30 episodes

Idea Machines is a deep dive into the systems and people that bring innovations from glimmers in someone's eye all the way to tools, processes, and ideas that can shift paradigms.

We see the outputs of innovation systems everywhere but rarely dig into how they work. Idea Machines digs below the surface into crucial but often unspoken questions to explore themes of how we enable innovations today and how we could do it better tomorrow.

Idea Machines is hosted by Benjamin Reinhardt.

Idea Machines Benjamin Reinhardt

    • Business
    • 4.6 • 10 Ratings

Idea Machines is a deep dive into the systems and people that bring innovations from glimmers in someone's eye all the way to tools, processes, and ideas that can shift paradigms.

We see the outputs of innovation systems everywhere but rarely dig into how they work. Idea Machines digs below the surface into crucial but often unspoken questions to explore themes of how we enable innovations today and how we could do it better tomorrow.

Idea Machines is hosted by Benjamin Reinhardt.

    The Decline of Unfettered Research with Andrew Odlyzko [Idea Machines #31]

    The Decline of Unfettered Research with Andrew Odlyzko [Idea Machines #31]

    A conversation with Professor Andrew Odlyzko about the forces that have driven the paradigm changes we’ve seen across the research world in the past several decades. Andrew is a professor at the University of Minnesota and worked at Bell Labs before that. The conversation centers around his paper “The Decline of Unfettered Research” which was written in 1995 but feels even more timely today. 
    Key Takeaway
    The decline of unfettered research is part of a complex web of causes - from incentives, to expectations, to specialization and demographic trends. The sobering consequence is that any single explanation is probably wrong and any single intervention probably won’t be able to shift the system.
    Links
    The Decline of Unfettered Research
    Andrew's Website
    A Twitter thread of my thoughts before this podcast
    (Automated, and thus mistake-filled) Transcript
     
    audio_only
    [00:00:00]  In this conversation. I talked to professor Andrew Odlyzko about the forces that have driven the paradigm changes we've seen across the research world. In the past several decades. Andrew is a professor at the university of Minnesota and worked at bell labs for that our conversation centers around in his paper, the decline of unfettered research, which was written in 1995, but feels even more timely today.
    I've linked to it in the show notes and [00:01:00] also a Twitter thread that I wrote to get down my own thoughts. I highly recommend that you check out one of them either now or after listening to this conversation.  I realized that it might be a little weird to be talking about a paper that you wrote 25 years ago, but it, it seemed when I read it, it sort of blew my mind because it seemed so like all of it just seemed so true today.
    Um, and so I was, I was wondering, uh, like first do you, do you, do you sort of think that the, the core thesis of that paper still holds up? Like how would you amend it if you had to write it again today? Oh, absolutely. I'm convinced that the base thesis is correct. And as the last quarter century has provided much more evidence to support it.
    And basically if I were writing it today, I would just simply draw on this experience all those 25 years. Yeah. Yeah. Cause, okay, cool. So, so like, um, I sort of wanted to [00:02:00] establish the baseline of like asking questions about it is still, is still super relevant. Um, So, uh, just, uh, for, for the, for the listeners, um, would you sort of go through how you think of what unfettered research meets?
    Because, uh, I think many people have heard of, of sort of like, like basic or, or curiosity driven research, but I think that the distinction is actually really important. Mmm. Well, yes. So basically unfettered researchers, emotional curiosity, driven research, very closely related to maybe some shades of difference with the idea here is that you kind of find the best people.
    You can most promising researchers and give them essentially practically complete freedom. Give them resources, making them complete freedom to pursue the most interesting problems that they see. Um, and that was something which, uh, kind of many people still think of this as being the main mode of operations.
    And that's still thought [00:03:00] the best type of research in that case, but it's definitely been fading. Yeah. So, uh, would you, would you make the art? So what, like, what is the, is the most powerful argument that unfettered research is actually not the best kind of research. Well, so why is it not the best kind of research?
    So again, this is not so much an issue of world's best in some global optimization sense. And so on my essay. It wasn't really addressed to the forces that were influencing conduct of science technology research. Um, and, uh, I'm not quite saying that it's kind of ideal that it was happening. I said, well, here are the reasons.
    And given t

    • 48 min
    On the Cusp of Commerciality with Eleonora Vella

    On the Cusp of Commerciality with Eleonora Vella

    A conversation with Eleonora Vella about getting the right people in the room, finding research on the cusp of commercializability, and generally how TandemLaunch’s unique system works.

    Eleonora is a Program director at TandemLaunch. Tandemlaunch is a startup foundry that builds companies from scratch around university research. This is not an easy task. Given the challenges, TandemLaunch’s successes suggest there’s a lot to learn from their processes.

    • 40 min
    Innovating Through Time with Anton Howes

    Innovating Through Time with Anton Howes

    A conversation with Dr Anton Howes about The Royal Society of Arts, cultural factors that drive innovation, and many aspects of historical innovation. Anton is a historian of innovation whose work focuses especially on 18th and 19th century England as a hotbed of creativity. He recently released an excellent book that details the history of the Royal Society of Arts called “Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation” and he publishes an excellent newsletter at Age of Invention.

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Inventors, Corporations, Universities, and Governments with Ashish Arora

    Inventors, Corporations, Universities, and Governments with Ashish Arora

    A conversation with Ashish Arora about how and why the interlocking American institutions that support technological change have evolved over time, their current strengths and weaknesses, and how they might change in the future.

    • 55 min
    Invention, Discovery, and Bell Labs with Venkatesh Narayanamurti

    Invention, Discovery, and Bell Labs with Venkatesh Narayanamurti

    In this episode I talk to Venkatesh Narayanamurti about Bell Labs, running research organizations, and why the distinction between basic and applied research is totally wrong. Venkatesh has led organizations across the research landscape: he was a director at Bell Labs during its Golden Age, a VP at Sandia National Lab, the Dean of Engineering at UC Santa Barbara and started Harvard’s engineering school.

    • 53 min
    Roadmapping Science with Adam Marblestone

    Roadmapping Science with Adam Marblestone

    In this episode I talk to Adam Marblestone about technology roadmapping, scientific gems hidden in plain sight, and systematically exploring complex systems.

    • 51 min

Customer Reviews

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Really sharp podcast -- I replaced a depressing politics podcast to make room for this inspiring one

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Excellent - lead edge tech with people you can’t find in any other forum.

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