Keeping your eyes wide open (Part 2)Posted: March 4, 2013
In my last post, I noted the importance of looking at new developments from a different perspective.
Let me give you another example. I have said, more than once, that for you to be effective in CI you have to open up your perspectives, and that reading something different is one way to do that. If you do not read mysteries, read one; if you do not read science fiction, read some.
Science fiction? Yes, some sci-fi, particularly classic sci-fi contains insights that we are just catching up with. Such as?
Start with Tom Swift, the early 20th century science wiz kid. His author conceived of many extensions of existing science we are just now exploring. Such as? Well, the series included “Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle” (1911), where Tom whipped up the ancestor of today’s Taser. Taser, as in an acronym for “Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”. (“A” was added by the creators of the Taser).
What else? How about Isaac Asimov, a very prolific late 20th century author? For his “Foundation” series of novels, Asimov created “psycho-history”, a scientific principle that allows researchers to predict, with a high degree of accuracy, the behavior of billions of people. How? According to a letter I once received from him, he simply decided that it should exist!
And, maybe it does now. Today, we see at least two lines of serious scientific inquiry following Asimov’s (fictional) long and winding road:
The Economist, reporting from the AAAS meeting, notes that there are several scientists working to manage vast data sets to develop patterns of – ready – predictability of human behavior. They include using mobile phone records to predict a person’s location at any time of the day, to predict the paths that global epidemics will follow, and the creation of a “general model of society”.
Consider also the development of a system to predict historical cycles, Cliodynamics, by Professor Peter Turchin. This subject, which I discussed in November, raise fascinating questions about political and economic movements. And Professor Turchin tips his hat to Asimov too.
So, what does that mean to CI? It means looking in almost any new director should be able to open a new, useful intellectual window.
BTW, ever wonder about the name of the Sony robot, ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Steps in Innovative Mobility? Isaac Asimov also wrote a series of great books about robots and their ethical issues. At least one source believes (as do I) that the name is also a nod to Asimov.