Here goes our weekly magazine of curated stories from around the world. In this edition: General Electric looks to the industry for the next digital disruption. Eddy Cue, Apples rising Mr Fix it. Dr. NakaMats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name and more.
Looking to Industry for the Next Digital Disruption: When Sharoda Paul finished a postdoctoral fellowship last year at the Palo Alto Research Center, she did what most of her peers do — considered a job at a big Silicon Valley company, in her case, Google. But instead, Ms. Paul, a 31-year-old expert in social computing, went to work for General Electric.
Ms. Paul is one of more than 250 engineers recruited in the last year and a half to G.E.’s new software center here, in the East Bay of San Francisco. The company plans to increase that work force of computer scientists and software developers to 400, and to invest $1 billion in the center by 2015. The buildup is part of G.E’s big bet on what it calls the “industrial Internet,” bringing digital intelligence to the physical world of industry as never before. More here.
Eddy Cue: Apple’s Rising Mr. Fix-It : As Chief Executive Tim Cook shifts executive responsibilities around at Apple Inc, Eddy Cue is emerging as one of the biggest beneficiaries. A member of Apple’s old guard, the 23-year company veteran rose through the ranks as co-founder Steve Jobs’s right-hand man for new areas like e-commerce and media. But at a company dominated by hardware and operating systems, Mr. Cue was on the periphery and known largely for cajoling media companies to sign on to Apple’s iTunes service. Read more here.
New new world
Amazon’s Robotic Future: A Work in Progress: If you were watching Bloomberg TV recently, you may have seen correspondent, Cory Johnson, standing in the middle of Amazon’s newest distribution center in Arizona. It’s an impressive facility, brand-new and owned by one of the hardest-charging, most-innovative companies to come onto the retail scene since Sam Walton opened a five-and-dime.So where are the robots?
After all, aren’t robots supposed to be the future of such places as distribution centers and warehouses? Didn’t Amazon buy a robot manufacturer, Kiva, in March? The online retailer announced in October that it was taking on 50,000 additional part-time workers for the holiday season. Shouldn’t some of those spots be taken up by mechanical arms and wheels? Read more here.
BitTorrent’s Plan for 2013? Go Legit: BitTorrent, the start-up behind the popular peer-to-peer file-sharing system of the same name, has an unusual resolution for 2013: to align itself with the entertainment industry and legally distribute movies, music and books online.
“We’ve been trying to groom the entertainment industry to think about BitTorrent as a partner,” said Matt Mason, the executive director of marketing at the company, which is based in San Francisco. Read more here.
Dr. NakaMats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name: One of the oldest chestnuts about inventions involves a 19th-century patent official who resigned because he thought nothing was left to invent. The yarn, which periodically pops up in print, is patently preposterous. “The story was an invention,” says Yoshiro Nakamatsu. “An invention built to last.” He should know. Nakamatsu—Dr. NakaMats, if you prefer, or, as he prefers, Sir Dr. NakaMats—is an inveterate and inexorable inventor whose biggest claim to fame is the floppy disk. “I became father of the apparatus in 1950,” says Dr. NakaMats, who conceived it at the University of Tokyo while listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. “There was no mother.” Read more.
Silicon Valley’s dirty secret – age bias: When Randy Adams, 60, was looking for a chief-executive officer job in Silicon Valley last year, he got turned down from position after position that he thought he was going to nail — only to see much younger, less-experienced men win out. Finally, before heading into his next interview, he shaved off his gray hair and traded in his loafers for a pair of Converse sneakers. The board hired him. Read more here.
The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails: One fascination in a presidential race mostly bereft of intrigue was the strange, incessant, and weirdly overfamiliar e-mails that emanated from the Obama campaign. Anyone who shared an address with the campaign soon started receiving messages from Barack Obama with subject lines such as “Join me for dinner?” “It’s officially over,” “It doesn’t have to be this way,” or just “Wow.” Jon Stewart mocked them on the Daily Show. The women’s website the Hairpin likened them to notes from a stalker. But they worked. Most of the $690 million Obama raised online came from fundraising e-mails. During the campaign, Obama’s staff wouldn’t answer questions about them or the alchemy that made them so successful. Now, with the election over, they’re opening the black box. Read more here.
Simulated brain scores top test marks: Spaun sees a series of digits: 1 2 3; 5 6 7; 3 4 ?. Its neurons fire, and it calculates the next logical number in the sequence. It scrawls out a 5, in legible if messy writing.
This is an unremarkable feat for a human, but Spaun is actually a simulated brain. It contains 2.5 million virtual neurons — many fewer than the 86 billion in the average human head, but enough to recognize lists of numbers, do simple arithmetic and solve reasoning problems. More here.
Business Lessons From a Former Gang Member: Ryan Blair didn’t get off to a good start. At age 16, when most kids born into a middle-class household are starting to wonder which colleges they want to apply to, he was sitting in a jail cell in Los Angeles, the result of his 10th arrest as a juvenile. In the previous few years, he’d left the family house because of his father’s meth addiction and violent behavior, spent almost a year living in a toolshed in his half-sister’s backyard, and joined a gang. (He’s got the tattoos to prove it.) His numerous siblings had already spent a collective decade doing hard time, and Blair seemed a good bet to join the family club. Luckily, that last stint behind bars—26 days—scared him straight. Read more here.
Apple Rolls Out a Cleaner iTunes: Well, it finally happened: Apple got around to fixing iTunes. Over the years, that program had become more and more cluttered as Apple saddled it with more and more burdens. In the beginning (2001), it was meant to be nothing more than a jukebox program. Then it became the loading dock for the iPod. Then it was the front end for the iTunes Music Store online. Then it was asked to manage TV shows and movies. Then podcasts. Then e-books. Then it became the syncing headquarters for iPhones and iPads. Then it was supposed to manage apps. Then it was the front end for Ping, Apple’s flopped music-discussion service. Read more here.
Why Bad Science Is Like Bad Religion: In both religion and science, some people are dishonest, exploitative, incompetent and exhibit other human failings. My concern here is with the bigger picture. I have been a scientist for more than 40 years, having studied at Cambridge and Harvard. I researched and taught at Cambridge University, was a research fellow of the Royal Society, and have more than 80 publications in peer-reviewed journals. I am strongly pro-science. But I am more and more convinced that that the spirit of free inquiry is being repressed within the scientific community by fear-based conformity. Institutional science is being crippled by dogmas and taboos. Increasingly expensive research is yielding diminishing returns. Read more here.
Who is Your Innovation Czar?: Leading enterprise innovation expert Rowan Gibson writes: Where should innovation reside? It never ceases to amaze me. I’m meeting with the executive committee of a major global company. I’ve just asked if innovation is one of their top strategic priorities. Their unanimous answer is “yes”. I then ask about their individual responsibilities. “Which one of you is the CFO?” “Who is head of HR?” “Where’s the CIO?” One by one their hands go up. Yet when I ask to see their global director of innovation, nobody raises a hand. Everyone just looks at me with a blank expression. So, sure, this company understands the innovation imperative. But nobody in its leadership team is directly responsible – or accountable – for making innovation happen across the organization. And they don’t even seem to be aware of the paradox. More here.