Author: ashibata (page 2 of 2)

Technology and Innovation

The last two decades remind me the history as one of the periods with a fast growth in technology. Probably also in the next few decades we will experience a significant growth in technology driven by “AI” and “Block chain”. Both topics are causing huge rumors among scientists and these two technologies will completely change the way we currently collect, store, manage and protect the data. This evening we had the lecture held by Professor Loreto on the topic of “Novelties, innovation and the adjacent possible”. Among all the topics he raised in his lecture, especially three of them made me think a lot after the class.

In one of his first statements, he explained using a function, is that the innovation rate is decreasing which means that the value obtained from investing in innovation is getting smaller and smaller. Prof. Loreto explained that this is not the result of less innovations but is the result of an increment of resources faster than the increment of discovery. In other words, Y=X^(½) where Y is the innovation and X rappresenta the amount of resources used to make innovation. Hence, we are still innovating more than in the past but the quantity of resources used is larger than the ones used in the past. I believe that in the long term we cannot keep such a trend  because resources are limited.

Another element that I want to recall in this text is how Artificial Intelligence known as AI which is assumed to impact on the innovative process in the future. Nowadays AI has been spread many fields such as medical, industry, and business. For example multinational banks are investing huge amounts of money to develop and apply AI to their business in order to improve their management or efficiency. AI is completely different from the machine that we know so far. Until now the machine has been used extensively by companies, can only repeat what it has been taught, without having an understanding of what it is doing, and of course without giving any improvement of the process by itself.  AI changes the key concept of new technology because it can learn from the errors and find a solution by itself like human beings. In other words, AI will have the capacity to understand the process and will be improving it using all the data in its code. Yet there have been still problems on AI processing system as the example of a volvo car which failed to figure out kangaroo shows. However, I believe AI is making steady improvements. I assume that all the innovation via exploit will be taken over by AI from us will not be too late to become reality near future.

The third fascinating concept was “adjacent possible” which is one of important elements to think about innovation. This concept simply says that you can use your current knowledge to achieve other different sorts of inventions beyond the limit. Regarding managing innovation, it is essential to turn our eyes upon new technology or tools and combine those technologies or even try combining with other fields in order to face the unexplored range. We have to realize the adjacent possible is spread in front of us and explore actively in order to expand boundaries of innovation possibilities.

The Value of Origins

Today, our exploration to seek origins extended to our familiar place which is the Colby Museum. Through the museum tour conducted by Shalini Le Gall, we discussed the theme of origins in each artworks displayed at the museum from different perspectives of artists.


I was especially inspired to think about origins by one of the artists called  Ai Weiwei. He is one of the powerful Chinese contemporary artists and his talents cover a lot of fields in art such as photography, architecture, sculpture, curating and film. He calls his attention to people with his criticism towards to society, politics and culture in China throughout his art pieces. The Colby Museum displays one of his great artworks at Lunder collection called Colored Vases (2006-2008). You can see several beautiful vases colored pop and vividly by several patterns against the original brown color which we can see partially underneath of those bright colors.


The base of the vases itself looked old at a glance but I was surprised to be told that those urns are, in fact, very old antiques which made in roughly 5000-3000 BC during the Neolithic era in China. We started our discussion about the idea of “offensive” somehow we felt when we were looking at those vases. People may think that this offence comes from the action he covered this “precious” vases with colors and he “ruined” them. It is deeply offensive because we can see the marks underneath which give us the information about the label which we can recognize of age as BC, otherwise we are totally fine about this whole project. He claims about those people’s reaction on original things which have been suddenly removed from any kinds of contexts or circulations and are valuated and capitalized by people just in terms of age.


How could we know that those original vases are really valuable? Because it is written? Because someone tell you so?  Because they have specific marks which prove that they are ancient artifacts? He also might argues those tendencies that we abandoned to see the real value of objects or goods itself but we tend to assess the things superficially and easily influenced by uncertain information such as prices, names or logo etc. Living in such a mass production world, how can we tell originals apart? It was interesting to think about the authenticity of manufacture and to aware that the origins can be created by someone without noticing. I could see those arguments of Ai Weiwei committed into this artwork.


Ai Weiwei did not deface those original old artifacts but he transformed them into new contemporary art by painting them with colors and tried describing the control value to the original things. Furthermore, he added another value on them which enable people to evoke origins and values for many years to come through his art pieces. Although I have been to the Colby Museum several times, it was good experience to see each art pieces from different perspectives in terms of origins.  


Unexpected Connection between Origins

“Origins of the Royal Society and Origins of the Novel”, how would people imagine that there might be a connection between them. It looks like they have not much to do with each other, however, the Royal Society emerged in mid-late 17th century supported by Charles II and this was also the period as we began to see the emergence of another thing, which was the Novel. Is this a coincidence or is there some sense of relationship between these two that they were happening around the same time?  


Royal Society was interested in doing experiment of science as a way of knowing. What further those people holded up is shown as the motto from Latin word, nulliun in verba, which means take nobody’s word for it. This makes me aware that the Royal Society always stands on perceiving science or natural world as distrust and pursues the facts with real data or figures by experiments and observations.   


This stance was also didactic for me because I did not realize that there is the novel before the famous book Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe until today which I thought that it was the oldest British novel. In fact, in 1666 there was a publication of The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish and it might be considered as one the first novels. What made me surprise was that it was written by a woman and she was also the first woman to visit the Royal Society in 1667. She was representing gender-wise as the only woman in 17th century who accomplished great deeds in science and natural philosophy.


It was interesting to see how this Royal Society ideas of experiments and making efforts to explain the improbable to public reflected in novels. The novels from 17th century through early 19th century had gained some characteristics to create realistic and rational explanations in order to make people understand, for instance they focused on more ordinary people, day-to-day things and produce more minds and particulars. As prof. Hanlon argued, the all of these elements of the novels are related or influenced by the object of experimental science.


Although the characteristics or genres of novels have been changing with societies’, authors’ and readers’ diverse values, the basic forms of novels which origin in 17th century are still living in the novels as essential components. Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the examples who is British writer and has won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. He wrote a book “Never Let Me Go”(2005) which is considered as a scientific novel. The story goes on with the narrator Kathy who is a protagonist and was born as a clone who donates her vital organs when she reaches a young adult. I think it is interesting experimental novel because we may have peculiar experiences that we see ourself in a position of Kathy and have empathy on her, but also we might create a sense of feeling of shudder that we are the one of the majority of humans who pretends to be a ignorant about clones through Kathy’s eyes. The world with clones describing in the book may sounds improbable but it makes us enable to feel realistic and drags us into the story because Ishiguro provides detail-oriented delineation and describing real life events such as focusing on school life, friendship and love.


It is interesting to get an idea that origins could trigger to the others and they might be influenced and related each other even though it looks nothing to do with like origins of the Royal Society and the novel. It made me aware that what is important is not just satisfied with knowing origins superficially but try digging deeply by knowing the backgrounds the period those origins happened and extend to other fields and keep exploring so that we might be able to discover unexpected connections.


The Earth without the Sun and the Moon

On August 21 2017, people all around the world especially those here in the United States were excited to see one event after an interval of nearly a century ー a total eclipse of the Sun. This is the phenomena that the Moon covers the Sun when it is passing between the Sun and the Earth and casts darkness on the Earth. Though now it is ordinary for us to see the Sun and the Moon in the sky everyday, have we ever thought about how were those planets, including our planet Earth, were created by taking many years to be formed like we know now?


The Moon is 1/400 the size of the Sun and 1/4 the size of the Earth. It is the only satellite which goes around the Earth. I did not consider the existence of Moon deeply until Bercovici mentioned in the lecture that our Moon is weird and not a typical planet compared with a lot of moons around planets in terms of composition because the lunar mantle is very low in elements.


The origin of the Moon goes back to as same period as the Earth. There is one hypothesis to explain how the Moon was created. The giant-impact hypothesis ways that the Moon was formed by a catastrophic collision and its debris and gas consolidated. Since the Moon and the Earth have been attracting each other. Because the Moon was born in almost same period as the Earth, I feel the Moon is the Earth’s sibling. It also reminded me the Apollo program from 1969 to 1972, which was one of the biggest events in human history.  It revealed many new findings about the Moon, although  how it was created is covered in mystery. But still I believe that knowing about the Moon leads us to new discovery of the origin of the Earth and the stars.


What would happen if the Sun and the Moon vanish? If the Sun suddenly disappeared, all the planets surrounding the Sun would retain their forward motion, and they would fly off. The planets would start getting colder and colder and no life could survive under this circumstance.  If there were no moon passing around our planet, the Earth would spin faster and the length of the day would shorten to ⅓ than now. The environment, needless to say, would dramatically change and many species would be endangered. Earth’s axis, which is inclined at about 23.4 degrees by the Moon would vary over time and  we would not have seasons through a year anymore.


Considering the origin of not only the Earth but also the stars allow me to feel every single event that happened in the universe starting from the Big Bang were indispensable. The Earth has been coexisting with those stars and we are still keeping this relationship in a dynamic scale. Now every time I look up at the sky and see the Sun and the Moon, I feel that they are both important components of the Earth as it is now.


Order in Chaos

There are still many mysteries about the Universe. One of the big question we once might think is related to the origin; How did the universe start? I discussed about this topic once with my friend before, and it made us even more confused with many uncertain questions related to the beginning of the Universe. It was pleasure to hear the lecture of The Big Band and the Origin of the Universe by prof. Dale Kocevski to approach my prior questions I have had about the Universe.  

The Olber’s paradox example  made me realize the importance of looking at the ordinary things from different point of view so that it could reach us to a new discovery.

Many people believe that it is common that we have the sun during daytime, thus it is bright, on the other hand, it is dark at night because there is no sun. However, German physicist Heinrich Olbers had still questioned himself “why is the sky dark at night?” because if the universe is infinite and is distributed by stars or galaxies, we see stars in any direction we look. Therefore the night sky is supposed be white with lights of the uniformed stars in the universe.

This is called Olber’s paradox. In order to find the explanations of this paradox, some researchers have shown the new evidence related to the origin of the Universe.The one is even though our universe is infinite large, it is not infinitely old. Namely, there was the beginning of the Universe. The Universe was born approximately 13.7 billion years ago in a stupendous explosion called Big Bang and has been expanding since then. Since the Universe is expanding, stars and galaxies get farther away from us. It suggest s us that the stars we see in the night sky is actually the intensity of that star billions of years prior when the light had not actually reached us yet. I remembered that I was surprised to hear once in my science class that even Albert Einstein, who is one of the most famous figures in human history for his theory of Relativity, did not admit that the universe has beginning or end but he proposed a steady state universe saying that the universe does not change in its size.


Why is the sky dark at night?”, “Where are we all come from?” or “How is the universe created?”, those “why” are important and essential  because it could be a trigger off reaching new findings and strive us to intuitively grasp the inner nature of things. Yet we have not known many things about the origin of the universe, we have to continue exploring more those uncertain matters with our irrepressible curiosities.


In addition, the lecture also made me rethink about the aim of this lecture series “order vs chaos”. I used to think  that those are the opposite ideas but now I think chaos involves order in itself as the origin of the Universe indicates that the Universe/cosmos(order) began from the explosion of Big Bang(chaos) . Although Chaos itself is fluid and uncertain, there are several orders are swirling in chaos, having infinite possibilities to make order out of chaos.  

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