Archive of posts with tag 'innovation'

How Shellac is Made

April 18, 2024 • #

I’m in the process of building some cabinets, and yesterday I was working on the drawers. I decided to use shellac as the finish for the drawer interiors. Never used it before, but heard that it applies easy, cures fast, and is generally more pleasant to work with than harsh chemical urethanes. It has the consistency and properties of other synthetic resins, but is totally organic — actually secreted naturally by the lac bug.

Shellac sharts

How it’s made is a marvel of human discovery, tinkering, and problem-solving, and also nature’s incredibly weird...

The Techno-Optimist Manifesto, Annotated

October 16, 2023 • #

Whether intentional or not, Marc Andreessen’s latest piece is the canon of the e/acc (effective accelerationist) movement. The visual that comes to mind for me is “the world if” meme made real. The desire to build, to expand energy production, increase population growth, and generally innovate our way out of problems (which has been the story of human civilization since we first stood on two legs).

To help readers less fluent in the language of human technological progress and the broader “accelerationist” movement, I put together an annotated list of clips with references to...

Outcomes Don't Look Like We Predict

October 12, 2023 • #

Just because we set an objective doesn’t mean we’ll reach it. At least not in the specific form we imagine.

When we do finally reach a destination that’s descriptively similar to the objective we thought we were after (artificial intelligence, augmented reality, flight, fusion, et al), it will look wildly different in practice than we thought.

Once we achieve a breakthrough innovation, along the path of stepping stones — the series of building blocks we must pass through to get us there — we’ve made hundreds of additional observations on the journey that change what...

Monthly Reading, August 2023

August 29, 2023 • #

This post appeared in issue #36 of my newsletter, Res Extensa, where I write about the intersection of product design, bottoms-up systems, innovation, and what we can learn from the history of technology. I’d love it if you subscribed.

💡 Good Decision, Bad Decision, Indecision, and Fake Decision

The older I get, the more I appreciate two fundamental skills in every line of work:

  1. A respect for and ability to assess...

Steve Jobs on Ideas vs. Products

September 19, 2022 • #

A lot of Steve Jobs content is hagiography at this point, but this clip is fantastic:

There’s an enormous delta between idea and execution. Someone can take a great idea and squander it. Or conversely, someone could take a middling and obvious idea and execute so well they build a billion dollar business. From the first part of the clip:

One of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. And that disease, I’ve seen other people get it, too,...

Exapting Technologies

September 9, 2021 • #

New forms of technology tend not to materialize from thin air. The nature of innovation takes existing known technologies and remixes, extends, and co-opts them to create novelty.

Gordon Brander refers to it in this piece as “exapting infrastructure.” As in the case of the internet, it wasn’t nonexistent one day then suddenly connecting all of our computers the next. It wasn’t purposely designed from the beginning as a way for us to connect our millions of computers, phones, and smart TVs. In fact, many types of...

Image credits: Florida ECRRT

Software and Entropy

June 28, 2021 • #

Marc Andreessen was recently interviewed by Noah Smith in his newsletter. It’s a great post-pandemic update to Marc’s views on technology (spoiler: he’s still as optimistic as ever), following a year after his “Time to Build” essay.

Entropy and Software

When asked about the future of technology, he responds to the common criticism that tech is often gives us progress in the virtual, but not physical world:

Software is a lever on the real world.

Someone writes code, and all of...

Weekend Reading: Non-Experts, Non-Linear Innovation, and We Were Builders

October 24, 2020 • #

👨‍💻 The Rise of the Non-Expert Expert

Vicki Boykis on the impossibility of true breadth and depth of technical expertise:

What used to distinguish senior people from junior people was the depth of knowledge they had about any given programming language and operating system.

What distinguishes them now is breadth and, I think, the ability to discern patterns and carry them across multiple parts of a stack, multiple stacks, and multiple jobs working in multiple industries. We are all junior, now, in some part of the software stack. The real trick...

Innovation and Human Nature

May 10, 2020 • #

In this piece from a few years ago, historian Anton Howes wrote about about what drives innovation. Is it part of human nature to pursue innovation? Or is it not a naturally occurring phenomenon? He makes the case that innovation is not inevitable:

The more I study the lives of British innovators, the more convinced I am that innovation is not in human nature, but is instead received. People innovate because they are inspired to do so — it is an idea that is transmitted. And when people do not...