Category Archives: ted

Permanence of objects

I was faced with a small challenge today. I had just walked back from the gym, listening on the way to a Ted Talk by Vilayanur Ramachandran on my Ipod. I got back to my apartment and realized I needed to jump into the shower. I was faced with two options – one, I could finish the talk and jump in or I could stop it, jump into the shower and continue the talk later but I was absolutely loving his presentation and didn’t like either of those options. So i tried to figure out how I could have my cake and eat it too.

There had to be a way for me to listen to my favorite podcasts in the shower.

I initially thought of a waterproof dock and spent 3-5 minutes looking it up on amazon but besides the fact that I had to wait three days to get them delivered, they were way too expensive. Then I hit upon a different idea. I decided to use a zip lock bag and rubber bands to create a waterproof casing for my Ipod. It worked wonderfully and I was able to listen to the brilliant presenters at Ted while in the shower.

Waterproof Ipod case

After I got out, I realized that there was something even more important that had happened. Instead of buying an expensive dock that would have a single function and purpose, I had come up with a product that was not permanent. As soon as the function of the ziplock bag and rubber band as a waterproof Ipod case was no longer needed, I could take it apart and reuse the components for other purposes.

The implications of this idea in a larger scale go beyond the idea of reuse and recyclability of products. Instead, it makes us ask the question about how we as innovators can use this principle to develop products that can be broken down and reassembled for various other purposes.

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Curiosity and innovation

As I listened to Hod Lipson, Vilayanur Ramachandran and Matthieu Ricard presentations at Ted Talk present on the topics of robotics, neurology and brain plasticity, I realized there was a common theme that all of them mentioned. Each of them referred to a concept where repeated action reinforced the brain and led to specific consequences. In the case of Hod, it was a behavior learned by his robots on how to move through emergent actions, trying to learn about themselves through repeated actions and refining their internal state before emerging with specific behaviors – movement towards a reward in the robot’s case. Vilayanur discussed his theory of learned paralysis and postulated that perhaps, there are methods that can help us unlearn paralysis, thereby allowing us to function normally. Matthieu Ricard in his elegant speech gave an example of how the brain changes after 10,000 hours of violin practice and how we can use this to alter our mind state.

How does this tie back to innovation? Well, when we talk about innovation, we often talk about the result of the process, the object, the service etc. More and more at schools like Institute of Design, we are now talking about the recipe of successful innovation, the methods and frameworks. However, we rarely talk about the ingredients, the aspects of the individual that help them become successful innovators. Larry Keeley in a recent lecture constantly stressed the importance of creativity in the innovation process and after listening to Hod, Matthieu and Vilaynur’s speech, I believe that we need to train our brain in curiosity. It is not enough that we on occasion find interest in random topics. We must treat curiosity as we would an athletic ability, constantly exercising it and helping reinforce our abilities to find and identify opportunities, ideas and theories across multiple disciplines, helping us become better innovators.