool. Thanks for the link. Soil microbiology is a fun interest for 21st century amateur naturalists, because there are so many species, you might happen upon something unique. In my permaculture project, I tried to make my fruiting tree and vine area more amenable to fungi and my vegetable area more amenable to good bacteria.

Which brings me round to another topic related to innovation, which is the difference between innovation and novelty. For example, I’ve recently been cooking my way through hodge-lodge of staple foodstuffs my BF and I purchased just because they were available to be delivered in large box to door. So, it is within the realm of possibility that the odd combination of ingredients I threw together to make some of my recent concoctions are completely novel, but that doesn’t mean that using Zesty Cheddar Ranch Cheeze-It Grooves crackers soaked in milk combined with French fried onions and Stubbs sauce to make Memorial Day Meatballs qualifies as an innovation. Although, I was wondering if they might have been tasty enough to qualify for 4th runner-up in some sort of Midwest Boxtop Label Recipe Label Contest.

In more general terms, it seems to me that almost every human who is not entirely rigid in personality type is capable of some level of innovation in their own household or hobby-level production. Then you also have the level inhabited by innovators like Mike the Pillow Guy who can profit greatly from a combination of 3 or 4 skill sets, none of which are at the 30,000 hour expertise level.

IOW, my hypothesis is that it is not always the level of expertise that matters so much as the unlikelihood of combination of expertise. An unusual combination of expertise, or even competence, would be like reducing the “distance” between accessible knowledge pools. So, that’s why the 18th century seems so much more like an era of innovation than nowadays. Back then, humans at least attempted to acquire a liberal education and competency in a variety of fields.

I guess the question I am pondering is how this might be modeled and whether or not it directly relates to Jacob’s diagrams demonstrating the increased financial resilience of a Renaissance set of skills. IOW, I am suggesting that “resilience” and “innovation” are complementary concepts and they are both in oppositional tension with “efficiency”, but also something like “robustness” defined as having a large stock, but little variety or flexibility. IOW, innovation and anti-fragility are also likely complementary concepts.

horsewoman
Posts: 540
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:11 am

Re: Innovation

Post by horsewoman »

But why draw a line between novelty and innovation? This distinction only matters if you want to monetize your invention (= patents) or claim it publicly. Otherwise if it is new to you, you "invented" it for your purposes.

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 12964
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Innovation

Post by jacob »

There are some distinctions that seem relevant to "continued economic growth" and what's possible going forward.

Discovery: the electric arc lamp---that electric current going through a filament produces light
Invention: the light bulb turning current into light in a dependable and sustainable way
Innovation: producing light bulbs in various sizes and shapes for different purposes
Diffusion: mass production of cheap light bulbs

It can easily take a hundred years to go from the first step to the last. The arc lamp principle was discovered in 1802. The light bulb was invented 76 years later. Commercial manufacturing began six years later in 1880.

Discovery requires originality and the right ingredients at the right time. I don't think one can set out to discover something. One can just put the environment in place and hope this best. This also explains concurrent independent discovery in which many independently discover some (like calculus) once the environment has evolved enough to be ready. This work is measured in publications.

Invention requires creativity and grinding. I don't think invention is possible w/o knowing the underlying principles which become tools of creating, like words being put together into a sentence. Inventing typically starts with the desire to solve a problem. This work is measured in patents.

Innovation begins with the desire to improve upon the solution of a problem and profit on it. This is where a lot of the early money is made. Obviously work is measured in money.

Diffusion happens when the late money is made. Diffusion is improvement on the improvement on the solution IOW simply better execution. Ditto for the measurement.

As with specialists in all fields, there is some innate tendency to take the boundary/outer zones for granted or extrapolate one's own methods and results to other layers. It's not surprising that an innovator would think that discovery is facilitated by throwing money at it ... or that one can easily invent new stuff after getting access to more information ... which of course is presumed freely available because innovators aren't in the habit of paying out of pocket for such.)

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6811
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Innovation

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@horsewoman:

I agree. I also think it is ridiculous that home production is not included in GDP. From perspective of modern(ish) economics, even a great idea requiring years of expertise to produce, does not qualify as an innovation until it is rendered mass marketable, because until then, it can not be measured in the manner preferred (dollars worth directly demanded.)

So, the marketing campaign that led to the mass exodus of women to the workplace in 1970s U.S. was clearly an innovation, because it greatly increased measurable production. The more stuff and services we can buy on the market, the happier we are.

In the Ridley interview linked above, he mentions that he finds it very worrisome that some of the teachers who are currently not working due to epidemic are expressing happiness about being able to stay home and collect unemployment. I was thinking, “Yeah, duh, maybe second order effect of this crisis is some people will wake up to the fact that they don’t like spending majority of their time in profit/expense optimized situation like being responsible for 30 brats* at a time, rather than maybe just 2 or 3.” Maybe, they’d rather skip buying the next iPhone update and put in a garden and not go out to eat so much, etc etc. I seriously wonder how many people who portray themselves as huge fans of innovation are really mostly profiting from skimpazz screwturning marginal misery increasing resort to efficiency (which as I noted above, I believe to be oppositional.) I mean how can humans be innovative in situations where they don’t have enough time to pee?

@jacob:

Cross post on notion innovation must be measured in money by definition.

Your post was very insightful. Maybe the diffusion phase is also where the efficiency experts I disdained above come into play?

Post Reply