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O N N I EN H W TO

IO T A V

WE

N

CAN

IS

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MEDDLE AND

E K A M – A Wise Person, 2011

T H I N K Q UA R T E R LY


/How_will_ you_shape_the_ future? Are_you_ ready_to_do_ the_unexpected? 06 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N


Innovation_ We’re living through a time of rapid change. Whether it’s driven by technology, culture or – as we’ve seen in North Africa and the Middle East – people themselves, we all have to adapt in the face of continual uncertainty. At Google, we can contribute by helping people and organisations take advantage of new ideas and technology, which, we hope, will fuel their creativity. That’s why this edition of Think Quarterly focuses on innovation. How will you shape the future? Are you ready to do the unexpected? To set unreasonable goals? To act boldly? Where will you find inspiration, and who else will you inspire? In these pages you’ll find an insight into Google’s own innovation processes, alongside cutting-edge features from some of the business world’s brightest minds. We’re not pretending to have all the answers, but we can start by asking some fascinating questions that encourage you to Think Innovation. Thank you for the feedback from issue one. We’d love to hear more comments and suggestions on topics for future issues of Think Quarterly. In the meantime, enjoy the Innovation issue.

Matt Brittin Managing Director, UK & Ireland Operations, Google

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ContentS Contents pages can be literal, linear things – and where’s the innovation in that? We like to think of this issue as a journey, and every journey worth taking needs a map. So here’s our map – a guide to the content in this issue of Think Quarterly. Use it right and you’ll find multiple routes and surprising shortcuts. We hope you enjoy the trip.

Page 12

Page 50

A Rather Pleasant Revolution andrea Kurland interview Andrew Mitchell Activism Change data entrepreneurialism international development

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Executive Insight

Transgressive Man

Simon Rogers interview Sir Martin Sorrell advertising Mobile

Cyrus Shahrad interview Ray Kurzweil Artificial Intelligence Change entrepreneurialism Future Singularity Social Media transhumanism

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The Knowledge Hannah Jones top 10 Graphics Nike

Page 22

Page 18

The Science of Serendipity dave allan Matt Kingdon Strategy Creativity iteration Management Science Process

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The Eight Pillars of Innovation Susan Wojcicki google Strategy advertising Creativity data iteration open Process


Page 44

Page 48

Practical Magic

Favourite Innovations

Russell davies ArtiďŹ cial Intelligence Connectivity data internet of things iteration

Graphics

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Innovation Spaces Graphics Creativity design environment Page 40

Room to Think Page 36

Kursty groves Strategy environment design Creativity Process

Missions That Matter Holly Finn google Activism Change Crisis Response Social Media

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Next Gen Innovators Activism art Change entrepreneurialism Future Social Media

Page 34

Patently Creative Graphics Patents

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IT INNOVATION IS

A

CONTACT SPORT

DOE SN’T

MATTER

WHAT

YOU RS

LOO KS

LIK E

CONTRIBUTORS

Dave Allan

Matt Kingdon

Think Quarterly represents the collective mindspace of journalists, academics, experts and industry leaders from around the world. Some are Google’s homegrown visionaries. Others lend their outside perspectives. All tell stories that you won’t find anywhere else.

Dave Allan founded ?WhatIf ! in 1992 with his business partner Matt Kingdon. He developed the company’s innovation training and capability business, including the TopDog leadership programme. He sits on the ?WhatIf ! board, as well as those of several start-ups, and regularly speaks and writes about innovation. Beyond this, his time is focused on his family and a twice-weekly game of football. Dave offers a handson guide to the innovation strategies that can transform your business on page 18.

Matt Kingdon co-founded ?WhatIf ! in 1992 and enjoys working with senior client leaders who are similarly enthused about innovation but often stuck as to how to make it happen. He is the co-author of best-selling innovation text Sticky Wisdom, and frequently speaks at conferences, providing a unique perspective on the bear traps awaiting organisations as they attempt to transform from sleepy giant to nimble innovator. Matt also offers a hands-on guide to the innovation strategies that can transform your business on page 18.

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PLENT Y

OF

SNA CKS AT ALL

A

THE RE’S NO

NE W

DIALOGUE

ROOM FOR

IS

OFF - THE - SHEL F

TOYS

ARE

COMING TO

LIFE

TIM ES

EM ERGING

Susan Wojcicki

Hannah Jones

Kursty Groves

Russell Davies

Susan Wojcicki is Senior Vice President of Advertising at Google, responsible for the design, innovation and engineering of all Google’s advertising and measurement platform products, including AdWords, AdSense, DoubleClick and Google Analytics. Susan joined Google in 1999 as the company’s first marketing manager and worked on the initial viral marketing programmes as well as the first Google homepage doodles. Susan provides an insider’s perspective on innovation at Google on page 22.

Hannah Jones is Nike, Inc.’s VP of Sustainable Business & Innovation, fuelling the company’s sustainable innovation and enabling a rapid transition to a sustainable economy. Hannah is a founding member of the Business Advisory Council to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, chairs the Sustainable Consumption initiative for the World Economic Forum, and was named a Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007. Hannah reveals her most innovative products, trends and ideas on page 26.

An award-winning designer, innovation consultant and author of I Wish I Worked There! A Look Inside the Most Creative Spaces in Business, Kursty Groves is an expert in workplace strategy; helping organisations cultivate the right cultural and physical environments to support innovation. She is currently transforming the HQ of one of the UK’s largest energy companies, and inspiring Banana Republic’s Creative Team in New York. Kursty talks innovation and interior design on page 40.

Russell Davies is a former planning director at Wieden & Kennedy, and is now Head of Planning for Ogilvy EMEA. Outside of hardcore advertising stuff, Russell is a founder of Newspaper Club, which turns online submissions into printed newspapers; a partner at design agency Really Interesting Group, which builds and thinks about things that connect the web and the real world; and the organiser of Interesting, a conference that brings together fascinating people. Russell explains what the Internet of Things looks like on page 44.

THIN KING

Contact thinkquarterly@google.com The articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team. thinkquarterly.co.uk © Google 2011 Edited and designed by The Church of London thechurchoflondon.com 11


Executive Insight WPP Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell talks innovation in a time of anarchy, and why he can’t work in a garage. Words by

Simon Rogers Sam Christmas

Portraits by

Great white sharks cannot stop swimming; if they do, they suffocate and die. Similarly, Sir Martin Sorrell finds it hard to stand still. Our meeting in a Mayfair pub is squeezed between a visit to Turkey, talks at Downing Street and a flight to Mumbai. The head of the world’s largest advertising corporation also has his eyes on Iran and Cuba. Change and innovation are his lifeblood. Sorrell’s rise would make great material for Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner: our plucky protagonist buys a shopping basket company and uses it to take over the world. Well, some of the world’s best-known ad firms, anyway. When he’s done, he goes to China and becomes the top man there. Now he’s got his sights set on the Middle East. And all this against three decades of momentous social, political and economic change. 12 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

Such are Sorrell’s dramatic fortunes. The 66-year-old head of WPP oversees operations in over 100 countries and a workforce of thousands. He’s an evangelist for the new technologies shaping our world – not as a geek or a gadget freak, but as the hardest of hardheaded businessmen. Nor can he stay out of the public eye. The day after George Osborne’s 2011 budget announced big slashes to corporation tax, Sorrell announced he would bring WPP back to the UK, having relocated to Dublin in 2008. As we meet, half a million people have just marched through London, protesting against government spending cuts. A few hundred rioted through the capital, keeping one step ahead of the police via social networking and mobile phones. It’s against this backdrop that Sorrell points to the difficulty in maintaining a single message: “While some demonstrators were trying to get their message across in a peaceful and ordered way, it gets inextricably interlinked with the more violent stuff. The two things get confused,” he says. “In the old days, you could segment happily. You could put out one message to one segment of the audience, and one to another. That has now gone. You say something to one community and instantly, literally at a click, it’s available to everybody. What it means is that if you’re trying to craft a message, it’s very difficult.” For Sorrell, that lack of control is symptomatic of the new world. “I’m in a business where there’s complete anarchy. You can’t control it – you can only react to it. The control that people traditionally


“We’re interested in the application of technology – not its origination. We’re not in the garage with Sergey and Larry.”

Quantify: Innovation

Americans now consume three times the information they did in 1960.

14 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

had over their message is gone. Look at Wikileaks: you have to approach everything you write on the basis it’s going to be on the front page of the Guardian.” Stocky and tough-looking (his face bears the legacy of a car accident at 18, which required extensive plastic surgery), Sorrell is a coiled spring – restlessly shifting while we talk. He attributes his drive to “the pressure cooker effect” of Harvard Business School. After graduating, he joined Saatchi & Saatchi, rising to the role of Group Finance Director before striking out on his own. At February’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sorrell gave a talk entitled ‘The Power of Apps’. His business increasingly revolves around mobile communications and what they can offer the client. WPP is encouraging its established brands to invest in mobile talent, and exhorting its online agencies to embrace mobile in a more aggressive way. “Mobile for us is part of the online revolution,” he says. The side effect of all this is that “our willingness to sit down and really dig deep and take time to digest, turn over and develop more is rapidly diminishing because so much stuff is coming at you at such a pace – literally 24/7. “It’s a disadvantage of the revolution,” he continues. “People used to say that information is power but that’s no longer the case. It’s analysis of the data, use of the data, digging into it – that is the power. You get so much of the stuff and everyone has access to it.” His interest in technology isn’t so much personal; he doesn’t innovate for its own sake but as a means to an end. Sorrell cares about what it can do, not what it is. He plonks down a BlackBerry and an ordinary Nokia mobile on the table in front of us. He has two phones because, he says, he hasn’t “got the mental stamina to unite the two.” He doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook (“I suppose I’m a bit of a fuddy-duddy”) but his day revolves around breaking news, live business channels and his new iPad 2. He no longer uses his PC. “I don’t like schlepping a laptop around the place so I don’t travel with one.” With its global reach and profile, has WPP become too huge to be innovative? Sorrell’s argument is that Wire and Plastic Products plc was itself a genuine game changer. A British shopping basket manufacturer acquired by Sorrell when he was casting around for a listed corporate shell in 1985, it now owns famous ad brands such as JWT, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam and Grey – as well as media investment giant GroupM. WPP’s first board meeting in China was in 1989; now the country accounts for around $1bn of business, and Sorrell describes its government’s five-year plan as a “charter for WPP”. He retains a tight control, but is quick to point out that WPP is an amorphous agglomeration of 12 different companies. “Clients have the perception that the bigger you are, the worse you get,” he admits. “We try and break that down. Innovation is the ability to differentiate.” For Sorrell, this means working out what technology can do: “We’re interested in the application of technology – not its origination,” he explains. “We’re not in the garage with [Google co-founders] Sergey and Larry coming up with the ideas, or dropping out of Stanford or Harvard to do that. We’re taking those ideas and applying them in a way that differentiates us.” An interesting question is whether an innovator like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg could have flourished at a company like WPP. “Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have been comfortable working in any company – other than going into the garage and starting his own,” replies Sorrell. “That’s what I did in 1985. My garage was Wire and Plastic Products.” Though a man whose business relies on hard data and evidence, Sorrell isn’t averse to leaving some things to fate. He wears two Brazilian wristbands given to him on a New Year holiday. Each one promises to make three wishes come true when the string rots away. “It’s not for effect,” he insists, “I am a bit superstitious. [The wishes] haven’t come true yet, so I can’t tell you what they are.” Away from the office, one of Sorrell’s big passions is cricket. He tries to play 10 matches a year, but is frustrated by being “a plodder, a grafter, slow but sure… You’re either good or you’re bad,” he muses as our time draws to a close. “It’s black or white, isn’t it? You don’t want to be average.”


“Clients_have_ the_perception_ that_the_ bigger_you_are, the_worse_you_ get. We_try_ and_break_ that_down.� 15


Sir Martin Sorrell Unvital Statistics

What is your earliest memory?

If you had to stay in one place, where would it be?

What do you want that you can’t have?

My mother closing my little finger in the kitchen door, aged five.

Sydney.

100 per cent market share.

What’s your signature dish?

When were you last surprised?

Sweet and sour meatballs.

When my wife agreed to marry me.

When was your last moment of clarity?

What is your greatest extravagance?

When I popped out of the womb.

My wife.

What does success look like to you?

What do you see in the mirror?

Never-ending.

Not much.

‘My Funny Valentine’ by Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan, especially the trumpet.

What is your biggest failure?

How much is enough?

What do you want to be when you’re older?

Balance.

Never.

Opening batsman for England.

When did you last let yourself go?

Who is your inspiration?

Tell us a joke…

When I put my head out of the womb.

My father.

When did you last feel ashamed?

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The last time we failed to win an account.

My BlackBerry alarm.

True story: the new global CEO of a major agency, visiting his Amsterdam company for the first time and anxious to establish his cosmopolitan credentials, begins his address by saying how delighted he is to be with them all in Benelux

What song will play at your funeral? Let others decide. What was your greatest mistake? Agreeing to this interview. Which piece of music alters your state of mind?

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The Science of Serendipity Nurturing innovation can look like a dark art, but the real secret is that it’s driven by a process any leader can learn. The co-founders of ?WhatIf !, the world’s largest independent innovation company, explain how. Words by

Dave Allan, Matt Kingdon Mitch Blunt

ILLUSTRATIONs by

As disruptive technologies and business models challenge established companies and even jeopardise industries, innovation has shifted from a competitive advantage to a competitive imperative. The good news is that innovation is a business discipline; it can be broken down into its component parts, analysed and taught. While every innovation strategy is unique to the company it serves, there are some key leadership behaviours every senior executive can use.

Create_an_honest_ innovation_agenda – and_don’t_do_it_alone Companies that want to innovate successfully first have to define why they want to innovate. This requires taking a very hard look in the mirror and opening the

organisation to some honest forensic work. We worked with a large entertainment company whose management decided to tackle some audacious innovation goals. To help clarify their strategy and execution, we interviewed more than 30 senior executives, many of whom had been with the company long enough to have seen numerous innovation initiatives. We asked them – privately, individually and away from the office – about their fears around innovation, about their confidence in senior management and about where they thought the company should be in five years. We asked for examples of real versus catch-up innovation. Then we themed the (anonymous) responses and presented them to management as part of a two-day workshop. The gap between what executives had been saying to us privately and what they said publicly was breathtaking. Most of the people we interviewed thought the company

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often overreached on new projects, failing to get the execution basics right. They also thought the new market initiatives lacked a coherent vision tying them together. Those observations opened the door to a passionate and fundamental discussion about the growth strategy: what role do we want innovation to play in our business? What exactly do we mean by ‘innovation’? Are we an innovation leader or a follower? What markets should we be in? Who do we want our customers to be? How do we want them to engage with us? Ultimately, top management decided to take a different tack. Rather than entering several new markets at once, the projects would be spread out over a few years, serving as stepping-stones to achieve a more coherent and better-communicated strategy. The sense of relief in the company at seeing management carefully articulate a specific role for innovation, and lay out a logical execution roadmap, was palpable. So was the renewed sense of shared purpose. This approach put the company in a much better position to innovate strategically and achieve the resulting business impact.

Stimulus_is_the_raw_ ingredient_of_innovation Fresh information and innovative ideas are difficult to come by for people who are stuck in their offices. Creativity needs stimulus, and stimulus doesn’t often come from the familiar. We recently worked with a global financial institution on increasing customer loyalty, co-opting several marriage counsellors to the project. Their insight into how people stick together over the longterm was invaluable and directly applicable to the project team’s objectives. Even in your own sphere of influence, there’s no substitute for spending time with customers – learning where they live, shop and how they use your products. We all know this, but also know there’s always a pressing reason to stay in the office. Leaders need to model spending time out in the market if they want this behaviour to take root in the company.

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The benefits of exposing yourself and your teams to outside stimulus are emotional as well as intellectual. People who return to the office fired up with a new idea or insight come back with more strategic clarity – and with a desire to share their hunger and excitement about the next innovation.

Address_the_fact_ that_processes_don’t_ innovate; people_do Large organisations in general are great at process and reductive management, but many of them are less practised at stoking the creativity of their people and teaching the collaborative habits that support innovation. Innovation starts with people; usually well away from any meeting room or structured brainstorming session. Two people bump into each other in the canteen. One voices a concern or a hope. The other says, “I know what you mean,” or “That’s cool!” or “We already tried that.” Innovation is a contact sport, and an idea can be energised or crushed by its first contact with somebody else’s reactions. Senior people making business decisions tend to be smart and analytical, and smart, analytical people can unwittingly kill off potentially great ideas. Leaders can take a distinct role in countering that tendency. We encourage distinct modes of discussion: SUN (Suspend, Understand and Nurture) and RAIN (React, Assume, Insist). The idea is not to humour bad ideas indefinitely. It’s to ‘greenhouse’ them, to help them grow big enough so that they can show their real strengths and weaknesses. Another behaviour we have found useful, particularly for leaders, is one we call ‘signalling’. It’s important to be explicit with others about how to discuss an idea at a given time – in an expressive, ‘possibilityrich’ way (to encourage exploration) or in a rigorous, analytical and economical way (to make a decision). By employing both of these modes and using the right one at the right time, you can improve your organisation’s track record in encouraging

innovative ideas and developing them to the point of commercialisation.

Build_an_aligned_ support_system Innovation can be delicate, it needs to be fed and protected. The question is, what kind of structures do you need to support innovation in your organisation. Some companies have dedicated innovation units, like Nike’s Innovation Kitchen or Apple’s Skunkworks. A food company we’ve worked with recently built a kitchen right in the middle of its offices to encourage employees to try things out and to remind them that no matter what their specific jobs are, the object of all of their efforts is creating stuff that tastes good. Innocent, the successful British health food company acquired by Coca-Cola, is after both incremental and game-changing innovation. On the incremental front, key managers are tasked with being ‘lightning rods’ on specific subjects to collect ideas and direct resources to the good ones. To produce potential game-changers, four years ago the company created the post of ‘Head of the Next Big Thing’. This is someone who reports directly to the board for one year and whose team works outside of normal operations. Products that have come out of this process now generate about 40 per cent of Innocent’s revenue. Innovation support systems come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t matter what yours looks like as long as it supports the innovation agenda you’ve decided on and has a system of financial models, rewards and metrics that work in your company.

Accept_and_plan_for_ more_and_faster_iteration Innovation is not something you can think your way through. It is about iteration – making something, getting a reaction and then changing course as necessary. You learn far more by trying things out fast and cheap and seeing what happens, than by turning them over and over in your


mind. The best innovation leaders are good at asking questions that help make an idea real: what does it weigh? Can I put it in my pocket? What will be the consumer’s experience? What will they stop buying when they switch to our product? One client of ours wanted to cut the time and expense of launching a new restaurant. They had budgeted $3m and several months. We took $150,000 and in three days had a pop-up restaurant running. We made plenty of mistakes, but we made them fast and cheap and we learned things that saved our client time and money. When we launched AIG’s UK pensions business, we did everything at first by hand – no systems. We quickly learned what worked and what didn’t without a big upfront capital investment. That helped us build a business with daily sales of $1m in less than 12 months. This same thing can be done when building innovation capability inside an organisation. We often advise innovationhungry leaders to experiment initially by taking a group of high performers, giving them some distance from the daily business, a small budget and a limited period of time to innovate. If the project blows up completely, you’ll still be getting an excellent return on your investment because you will have learned plenty about what not to do with the whole organisation. At best, you’ll be able to adapt your learning to the next innovation and accelerate your organisation’s innovative capabilities.

Innovation, we believe, is not just another word in the lexicon of consultant-speak. It’s a fascinating new management science that is still in the early stages of development. At its heart, it involves merging a complex understanding of how humans think, feel and interact with commercial discipline. Getting it right requires new leadership skills, but it’s an investment that pays off with motivated employees, breakthrough growth and, honestly, the most fun you can have at work url_whatifinnovation.com

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Quantify: Innovation

In a recent six-month period, half of Google’s core initiatives started as projects during employees’ 20 per cent innovation time.

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The Eight Pillars of Innovation Susan Wojcicki, Senior Vice President of Advertising, offers a Google-eye view on how to stay creative. Words by

Susan Wojcicki Robert Hanson

ILLUSTRATION by

he greatest innovations are the ones we take for granted, like light bulbs, refrigeration and penicillin. But in a world where the miraculous very quickly becomes commonplace, how can a company, especially one as big as Google, maintain a spirit of innovation year after year? Nurturing a culture that allows for innovation is the key. As we’ve grown to over 26,000 employees in more than 60 offices, we’ve worked hard to maintain the unique spirit that characterised Google way back when I joined as employee #16. At that time I was Head of Marketing (a group of one), and over the past decade I’ve been lucky enough to work on a wide range of products. Some were big wins, others weren’t. Although much has changed through the years, I believe our commitment to innovation and risk has remained constant. What’s different is that, even as we dream up what’s next, we face the classic

innovator’s dilemma: should we invest in brand new products, or should we improve existing ones? We believe in doing both, and learning while we do it. Here are eight principles of innovation we’ve picked up along the way to guide us as we go.

Have_a_mission_that_matters Work can be more than a job when it stands for something you care about.

Google’s mission is to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. We use this simple statement to guide all of our decisions. When we start work in a new area, it’s often because we see an important issue that hasn’t been solved and we’re confident that technology can make a difference. For example, Gmail was created to address the need for more web email functionality, great search and more storage. Our mission is one that has the potential to touch many lives, and we make sure that all our employees feel connected to it and empowered to help achieve it. In times of crisis, they have helped by organising life-saving information and making it readily available. The dedicated Googlers who launched our Person Finder tool (see page 36) within two hours of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this March are a wonderful recent example of that commitment.

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Strive_for_ continual_ innovation, not_instant_perfection

Think_big_but_start_small No matter how ambitious the plan, you have to roll up your sleeves and start somewhere. Google Books, which has brought the content of millions of books online, was an idea that our founder, Larry Page, had for a long time. People thought it was too crazy even to try, but he went ahead and bought a scanner and hooked it up in his office. He began scanning pages, timed how long it took with a metronome, ran the numbers and realised it would be possible to bring the world’s books online. Today, our Book Search index contains over 10 million books. Similarly, AdSense, which delivers contextual ads to websites, started when one engineer put ads in Gmail. We realised that with more sophisticated technology we could do an even better job by devoting additional resources to this tiny project. Today, AdSense ads reach 80 per cent of global internet users – it is the world’s largest ad network – and we have hundreds of thousands of publishers worldwide.

The best part of working on the web? We get do-overs. Lots of them. The first version of AdWords, released in 1999, wasn’t very successful – almost no one clicked on the ads. Not many people remember that because we kept iterating and eventually reached the model we have today. And we’re still improving it; every year we run tens of thousands of search and ads quality experiments, and over the past year we’ve launched over a dozen new formats. Some products we update every day. Our iterative process often teaches us invaluable lessons. Watching users ‘in the wild’ as they use our products is the best way to find out what works, then we can act on that feedback. It’s much better to learn these things early and be able to respond than to go too far down the wrong path. Iterating has served us well. We weren’t first to Search, but we were able to make progress in the market by working quickly, learning faster and taking our next steps based on data.

Share_everything

Look_for_ideas_ everywhere As the leader of our Ads products, I want to hear ideas from everyone – and that includes our partners, advertisers and all of the people on my team. I also want to be a part of the conversations Googlers are having in the hallways. Several years ago, we took this quite

24 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

literally and posted an ideas board on a wall at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View. On a Friday night, an engineer went to the board and wrote down the details of a convoluted problem we had with our ads system. A group of Googlers lacking exciting plans for the evening began rewriting the algorithm within hours and had solved the problem by Tuesday. Some of the best ideas at Google are sparked just like that – when small groups of Googlers take a break on a random afternoon and start talking about things that excite them. The Google Art Project, which brought thousands of museum works online, and successful AdWords features like Automated Rules, are great examples of projects that started out in our ‘microkitchens’. This is why we make sure Google is stocked with plenty of snacks at all times.

Our employees know pretty much everything that’s going on and why decisions are made. Every quarter, we share the entire Board Letter with all 26,000 employees, and we present the same slides presented to the Board of Directors in a company-wide meeting. By sharing everything, you encourage the discussion, exchange and reinterpretation of ideas, which can lead to unexpected and innovative outcomes. We try to facilitate this by working in small, crowded teams in open cube arrangements, rather than individual offices. When someone has an idea or needs input on a decision, they can just look


up and say, ‘Hey…’ to the person sitting next to them. Maybe that cube-mate will have something to contribute as well. The idea for language translation in Google Talk (our Gmail chat client) came out of conversations between the Google Talk and Google Translate teams when they happened to be working near one another.

a test, asking users, ‘Would you like 10, 20 or 30 search results on one page?’ They unanimously said they wanted 30. But 10 results did far better in actual user tests, because the page loaded faster. It turns out that providing 30 results was 20 per cent slower than providing 10, and what users really wanted was speed. That’s the beautiful thing about data – it can either back up your instincts or prove them totally wrong.

Never_fail_to_fail

Spark_with_imagination, fuel_with_data In our fast-evolving market, it’s hard for people to know, or even imagine, what they want. That’s why we recruit people who believe the impossible can become a reality. One example is Sebastian Thrun who, along with his team, is building technology for driverless cars to reduce the number of lives lost to roadside accidents each year. These cars, still in development, have logged 140,000 hands-free miles driving down San Francisco’s famously twisty Lombard Street, across the Golden Gate Bridge and up the Pacific Coast Highway without a single accident. We try to encourage this type of blue-sky thinking through ‘20 per cent time’ – a full day a week during which engineers can work on whatever they want. Looking back at our launch calendar over a recent six-month period, we found that many products started in employees’ 20 per cent time. What begins with intuition is fuelled by insights. If you’re lucky, these reinforce one another. For a while the number of Google search results displayed on a page was 10 simply because our founders thought that was the best number. We eventually did

Be_a_platform There is so much awe-inspiring innovation being driven by people all over the globe. That’s why we believe in open technologies. They enable anyone, anywhere to apply their unique skills, perspectives and passions to the creation of new products and features on top of our platforms. This moves the needle forward for everyone involved. Google Earth, for example, allows developers to build ‘layers’ on top of our maps and share them with the world. One user created a layer that uses animations of real-time sensor data to illustrate what might happen if sea levels rose from one to 100 metres. Another famous example of open technology is our mobile platform, Android. There are currently over 310 devices on the market built on the Android OS, and close to half a million Android developers outside the company who enjoy the support of Google’s extensive resources. These independent developers are responsible for most of the 200,000 apps in the Android marketplace.

Google is known for YouTube, not Google Video Player. The thing is, people remember your hits more than your misses. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and correct them fast. Trust me, we’ve failed plenty of times. Knowing that it’s okay to fail can free you up to take risks. And the tech industry is so dynamic that the moment you stop taking risks is the moment you get left behind. Two of the first projects I worked on at Google, AdSense and Google Answers, were both uncharted territory for the company. While AdSense grew to be a multi-billion-dollar business, Google Answers (which let users post questions and pay an expert for the answer) was retired after four years. We learned a lot in that time, and we were able to apply the knowledge we had gathered to the development of future products. If we’d been afraid to fail, we never would have tried Google Answers or AdSense, and missed an opportunity with each one. Our growing Google workforce comes to us from all over the world, bringing with them vastly different experiences and backgrounds. A set of strong common principles for a company makes it possible for all its employees to work as one and move forward together. We just need to continue to say ‘yes’ and resist a culture of ‘no’, accept the inevitability of failures, and continue iterating until we get things right. As it says on our homepage, ‘I’m feeling lucky’. That’s certainly how I feel coming to work every day, and something I never want to take for granted

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Next Gen Innovators Meet five thought leaders whose world has been fundamentally shaped by the digital revolution. Wired, ambitious and truly global, they are breaking down old barriers and reshaping the worlds of business, media, art and activism with their passion and creative innovation. Matt Bochenski, Andrea Kurland I l l u s t r a t i o n s b y Steve Wilson Interviews by

28 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N


What does innovation mean to you? Innovation is the freedom of creativity. It’s about understanding the actual possibilities of what you’re able to do. How has the growth of digital technology affected your approach to innovation? I’m very interested in creating innovation with technology. We innovate with preexisting systems by figuring out how to stretch the limits of what’s possible and make it experiential. New technology gives you new possibilities. What defines a twenty-first-century entrepreneur? They see the possibilities of their time. They realise that it’s moving really fast and they understand what is possible or not. Most of all, they adapt very fast. They have to, because the state we’re in now with technology is just the beginning – that rate of change is only going to get faster and faster. How do you demonstrate innovation on a day-to-day basis? You can create something exciting when you combine old stuff and new stuff in the right way, but we’re trying to work with new technologies. We’re doing stuff that hasn’t been seen before.

Roman Beranek ProJeKtIl

Thirty-two-year-old Roman Beranek studied Interaction Design at Zurich’s University of the Arts before founding Projektil, a dynamic visual arts collective in which design, technology and communication effortlessly coalesce into something both mind-bending and beautiful. Whether they’re draping Eindhoven’s Saint Catherine’s Cathedral in a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colours, or turning Beesenstedt Castle in Germany into a live 3D concert with mobile interaction, Projektil are responsible for some of the world’s most innovative projection mapping events and have helped to define a uniquely twenty-first-century digital art form.

Is there a technology, trend or idea that’s driving the most exciting innovation in projection mapping? I think it’s the melting together of technologies, like you see in the mobile industry, where mobiles are connected to real places and it’s fading together with reality. That’s why Projektil’s designs are increasingly integrated with the real world. What does the future hold for you? People are going to get used to mapping – it’s like 3D technology in cinemas – but it will develop. Interaction is going to become more important, as is storytelling. And the way in which you integrate media mapping will be crucial. That’s what we’re thinking about right now.

url_projektil.ch 29


Dennis Crowley FoursQuare

New Yorker Dennis Crowley is the co-founder and CEO of Foursquare, a locationbased mobile service that uses game mechanics to encourage users to explore cities and neighbourhoods, sharing their favourite places and insider tips with the community.

What does innovation mean to you? I spent a big part of my career with people telling me, ‘The stuff that you’re thinking about is never going to work.’ At some point, you have to just try it. I feel like having an idea and running into a wall, reinventing it and running into a wall, then reinventing it again, is what innovation is. How has the growth of digital technology affected your approach to innovation? Cycles of innovation are much faster and everyone merges off everyone else. When our company runs into a problem, we show everyone our solution. There’s a different mindset for a lot of people now that’s, like, ‘If you know something other people don’t, it’s your job to teach people and give back to the community.’ How do you demonstrate innovation on a day-to-day basis? We say internally that we’re inventing the future. The hardest part of this is balancing how the company gets invented at the same time the product gets invented. We get 52 people sitting around a desk to figure out what we do, not two people behind a closed door. We do design by committee. I’ve been taught that that’s a bad idea, but it makes people feel excited and gets them involved. It’s like you’re on a rollercoaster and you go down the big dip and put your hands in the air. At a certain point, you just have to let go. Is there a technology, trend or idea that’s driving the most exciting innovation in social apps? The iPhone. I’ve been doing mobile stuff for a long time and it’s been difficult because there are so many different platforms, so many different screen sizes, carriers controlled everything. The iPhone has reset that whole industry. It’s enabled us to do the things we wanted to do. What does the future hold for you? Five years ago there was no such thing as an iPhone – if back then you tried to guess the future, you would have been totally wrong. I think there’s some productive value in not looking too far ahead because if you look too far ahead, you’re going to miss what’s right in front of you.

url_foursquare.com 30 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N


Quantify: Innovation

Half of firm founders in Silicon Valley are foreign-born.

What does innovation mean to you? I think it means re-booting your brain. It’s kind of a skill – or an attitude maybe – to constantly question and redesign the truth about the things you know, because with innovation, by definition, you have to leave something behind. What defines a twenty-first-century entrepreneur? Today, it’s not only about what you do, it’s about why you do it. People no longer want to join just because you’re a start-up and you might become big; they want to start up because they believe in why they’re doing it and the end result. How do you demonstrate innovation on a day-to-day basis? We make sure that we always tap into the discussion that’s going on because that helps to spark innovation – almost like fostering coffee shop culture within and outside the company. We also work very crossfunctionally with journalists and tech people. They’re never separate; we’re always on the same team. Is there a technology, trend or idea that’s driving the most exciting innovation in digital media? Data aggregation. Once you’re able to track how people move, what people think, how people sleep – all the things they do – that creates a whole new world of media ideas. That information can be used to improve your daily life and improve the world around you. For example, if you know more about the impact your behaviour has on the environment, people will change their behaviour. It’s also a bit scary, so you have to be careful about it.

Sara Öhrvall bonnIer r&D

Swedish-born Sara Öhrvall heads up Bonnier R&D, the innovation arm of multichannel media company Bonnier. Following stints at Toyota and Volvo – where she helped develop environmental concept cars – and a decade of experience in brand consultancy, Öhrvall was recruited in 2008 with a mandate to take publishing into the digital future. Mag+, a tablet-based digi-mag project that predated the launch of the iPad, does just that.

What does the future hold for you? Within the art of publishing there are some core benefits that will always be valid and that we have to protect. Every honest and democratic society will need journalists that are not paid by advertisers, but instead are working on finding out the truth. But media companies have to redefine the use. They need to curate the conversation and not just be loudspeakers.

url_bonnier.com 31


Bright Simons MPeDIGree

Bright Simons is the founder of mPedigree, a unique system pioneered in Ghana that allows consumers to check whether the medicine they’re about to purchase is counterfeit or safe, via a free text message. Through his work at Accra-based think tank IMANI, Simons challenges the systems that stifle development by advocating fundamental institutional reform.

What does innovation mean to you? A lot of innovation is about persuasion; people tend to focus less on the actual invention or solution they are proposing, and more on trying to change the way people perceive it. It’s about social binds. How has the growth of digital technology affected your approach to innovation? It allows for resource maximisation; how we do more with less. Coming from Africa, that is much more poignant. It’s obvious when you look around that you’re not going to get all the resources you need. But one of the few ways in which you can maximise your resources is via mobile telecoms. In Ghana today, one in two people has access to telecom services. That’s a major boost, which only technology can achieve. How do you demonstrate innovation on a day-to-day basis? By persuading vested interests to change. We do that by going to the pharmaceutical industry and convincing them that instead of keeping fake products confidential, they should make it a publicengagement issue. We advocate for change in institutional arrangements, changes in the way we expect outcomes to be delivered, and gradually we are seeing the effects. Is there a technology, trend or idea that’s driving the most exciting innovation in social entrepreneurship? Cloud-based computing is definitely a transforming influence. It allows you to maximise resources, and it also allows you to change institutions. This whole notion of the company as a fortress, where all information is kept away from prying eyes, is changing. Open architecture – open ways of thinking about how we solve our problems – is being driven by a cloud-based mentality.

Quantify: Innovation

Nearly half of the world’s population is under the age of 25.

32 T HHII NK N K I N N O VA T I O N

What does the future hold for you? Mobility and clouds are going to provide the bedrock for change because progressive institutions will use them to make changes in their own companies, changing the social dynamics. It will make things more accessible and that will have a radical impact on every institution and organisation in every industry around the world.

url_mpedigree.org


What does innovation mean to you? For me, innovation is taking what’s existing and creating a new and effective use for it. How has the growth of digital technology affected your approach to innovation? Growing up, I had a lot of different ideas about how to address free speech and human rights, but I had no idea how to make these projects a reality until I was exposed to the internet. Just a couple of applications have transformed the way that people communicate, and this really allowed me to overcome a lot of my barriers and to realise that what you can achieve on the web is absolutely limitless. What defines a twenty-first-century entrepreneur? The main thing is courage, creativity and persistence. There are so many ideas out there and the only way to make sure that your message is heard is by being creative and unique in your approach. How do you demonstrate innovation on a day-to-day basis? Censorship is one of our main challenges. Some friends of mine have built innovative tools that have helped bypass censored content on the web. And we focus on new techniques that will help reach young people – like animation. If technology for a project doesn’t exist, we create it right away, like we did with CrowdVoice. That kind of crowdsourcing platform didn’t exist before in activism, but we could create it.

Esra’a Al Shafei DIGItal aCtIvIst

Esra’a Al Shafei is the 24-year-old activist behind MideastYouth.com, an online watering hole where dissident voices can find direction, purpose and support. But her work doesn’t stop there. FreeKareem.org is the campaign she spearheaded to protest the imprisonment of a young Egyptian blogger; MideastTunes.com helps political musicians break through the silence; and CrowdVoice.org is a user-powered service that tracks voices of protest around the world. From her home in Bahrain, she works tirelessly every day to lift the veil of prejudice, oppression and censorship.

Is there a technology, trend or idea that’s driving the most exciting innovation in activism? Definitely crowdsourcing, which is a big part of recent activist tools and applications. The most exciting projects in the field are the ones that rely on lots of information and input from the masses, especially those that are visual. What does the future hold for you? I really love not knowing what the future holds for us, because we’re always coming up with new plans and new ideas. My job every day is to wake up with a refreshed perspective on the projects we deal with, and do something different

url_crowdvoice.org 33


Missions That Matter From Haiti to Hyderabad, Googlers are innovating with good reason. Words by

Holly Finn John Moore, Chris McGrath

PHOTOGRAPHY by

Maybe you’re looking for the Holy Grail, maybe just a parking space. Either way, your search is important to you. But some searches matter more, like searching for loved ones. Consider this number: 90 minutes. That’s how long it took for Google’s Person Finder – a searchable missing persons database – to go live after the earthquake in Japan on March 11th. In the first 48 hours, there were 36 million page views. Queries-per-second peaked at 1,600. It was translated into 40 languages, and now Google is tracking over 600,000 records. This wasn’t the first time Person Finder had been activated. It launched 72 hours after an earthquake devastated the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, in 2010. Following the Chilean earthquake in February of the same year, the response time was six hours. Twelve months later, after the Christchurch quake, it was 60 minutes. Google, it seems, is as intent on innovating crisis response as any monetisable product. But how? And why? 36 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

The simplest answer may be the right one: Googlers themselves. Other companies screen for intelligence and experience in potential recruits. But Google also looks for ‘Googliness’ – a mashup of passion and drive that’s hard to define but easy to spot. Of over 26,000 employees worldwide, a surprising percentage have it. While part of a huge organisation, they think – and, crucially, act – like entrepreneurs. Such ‘intrapreneurs’ exist in many corporations, of course. But conditions at Google – where creatively benevolent impulses can be backed up by engineering resources and managerial support – seem to produce an unusually large crop of them. Some had an entrepreneurial bent all along. Back in January, venture capitalists and hackers, execs and engineers – all accustomed to their share of ‘revolutions’ out in Silicon Valley – watched in amazement as Egyptians took to the streets. It was a real revolution, in real time. But one Googler did more than watch In a single weekend, Ujjwal Singh, co-founder of SayNow, a voice communications company Google recently bought, plus a small team of scrappy Googlers, partnered with Twitter to develop and launch a service that allowed Egyptians to communicate even when their government had blacked out most communication systems, including the internet. The team got the call on Saturday, and by Sunday morning at 5.30am had a working model for Speak2Tweet. It relied on the last remaining outlet – telephone – to post messages to Twitter. Egyptians dialled an international phone number to leave a voicemail, which was then translated and tweeted for them instantly. All this before Singh even had his official first day.


Anti-government protesters charge their mobile phones for free outside an electronics store on Tahrir Square on February 8th, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt.


Residents look through messages posted on the missing persons boards at Kesennuma City Hall on March 17th, 2011 in Kesennuma, Japan, after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake.

Many more intrapreneurs spring up from inside the company. They do good in their core job and, often, way beyond it. To make change – and make change more efficient – they begin by dedicating their ‘20 per cent time’, a chunk that can be taken out of the regular work week for worthy projects. Others work full- or parttime for Google.org (DotOrg), Google’s technologically driven philanthropic organisation. One of its programme managers, Jennifer Haroon, works on Health Speaks, translating basic health information into Arabic, Hindi and Swahili (there are 266 articles so far). It’s a collaboration between DotOrg and the Translate team. “The point of DotOrg,” she says, “is to leverage every part of Google.” And perhaps the point of Google is to leverage every part of Googlers. Prem Ramaswami was working as a product manager on network infrastructure when he joined The Internet Bus Project. “The thing looks like the Winnebago from Spaceballs,” he says. It was designed to tour second- and third-tier cities in India (with populations from 150,000 to three million) 38 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

to “get people online, on the internet. I truly mean the internet and not Google,” says Ramaswami. “They didn’t realise the web was for the average Indian, not just for the English-speaking, not just for Americans, and not just for porn.” The bus became a roving educator for Indians – over a million people have been on it so far, and the programme is expanding to five buses. Ramaswami’s intrapreneurial spirit has since led him to DotOrg’s Crisis Response team, which works to make critical information accessible around natural and humanitarian disasters, from Queensland to Sudan, Brazil to Japan. After the Haiti earthquake, the team helped create a landing page within 24 hours, then flew to the ravaged region to understand how technology could help in the aftermath of natural disasters. “We are data-driven – we really want to make sure that when we respond, our response is useful,” Ramaswami says. Technological coordination, for instance, is an issue in any crisis. Some computer protocols, such as KML and CAP, work well with maps and are very useful for

public alerts. Some aren’t. The key is machine-readable formats. “We need to do a better job communicating with all these governments,” observes Ramaswami. “Stop creating PDFs, start creating something that’s more useable.” In Japan, the importance of consistent and open standards became clear. “We had to take all these government lists and put them online manually,” says Ramaswami. “But working with Honda and Toyota, their cars had GPS tags in them, so we could deduce, for instance, what roads were open. These companies, more than governments, understand how to share geo-based information. And the population wants it, needs it. It greatly improves the ability to get information out there.” Alice Bonhomme-Biais, a software engineer, is involved in Crisis Response as well. She first worked on Google Maps infrastructure and had visited Haiti for years (her husband is Haitian) making most of her contributions independently, but also calling on co-workers for help. “I asked for a few OLPC [One Laptop Per Child] laptops from Googlers to send to


a school there, and I received an OLPC from Vint Cerf [Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist]. These kids don’t realise it but they’re using computers from the father of the internet.” Bonhomme-Biais gives time to Google Women Engineers too, championing women engineers inside the company and out. “Now I see computer science is amazing because it’s not an end; it’s a tool to do things,” she says. ‘Things’ like Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), a series of hackathons held concurrently around the world, with participants from Google and other tech companies. The aim? To create software solutions for disaster risk and response. Last December, RHoK included 21 cities and over 1400 people (the next is June 2011). Features launched there were put to use in Japan, three months later. One hack built out the ability to auto translate Person Finder messages online. This is cloud computing at its best. Some Googlers create technology, others leverage it. After an old boyfriend was killed in action in Afghanistan in October 2007, Learning and Development Manager Carrie Laureno founded Google Veterans Network (VetNet), an internal group that works to make the company veteran-friendly (300 Googlers showed up to a recent screening she arranged of Restrepo, the brutally cleareyed documentary about Afghanistan, followed by a discussion with vets and the filmmakers). Laureno’s current job grew out of the work she’s done with VetNet: experimenting with ways to help specific communities of users by introducing them to the products and features that could help them most – starting with veterans. Google is now donating Cr-48 Chrome Notebooks to wounded troops convalescing in US military hospitals, so that they can keep in touch with loved ones while they’re on the mend. And whole sections of the company are trying to figure out how technology can take care not only of tasks but people – wherever they are. YouTube is working on crisis response annotation – alerts to pop up in videos when a disaster strikes. Ramya Raghavan, a YouTube News and Politics Manager, is also focused on new ways of promoting YouTube for Nonprofits, giving them premium perks like custom brand channels.

“They didn’t realise the web was for the average Indian, not just for the Englishspeaking, not just for Americans, and not just for porn.”

Quantify: Innovation

Twitter users helped find a child in Saudi Arabia just three hours after his father tweeted he was missing.

So far there are 10,000 partners in the programme. Recently, $35,000 was raised in one weekend by the video World hunger – A Billion for a Billion. GoogleServe began as an idea to help Google employees connect to their local communities and each other through community service. In year one, it launched a pilot in 45 offices; in the three years since, it has grown to become an annual tradition involving more than 30 per cent of the company across more than 60 offices. It was founded by Seth Marbin as a side project while he was working on the Search Quality team. He now works on the Social Responsibility team that focuses on encouraging and enabling Googlers to use their skills, talents and resources to have an extraordinary impact on the world. How do they do that? “The concept is, ‘follow the bright spots’,” he says. “A lot of people are already giving back, and with a little bit of structure they can channel their passions more effectively – that’s what our team does.” “I was compassionate about people but I had never taken any action,” admits Rohit Setia, an engineer in Hyderabad, India, who coordinates GOAL: Google Outreach Action & Leadership, “then I joined Google. Here I found a group of people who spent time in orphanages, helping. And here, besides my full-time work, I have complete resources, which I know if I use properly I can reach more people. You don’t have to do a lot of processing. You can just start, and start giving.” He believes the youth of India are, like those in Egypt, driven by a desire to change and improve their country. “How can Google help? By giving them easy tools to help them connect to the world. By giving them information, or access to it.” Well-meaning ideas don’t work every time, of course. As Prem Ramaswami says, like a true intrapreneur: “It’s a Darwinian method for projects here. You have to evangelise, and sometimes people aren’t interested, which is a natural way to convince yourself that this might not be worth working on.” Some projects do fail. But the good ones, somehow, succeed

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Quantify: Innovation

People received about 110 messages a day during work last year.

Room to Think Innovation consultant Kursty Groves offers a practical guide to transforming your office space into a place that wears its heart on the wall. Kursty Groves P H O T O G R A P H Y b y Edward Denison Words by

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“We_shape_our_buildings; thereafter_ they_shape_us.” Winston_Churchill

In an increasingly virtual

world, does the office space still have a role to play in spurring innovation? Or are lavish lobbies and designer desks just distractions from real work? It all boils down to what you want to achieve. Is innovation for your business about inventing the next big thing? Or is it about creating a climate in which people feel compelled to work together to do their best every day? The bottom line is this: intention leads; interior design follows. Take Procter & Gamble’s Clay Street Project – a renovated brewery in a rundown part of Cincinnati where small groups spend 12 weeks focusing on challenges in an environment that encourages risk-taking and creative thinking. The open ‘session spaces’ are initially quite bare, allowing them to grow and change with the project

and people. You won’t find any off-the-shelf furniture here because there’s no room for off-the-shelf thinking. Instead, there are workstations made from recycled sunflower seed husks, curtained-off flexible meeting areas and ‘nap pod’ stations. Don’t be fooled, though: P&G hasn’t gone hippie. It maintains its more staid headquarters just a few miles away in downtown Cincinnati. These different working environments set different innovation agendas (radical breakthrough versus day-to-day collaboration), and are accompanied by different codes of conduct in order to make them work. Context is crucial: lava lamps and beanbags may work in one environment, but not in another.

Consider that environment

a conversation starter that develops a dialogue between a company and its employees. Oakley Inc., the sports performance eyewear manufacturer,


ideas are shared and built; and play, where experimentation occurs – reveal themselves in different types of work. The physical environment should support them all. Beware blanket standardisation; it can create a multitude of performance and engagement issues. A lack of privacy, no space to think and nowhere to call home are just a few of the common complaints. Decipher the appropriate profile of working activities that your people need to undertake to do their jobs well and you’ll find that the spaces come alive with inspired – and productive – people.

What about the future of

investing in bricks and mortar? Many businesses are re-assessing their corporate property portfolio given changing workforce needs, but we’ll still be seeing the head office for some time yet – even if its role changes. It’s likely to morph from an institutional monolith – where a static workforce clocks

Oakley’s California HQ; Procter & Gamble’s Clay Street Project; playful spaces at LEGO HQ, Denmark.

from_far_left/

provokes a bold conversation with its post-apocalyptic ‘design bunker’ HQ. Dare to enter the cavernous lobby and you are confronted by B-52 ejector seats, bombproof lighting and fixing-bolts the size of your head. This conversation tells us that Oakley is a place for tough people who push the limits. It echoes the design ethos of the brand, speaking ‘to the front row… because the people at the back won’t get it anyway’. When it comes to the conversation you start with your employees, remember to leave space for them to respond. Give them the opportunity to contribute to the growing dialogue around how the environment should look and provide opportunities for them to change the space to suit their needs. The innovation process itself requires many different modes of thinking. These thinking modes – stimulation, where the mind is inspired or a thought process is triggered; reflection, a period of uninterrupted focus; collaboration, where

in nine-to-five, to a learning and creation hub where a dynamic stream of people connect to the business, and each other, as the Na’vi connect to the Tree of Souls in James Cameron’s Avatar. It will become a place where they can refuel with the spirit of the company. Get that spirit right and you can create a place that resonates with the sound of people enjoying the work they do. LEGO’s fun, playful spaces with larger-than-life play bricks and oversized chairs make you feel as if you’re six again. T-Mobile’s Creation Center in Seattle features a floorto-ceiling display of spoof magazine covers showing colleagues’ hobbies – it’s both space divider and ‘who’s who’ map. What works for one company won’t work for all. Take time to understand the essence of your culture and use it as inspiration to wear your heart on the walls. Whatever you do; do something, do it yourself, and involve your people in the process 41


Innovation Spaces Three creative companies share their workplace innovation secrets. PHOTOGRAPHY by

42 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

Max Hamilton, Bryan Derballa

MOTHER LONDON Mother is an award-winning creative agency famous for its irreverent approach to advertising. Based in Shoreditch, East London, its clients include Schweppes, IKEA, Stella Artois and Powerade. ‘All architecture is shelter, all great architecture, is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.’ By [American architect] Philip Johnson we abide. Mother as a space is part-church, part-factory floor, part-living room. A space that has the ability to settle and unsettle in the same breath. It is a restless space that demands that one be present, as we believe that true creativity resides in the present. Stephen Butler, Partner/Creative Director


TERREFORM ONE NY

BURBERRY LONDON

Terreform ONE is a non-profit design group that promotes green design in cities. It is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Burberry is an iconic British luxury brand. Horseferry House, its global HQ, is situated in Westminster, London.

At Terreform ONE we need ‘messy’ spaces to create a massive outpouring of projects and models. We have a collection of materials and artefacts found throughout the city of New York that add to the environment. These seemingly random objects are essential to helping us formulate complex morphologies into tangible suppositions. Design is seeing new qualities in everyday objects. We surround ourselves with these seemingly random items to be inspired just so. Our working studio is similar to the toymaker’s shop in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner – a physical narrative of possibilities ready to be animated. Mitchell Joachim, Co-founder

Horseferry House really emphasises the modern expression of our brand – a balance of what we have always stood for, what we represent today and where we are going. It’s symbolic of the company – we have so much momentum and energy right now, and I wanted to unify the creativity and the dynamic attitude of all the employees driving this company forward. I wanted to respect and preserve the building’s historical elements and add a modern, contemporary expression. It has been important to me that we retain and respect that history and the original features, many of which we have restored using British materials. Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer 43


Practical Magic Russell Davies may be Head of Planning at Ogilvy & Mather, but he believes that when it comes to the Internet of Things, innovation comes from ‘mucking about’ rather than thinking hard. Words by

Russell Davies Noma Bar

ILLUSTRATIONs by

Quantify: Innovation

There are three times as many smartphones being activated every minute than there are babies being born.

Do you remember Big Mouth Billy Bass – the strange animated fish that became a popular novelty a few years back? It looked like a regular fisherman’s trophy, but when you hit a button on the frame it would suddenly come to life and start singing ‘Take Me to the River’ or some other amusing aquatically themed song. Now imagine that Billy had the intelligence of your average smart phone. He’d know where he was in the world. What the time was. What the weather was like. Who’d won the cricket. Whether the trains were running late. And, assuming

you’d programmed a little bit of profile information into him, he’d know which of your Foursquare friends were nearby and which of your favourite bands were playing in the area. He’d know a lot. With some simple text-to-speech stuff in his head and a bit of ingenuity, he’d be able to tell you all sorts of interesting and useful things when you pressed that button. And you would press that button, wouldn’t you? Well, something like Billy will get made. It’s bound to. Cheap electronics, cheap plastics and cheap intelligence are going to get welded together with free, ubiquitous data feeds to make hundreds of products just like him. It’s the warped magic you’ll get when two waves of innovation crash together – the flood of data from the internet and the sea of stuff from Chinese factories. That right there is your Internet of Things. Of course, that’s not the Internet of Things we normally hear about, just as when we talk about apps we don’t usually acknowledge the mighty phenomenon that is iFart. But it’s the one that seems most interesting to me. The next technological leap – whether we call it the Internet of Things, Web 3.0 or Ubicomp (that’s ‘ubiquitous computing’ to you and me) – will be about getting the web off the screen and embedded in the things of everyday life. That’ll be most exciting when it’s not the expected stuff like consumer electronics, air quality monitoring or the dreaded internet fridge. It’ll be bottom-up innovation, when we stick some intelligence and connectivity in our saltcellars, our picture frames and our hats. Not because we have an overwhelming reason to do so but because we might as well, because it’s getting easier. 45


The most original innovations spring from mucking about, not from thinking hard. Perhaps that’s really why all this is happening now – components are getting smaller and cheaper, computing is becoming disposable, networking is getting easier – but I don’t think this is driven just by technology. It’s driven by a generation of inventors who’ve learned the power of fast, cheap ‘making’ on the web and want to try it in the real world. For me, this is as exciting as the day I downloaded a browser. We’re seeing the connectivity and power of the web seeping from our devices and into our objects. Everyday objects, yes, but also new generations of extraordinary objects – flying robot penguin balloons, quadrocopters that can play tennis, Wi-Fi rabbits that tell the weather. They’re different because they don’t exist behind a screen; they’re in our world, built from real physics, not simulations, they have mass and velocity and smell. There are disturbing aspects to this and things we should be cautious about (such as enabling greater surveillance, vast misuse of public monies or abuse of public spaces), but it’s also going to be a great public adventure. Matt Webb, CEO of London-based design consultancy BERG, has a great phrase to describe the root of these innovations. He calls it ‘fractional AI’, echoing the idea of fractional horsepower. He tells the story like this: when powered machines first came along to relieve humans of labour, they were huge, factory-sized things, doing big, important work that changed commerce. As power units got smaller and cheaper, they started to be embedded in our homes, doing things like cleaning, washing, cooking. That was fractional horsepower – and that didn’t just change our industries; that changed our lives. Matt contends that we’re seeing the same thing with artificial intelligence. It used to be a serious, important, computerscience affair – big machines, significant tasks, PhDs. But if you look for evidence of AI in the world now, you most frequently see it in toyshops, in the boring playthings of yesterday brought irresistibly to life by tiny amounts of artificial intelligence and some cheap servos. 46 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

Quantify: Innovation

In the October 1909 issue of Popular Mechanics, Nikola Tesla predicted the wireless internet phenomenon.

“It’s a new generation of extraordinary objects – flying robot penguin balloons, quadrocopters that can play tennis, Wi-Fi rabbits that tell you the weather.”

Tickle Me Elmo is the ENIAC of fractional AI. Toys are coming to life, they’re behaving like they know us, and we’re instantly charmed. Right now, the average digital camera can recognise about 20 different faces. How long before that intelligence is embedded in your Barbie so she can address you by name? That’s just the intelligence bit. To make an Internet of Things you also need to add some connectivity. And when you do that – when these slightly smart things can talk to each other and to much smarter things through the cloud – then we’ll get even more magic. Here’s a live example. GlowCaps – pill bottles that know when you’re supposed to take your medication – are on sale in the US. Fail to take a pill and they’ll glow, then beep, then beep louder, then they’ll call you on the phone. They’ll even issue you and your doctor a weekly update on your progress. Continue to mess up and they may very well escalate things all the way to the President. These are just pill bottles, but they’re knitted together in a network of things with intelligence and connectivity, creating something we couldn’t have done before. Or think about the new Ford Mustang. It comes with two keys – stick one in and the car behaves normally; use the other and it becomes a racing beast. Each key animates the car differently. But add some connectivity and the car could respond to road conditions or tune into the price of fuel or whatever some crazy race-tuning specialist mechanic has shared on the unofficial networks. Because if something’s got software in it, it’s going to get cracked. The hackers have already race-tuned iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaners – Mustangs can’t be far behind. The only problem with this world: it’s a little harder to play in. The web was a joy because you could teach yourself HTML and create anything you imagined. You might be trapped behind a screen, but while you were in there you could do anything. The Internet of Things isn’t so easy. Real mass means real friction; if you share something in the real world then you no longer have it. The upside of that – it feels that much more magical when you make something happen. Get yourself an Arduino, read Mike Kuniavsky’s brilliant book Smart Things, and start to bring your world to life


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A Rather Pleasant Revolution Weighed down by vested interests and dressed up in spin, are reforms in the public sector ever true innovations? Andrea Kurland meets Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, and finds unexpected insights in his ‘radical’ new approach. Words by

Andrea Kurland Gary Taxali

ILLUSTRATIONS by

verything about the Department for International Development’s London HQ demands good manners. From the moment your security tag is issued at the door – complete with a pert instruction that it’s to be ‘worn at all times’ – until the final handshake that bids you farewell, things unfold with a sense of propriety and diplomatic tact. Before you know it, you’re readjusting your posture, enunciating your consonants and becoming painfully aware of your pseudo-smart shoes. Everything is pleasant. Everything is just so. Andrew Mitchell is a busy man. He’s just “whizzed back” from the Houses of Parliament where he was delivering his stance on intervention in Libya, but he has a fine solution for why our interview may get cut short. Once we’ve had “a little chat”, he’ll more than happily send us “a proper, written note.” So we take a seat at his 15-foot sandalwood table, fired up by the prospect of a meaningful exchange. This is the Secretary of State for

International Development, after all – a man whose every decision reverberates through the lives of millions spread across the globe. The scope for discussion is, quite simply, overwhelming. Less than a month ago, the Department for International Development (DFID) unveiled two significant aid reviews that are still the subject of heated debate. Collectively, they emphasise the kind of vernacular that is, no doubt, a sign of the times; ‘value for money’, ‘results-tied spending’ and ‘increased transparency’ form the bedrock of the bilateral and multilateral strategies for aid – vernacular that, in an age of austerity, should mollify grunts from sceptical taxpayers and Tory backbenchers resentful of Mitchell’s ring-fenced funds. Needless to say, the reviews arrived amid a pressure cooker of anticipation. Public altruism is at an all-time low; according to a recent report by the Institute of Development Studies, 63 per cent would sooner see cuts to DFID than elsewhere. Yet commitment to aid is at an all-time high; overcome with 51


benevolence, the Conservative party has upheld its pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of GNP on aid by 2013. Everyone suspected spending would increase, but when it came to ‘how’ and ‘where’, ears pricked up in recipient countries, conduit agencies and the dusty offices of academia. Yet beyond this discourse, another conversation has been unfolding, and despite the hubbub, it doesn’t centre on aid. For many, there’s a bigger picture. As Rick Rowden, author of The Deadly Ideas of Neoliberalism, commented in the Guardian: ‘While it is vital to improve aid procedures to get more aid flowing for health, this is not the only important issue: continuously overlooked are problems with the whole development model.’ For those who fall on Rowden’s side of the line, the hotly debated problems he’s referring to throw up some fundamental challenges. Problems, they would argue, like insurmountable debt – generously dished out by colonial expansionists as a condition of independence, later deepened by self-interested lending. Problems like the liberalisation misnomer, which imposes open markets on one part of the world while simultaneously protecting those that benefit the West. Problems like the Washington Consensus hangover, which empowers global institutions to forcibly lower barriers to trade, build forts around people, and leave labour markets in the developing world vulnerable to exploitation. Problems rooted in the dogma, ‘One rule for us, and another for the rest of ’em.’ Problems that deserve to be questioned, and problems that demand innovative solutions. But today, Andrew Mitchell has little time for questions. He does, however, have plenty he wants to say. “So you’re here to talk about innovation,” he begins, unprompted. “Well, we have lots of innovative things happening here! And they all stem from the fact that we’ve completely changed the way in which Britain does development.” Really? “It used to be all about big amounts of money being thrown at problems,” he continues. “Prime Minister goes off to Maputo, as Gordon Brown did, to announce half a billion dollars for primary school education. But actually it’s not the influence of money that makes a difference – it’s the outputs. It’s how many 52 T HI N K I N N O VA T I O N

schools you build, how many teachers you pay, and more importantly, the outcomes – how many kids get good educations.” Suddenly, talk has turned to aid – specifically, the “focus on results” that is a cornerstone of what Mitchell calls his “radically different approach”. Many aid advocates welcome results-led spending, neatly tied up as a ‘cash-on-delivery’ scheme. Simply put, if you want more money, you need to prove you can deliver spreadsheetworthy, measurable ‘wins’ (children in school, vaccinations delivered, etc.). It’s a good thing for accountability, and a step towards a more bottom-up approach. But is impact assessment really revolutionary? “It’s hugely innovative here to look at results,” smiles Mitchell. “Surprising, I know, but it is.”

These are innovations, in the strictest definition of the word. But what if the goalposts were set that little bit higher? Demanding data on results is politically astute – especially if numbers gathered elsewhere convert to smiles over here – and no one would dispute that 100 educated girls, or even one life saved, is better ‘value for money’ than a bureaucratic quagmire. But it’s in the detail that cracks begin to show. Cash on delivery, with its hardheaded emphasis on measurable wins, points to a short-term mentality that, for many, is cause for concern. If the pressure to deliver – and get paid quickly – overshadows longerterm institution building, how sustainable, or innovative, can this strategy be? Before we celebrate a focus on results, shouldn’t we ask, ‘Results of what kind?’ Or, ‘How are they measured? And by who?’ Nancy Birdsall, advocate and originator of the concept at the Center for Global

Development, briefly addressed these issues when she said, “Let us define results as measured gains in what children have learned by the end of primary school […] or a host of other indicators that ultimately add up to the transformation of societies and the end of their dependence on outside aid.” Likewise, in a piece he wrote for the Guardian, Mitchell commented, ‘It is perfectly possible to apply these core values to long-term, complex projects.’ But that’s where the explanation ends, which still leaves questions, starting with, ‘How?’ Before we get the chance to probe deeper, Mitchell is pulling out some stats, peering down through his glasses to consult a press release. “In Ethiopia – I’m just reminding myself here – the pilot there will focus on rewarding improvement in grade 10 examination passes. So the government of Ethiopia gets grants for every boy and girl that successfully completes lower secondary school.” It’s high time to steer the conversation away from aid. Is DFID working on any innovative, longer-term strategies that will, as he puts it, help recipient countries get on a ‘flight path’ of development and free themselves from the need for aid? (The flight path analogy is one to which Mitchell returns throughout our chat – complete with a forearm that doubles as a toy airplane.) “It’s very important not to be aid dependent,” he replies. “In Rwanda, where the international community were funding 80 per cent of their budget, we did a great deal of work in helping them build up their tax base. It’s extremely important that people should have a plan to get on that ‘flight path’ and not languish in poverty.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Does that mean DFID is moving towards a model that focuses on economic development, not just poverty reduction? This question, for Mitchell, turns out to be a good one. It lets him segue into another innovation he’s keen to champion – the Private Sector Department he opened in January: “[Labour] thought the private sector was the enemy of development, whereas it tends to be in our Conservative coalition DNA that the private sector is an engine of development. No society remains poor for long if it cherishes its entrepreneurs.” So how deep does this commitment


to private enterprise reach? Without addressing some fundamental elephants in the room – namely a neoliberal dictionary that calls lack of sovereignty ‘good governance’ and inequitable trade agreements ‘a level playing field’ – can DFID really foster entrepreneurialism in any meaningful way? “We are all working towards freeing up the trading system for the Doha Round. Our inspiration of course is [William] Gladstone,” says Mitchell, smiling devotedly at a portrait on the wall, “who of course was a strong free-trader. And the Doha Round is designed to make sure that you stop protectionism, you encourage free trade, which enriches everyone – both rich and poor.” Just as we’re gearing up to quiz Mitchell on the drawn-out Doha Round – whether developing country coalitions like the G33, often underrepresented in World Trade Organization negotiations, are being heard – a Communications Officer, incredibly politely, interjects. And in a flash, talk turns to flood-friendly ‘scuba rice’ (“We won an award for it, actually”), vitamin-A-enriched sweet potatoes and mobile technology that could empower children in Africa to text an alert when teacher fails to turn up to class. These are innovations, in the strictest definition of the word. But what if the goalposts were set that little bit higher? What if innovation becomes a turning point – an action so audaciously brave it shakes the world on its axis and, even if only by the smallest of degrees, sets us all on a tangential path. What if we set our sights on a new future, where industrialisation is not a privilege but a right – and where the trade conditions needed to get there are prioritised? “My view is, don’t focus on what happens beyond 2015,” says Mitchell, referring to the end date for the Millennium Development Goals – a poverty reduction initiative that is both laudable and critical, but that alone will never address inequitable trade or loan conditions that infringe on sovereignty. “Let’s get as close as we possibly can in the next four years.” And with that, the interview ends. Perhaps today wasn’t the right time to ask, ‘What if ?’ But if not now, then when? We hand in our security tags. Say our farewells. Everything is pleasant. Everything is just so 53


Transgressive Man Prophet, futurist, or catalyst of chaos? Ray Kurzweil believes that innovations in biogenetics and nanotechnology are creating a new future for humanity, but could they just as easily destroy us all? Words by

Cyrus Shahrad Kate Flock

portraits by

There’s a scene near the opening of Transcendent Man, the 2009 documentary on futurist Ray Kurzweil, showing archive footage of the then-17-year-old’s appearance on US panel show I’ve Got a Secret. Suited and smiling, exuding the awkward confidence of someone becoming slowly aware of a great gift, Kurzweil sits at a piano and rattles off an unusual piece of music. The panel is surprisingly quick to guess his secret: the composition was written by a computer – a computer, it transpires, that Kurzweil also built and programmed. The host, Steve Allen, congratulates young Raymond and predicts a bright future for him.

It’s an auspicious introduction to a man for whom computers are arguably as valuable as human life itself, a man for whom predicting the future is very much part of the present. Kurzweil made his name as an inventor in the ’70s and ’80s, patenting everything from the flatbed scanner and text-to-speech synthesiser (both pre-emptively created to enable the completion of the Kurzweil Reading Machine for the blind), to the Kurzweil K250, a piano synthesiser constructed following a conversation with Stevie Wonder. Yet it wasn’t until 1990 that Kurzweil’s first book, The Age of Intelligent Machines, put his decades of research and development into a wider context. His arbitrary inventions now seemed part of a wider effort to nudge humanity towards the age of electronic enlightenment described in those pages: an age in which man and machine coexisted, but in which machines were the superior being, blessed with artificial intelligence that allowed them to take on many of the tasks formerly falling to human hands. Then in 1998, the year that Kurzweil had predicted would see a computer defeat a human at chess (he was 12 months out – IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997), he released his follow up, The Age of Spiritual Machines. Kurzweil used the opportunity to extend his earlier predictions of a future in which man and machines coexisted to a point at which they would become, essentially, one and the same. By 2029, he wrote, man would be able to prolong his lifespan indefinitely through advances in biogenetics and nanotechnology, and would ultimately become all but indistinguishable from the robots he had created. Computers would no longer be rectangular objects sitting in our offices, palms or pockets, but integrated in our very beings; virtual reality worlds and internet applications would be accessed via implants, and robots would be petitioning for recognition of their rights as conscious beings. This dawn of a new age

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became known as the ‘Singularity’ – a sort of Rapture for technophiles – and it turned Ray Kurzweil from an eccentric modern-day Edison into a different sort of figure altogether; one feared by some, revered by others, ridiculed by many. The subsequent decade has seen a rise in the number of Kurzweil’s critics and the volume of their complaints. He is regularly attacked for what some see as his pseudo-religious reverence for robotics, and the cult status he holds among more fanatical followers. His promise of technology-enhanced immortality has riled the religious right, while traditional scientists raise issue with everything from his understanding of human biology to his timeline for the Singularity. In Transcendent Man, Wired magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly notes how ‘convenient’ it is that the Singularity will come to pass just in time for Kurzweil himself to benefit. It’s a criticism that he answers with obvious frustration, but without breaking his stride, his voice

are everywhere, including the poorest nations of the world, and the law of accelerating returns means they get cheaper as they become more ubiquitous. The computer you just called me on is a billion times more powerful per unit currency than the one I used when I was a student, and it will be a billion times more powerful again in another 25 years.” There is, however, a great deal of mystery surrounding the exact nature of life after the Singularity. Kurzweil notes that this is unavoidable: that beyond a certain number of exponential increases in technology, and the associated effects on our lives, we can know nothing for certain except that humanity will be very different to how we understand it now. Therein lies a problem he has faced for decades: asking people to open their minds to ideas that set every fibre of conventional wisdom ringing with alarm never gets easier. There’s a scene in Transcendent Man, for example, in which Kurzweil explains his theories on solar energy

“The computer you just called me on is a billion times more powerful per unit currency than the one I used when I was a student.” never losing the monotone timbre that suggests he may already have begun merging with his software. “Kevin is thinking linearly,” he argues. “He assumes that the necessary precursors just aren’t there, and I agree with that: the precursors aren’t there, but that would only be a problem if progress were linear, and it’s not. Halfway through the Genome Project, people started panicking because it had taken seven years to complete one per cent of the genome, and they believed that therefore it would take 700 years to complete the whole thing. But they were ignoring the fact that progress was exponential, not linear. The whole project was finished seven years later.” The law of accelerating returns underpins many of Kurzweil’s beliefs – the exponential rate of development, he claims, means that we’ll see 200,000 years of advancement in the twenty-first century alone. “When I came to MIT [in 1967] it had one computer; you needed influence to get inside the building and you had to be an engineer to use it,” he recalls. “Now computers

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to Colin Powell. Solar energy technology, says Kurzweil, is doubling in efficiency every two years, and is only eight doublings away from being capable of filling 100 per cent of America’s energy needs. Powell regards him with a look of cautious optimism steadily subsumed by scepticism, but Kurzweil persists, knowing that deeprooted notions are the hardest to displace. “This is another of these myopic views: that we’re running out of energy, that we’re running out of food and water. That’s nonsense: we could have 10,000 times more energy than we need from the sun, all of it free, if only we could convert it, and our ability to do that is increasing as we approach the point where we can apply nanotechnology to solar panels. Same with water: 98 per cent of the world’s water is salinated or dirty, but we’re increasingly capable of cleaning it thanks to emerging technologies.” Kurzweil blames the prevailing notion of a world going to hell in a handbasket on increased visibility. If there’s a battle in Fallujah or Tripoli, we’re there,


he says, on our laptops or PalmPads, facing the human tragedy of the situation in ways we never could before. In reality, the number of deaths in wartime has plummeted since the mechanised wars of the twentieth century; he also cites strong evidence to support the idea that democratic nations don’t go to war with each other, and has watched the recent revolutions in the Middle East with great optimism, not least because of the role played by social networking technology in destabilising former dictatorships. “In The Age of Intelligent Machines, I predicted that the Soviet Union would be swept away by the thenemerging decentralised communication network. People didn’t believe that a superpower could be overcome by a few Teletype machines. The battle was won by a clandestine network of hackers that kept everyone in the know. The old paradigm of the authorities grabbing a central TV or radio station and plunging everyone into the dark just didn’t work anymore. And now, with the

calling the shots, humans reduced to the role of slaves or exterminated altogether. Hugo de Garis, former head of Xiamen University’s Artificial Brain Laboratory, has written at great length on what he calls the ‘Artilect War’: a worldwide conflict between those resisting and those submitting to the new AI. It’s a war that Kurzweil quips would resemble the American military fighting the Amish, yet some are already spearheading pockets of resistance – including Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, and advocate of the anti-technology ‘relinquishment’ movement. “I think relinquishment is a bad idea for three reasons,” says Kurzweil. “Firstly, it would deprive us of profound benefits. I think we have a moral imperative to try to cure cancer, for example, and overcome the suffering that still exists in the world. Secondly, it would require a totalitarian government to implement a ban on technology. And thirdly, it would force these technologies underground, where they would actually be more dangerous.”

“You have to be an optimist to be an inventor or entrepreneur. I’m not oblivious to the dangers, but I’m optimistic that we’ll make it through without destroying civilisation.” rise of social networking and young people being able to compare their own ways and standards of living with others, everybody wants the same thing. It’s a powerful democratising force, and it’s bringing the nations of the world closer together all the time.” Set against these faintly utopian scenarios are some increasingly audible voices of warning. There’s the philosophical question of how much man can merge with machine before the essence of humanity itself is lost (Kurzweil counters that transgressing limitations is what defines humanity), but there are more pressing concerns from critics who offer convincing reasons why the Singularity could well bring about the end of human life altogether. Kevin Warwick, the cybernetics professor from Reading University made famous by Project Cyborg (in which a series of electrodes inserted under the skin allowed him to remotely control everything from lights and heaters to a robotic hand that mimicked his own), envisages a ‘Terminator scenario’: intelligent machines

Kurzweil is remarkably sure of himself when it comes to accelerating humanity’s race toward the Singularity. He simply has no interest in the suggestion that what should be done ought to be given the same consideration as what could be done. His boundless belief has brought him under fire from those, including Wired’s Kelly, who liken his single-mindedness to that of a modern-day prophet, and raise the possibility that it may be Kurzweil’s own certainty that the Singularity is inevitable that causes it to become so. In turn, Kurzweil advocates the implementation of ethical standards like the 1975 Asilomar guidelines for biotechnology, or the stringent online defences against software viruses, both of which have an excellent success rate against those looking to turn technology against its users. “You have to be an optimist to be an inventor or entrepreneur,” he concludes. “I’m not oblivious to the dangers, but I’m optimistic that we’ll make it through without destroying civilisation.”

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LONG FLIGHT AHEAD Once again, we’re asking you to meet the challenge of Futoshiki – a classic test of logic. Each horizontal and vertical line must be filled with the numbers 1-9. The same number can’t occur more than once in any line. Your only clues are the number given and whether a number is greater than ( ) or smaller than ( ) the adjacent number. Good luck and let us know how you get on.

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Think Quarterly - 02 Innovation (UK Edition)  

In 2003, a total of five exabytes of data existed. Now we generate that every two days. We are, literally, more creative than ever. Where t...