I haven’t read this yet, but it’s going on my list toward the top. — Howard
“In Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (public library), neuroscientist Christof Koch — “reductionist, because I seek quantitative explanations for consciousness in the ceaseless and ever-varied activity of billions of tiny nerve cells, each with their tens of thousands of synapses; romantic, because of my insistence that the universe has contrails of meaning that can be deciphered in the sky about us and deep within us” — explores how subjective feelings, or consciousness, come into being. Among Koch’s most fascinating arguments is one that bridges philosophy, evolutionary biology and technofuturism to predict a global Übermind not unlike McLuhan’s “global village,” but one in which our technology melds with what Carl Jung has termed the “collective unconscious” to produce a kind of sentient global brain:”
“There is no reason why this web of hypertrophied consciousness cannot spread to the planets and, ultimately, beyond the stellar night to th…”
One of the reasons Google and VMware have been so successful over the past decade, says Eric Brewer, is that both companies managed to snatch some of the world’s brightest engineers from the big-name research labs that petered out in the late 1990s.
Over the previous 30 years, labs run by tech giants such as AT&T, Xerox, and DEC had led the computing revolution, but at the turn of the millennium, much of their lifeblood was pumped into a pair of companies that were only just getting off the ground.
“At the time of the bubble burst in 2001, when everyone was downsizing, including DEC, the main two high-tech companies that were hiring were Google and VMware,” says Brewer, the University of California at Berkeley computer science professor who’s now part of an effort to redesign the technology that underpins the Google empire. “Because of the crazy lopsidedness of that supply and demand, both companies hired many truly great people and both have done well in part because of that.”
Google and VMWare may seem like very different companies. One does web search. The other does virtual servers. But they’re more alike than you might think. Google’s search engine was successful in large part because the company built data-center technologies that could support such a massive application, and VMware is a company that reinvented the data center for the rest of the business world. In each case, they couldn’t have done so without the top engineers on the planet.
What Is Behavioral Economics, and Where Are the Free Lunches?
The rational assumptions in classical economic theory really need some tweaking; we learn from cognitive psychology and critical thinking, prejudices and biases cloud our so-called rational judgments and decision-making all the time; simply put, its a safe assumption to make that humans are irrational by default, and only rational with applied effort and under the right conditions, notably, when the mind is very calm and at ease.
We know from many corporate examples that giving employees free time to experiment yields creative insights. Until recently, we haven’t known exactly why. While there is still research to be done, perhaps a suitable model for noncommissioned work has developed.
Business books and management gurus have long sung the praises of giving employees free time to tinker on projects they initiate. The idea seems to have begun with 3M, who allowed employees to spend 15 percent for their workweek focused on projects that were unrelated to their normal work. More recently, Google upped the percentage to 20 percent of the workweek. Many other tech companies seem to have followed suit, some changing the formula a bit to establish dedicated “hack weeks” or “FedEx days” where all employees shed their normal projects and tinker with ideas that are inherently interesting to them. For companies that use such programs, innovation seems to increase. 3M points to legendary products such as the Post-It note as proof of its effectiveness. Google can hold up Gmail, Google News and AdSense as vital products birthed in 20 percent time.
The degree to which brain scans will be admissible in court remains unclear, but experts already are pointing to precedent-setting cases and warning that neuroscience could alter the law, creating new methods and new visual evidence to determine criminal intent and criminal responsibility. Scott Drake talks with Stanford law prof. Hank Greely.