Optogenetics: The ultimate ???light bulb??? moment

So what else can we do with this amazing technology? Well, it has been used experimentally to help us understand a number of brain functions. For example, in order to understand how choices are made, optogenetic techniques were used to switched on and off a flies??? preference for certain smells. This led to the amazing discovery of the fly???s inner critic, an assembly of 12 neurones that govern the decisions flies make. Scientists have also inserted light-responsive elements into more complex animals in an attempt to prove a causal relationship between certain groups of brain cells and a specific behaviour. In the video below, a mouse runs around every time a blue light is shone into its brain, meaning that the switching on of the light-activated brain cells causes the mouse to run. Another study made a mouse ???prefer??? to freeze on the spot by illuminating ??? and therefore activating ??? its reward centres every time it chanced upon a particular place in its cage. These experiments are elegant and powerful because they identify the particular set of brain cells that cause, or lead to some pretty complex actions.

From the Courtroom – Day 17 of Oracle v. Google

Judge: We heard the testimony of Mr. Bloch. I couldn’t have toldyou the first thing about Java before this problem. I havedone, and still do, a significant amount of programming in otherlanguages. I’ve written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundredtimes before. I could do it, you could do it. The idea thatsomeone would copy that when they could do it themselves justas fast, it was an accident. There’s no way you could say thatwas speeding them along to the marketplace. You’re one of thebest lawyers in America, how could you even make that kind ofargument?

Oracle: I want to come back to rangeCheck.

Judge: rangeCheck! All it does is make sure the numbers you’reinputting are within a range, and gives them some sort ofexceptional treatment. That witness, when he said a high schoolstudent could do it–

A fish that walks, and a dog that talks! Whoo-ee

The telecoms industry and a dual-dilemma problem

Thinking about this more today, I’ve realised that my view can be explained quite simply. The telecom industry is (as far as I can tell) the first to face two classical “dilemmas” simultaneously:

  • The Innovator’s Dilemma: The title of Clayton Christensen’s seminal book on disruptive innovation (from which I take a great deal of inspiration, including my company name). It refers to well-managed, profitable companies watching disaster unfold, as they ignore a low-cost / low-profit new technology because it targets only adjacent markets, and would threaten cannibalisation if applied to their own. But it improves over time, gaining strength and scale, and eventually kills them anyway, as it expands from adjacencies to core.
  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma: This is a famous thought-experiment applying “game theory” to collaboration and cooperation. Do two prisoners remain silent & complicit – both receiving short sentences – or does one frame the other, going free while the other languishes in jail? Or, if both try to betray each other, they both get long sentences. (Edit: Martin Geddes has pointed out the different game if you change the apostophe to prisoners’ dilemma)

Numbers show dot-XXX sites are a sham

Mike Cohen (DNN) writes,

We would not have thought that only 61 domains in total would be ranking inside the top 1,000,000 most visited sites in the world.

That number was suppose to be exponentially higher by all accounts even a few months in, which we now are well into 2012, however reality says otherwise.

Indeed. DNN???s Alexa numbers are US, not global, but those numbers suck, and not in the way were were hoping. Despite the fact that these sites are indeed indexed by Google, the sticky stampede promised by dot-xxx???s pimps never arrived.

Taming The Wild Idea

When we are willing to risk being exposed to wild untamed ideas, we turn less to academics, and more to startup companies, passionate writers, activists, etc. And in our youth, many of us are eager for such exposure, to show that we are no longer children who must stay safely in camp ??? we are strong and brave enough to venture into the wild.

But when we get children of our own, and feel less a need to show off our derring-do, we prefer tamed idea sources. We prefer to hire kids who got their ideas from universities, not startups or activists. And most prefer their news to come from similarly tamed journalists. We applaud wild ideas, but prefer them tamed.