December 2007
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Month December 2007

Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike

Janet Rae-Dupree:

IT’S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience.
Andrew S. Grove, the co-founder of Intel, put it well in 2005 when he told an interviewer from Fortune, “When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin’.” In other words, it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself.
This so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. Your conversations with others in the field are peppered with catch phrases and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to accomplish a task — open a store, build a house, buy new cash registers, sell insurance — those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path.
Elizabeth Newton, a psychologist, conducted an experiment on the curse of knowledge while working on her doctorate at Stanford in 1990. She gave one set of people, called “tappers,” a list of commonly known songs from which to choose. Their task was to rap their knuckles on a tabletop to the rhythm of the chosen tune as they thought about it in their heads. A second set of people, called “listeners,” were asked to name the songs.
Before the experiment began, the tappers were asked how often they believed that the listeners would name the songs correctly. On average, tappers expected listeners to get it right about half the time. In the end, however, listeners guessed only 3 of 120 songs tapped out, or 2.5 percent.

Paris, je t’aime

From the trailer:

Celebrated directors from around the world, including the Coen Brothers, Gus Van Sant, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, Alexander Payne and Olivier Assayas, have come together to portray Paris in a way never before imagined. Made by a team of contributors as cosmopolitan as the city itself, this portrait of the city is as diverse as its creators’ backgrounds and nationalities. With each director telling the story of an unusual encounter in one of the city’s neighborhoods, the vignettes go beyond the ‘postcard’ view of Paris to portray aspects of the city rarely seen on the big screen.

Wikipedia.
A wonderful film, well worth seeing.

Halberstam’s Last: The Coldest Winter,

I just finished reading David Halberstam’s last book: “The Coldest Winter“. This work is a fascinating look at the key players in and around the Korean War. Well worth reading. Amazon Link. Powell’s Review and the NY Times review.

PGP & the 5th Amendment

Bruce Schneier:

A Vermont federal judge has ruled that a person cannot be compelled by police to divulge his PGP key. This is by no means the end of the legal debate (Orin Kerr comments), but it’s certainly good news.

Clusty search on the 5th Amendment.

The Rise of Medical Tourism

Martha Lagace:

What used to be rare is now commonplace: traveling abroad to receive medical treatment, and to a developing country at that.
So-called medical tourism is on the rise for everything from cardiac care to plastic surgery to hip and knee replacements. As a recent Harvard Business School case study describes, the globalization of health care also provides a fascinating angle on globalization generally and is of great interest to corporate strategists.
“Apollo Hospitals—First-World Health Care at Emerging-Market Prices” explores how Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, a cardiologist, opened India’s first for-profit hospital in the southern city of Chennai in 1983. Today the Apollo Hospitals Group manages more than 30 hospitals and treats patients from many different countries, according to the case. Tarun Khanna, a Harvard Business School professor specializing in global strategy, coauthored the case with professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Carin-Isabel Knoop, executive director of the HBS Global Research Group.
The medical services industry hasn’t been global historically but is becoming so now, says Khanna. There are several reasons that globalization can manifest itself in this industry:

The US sub-prime crisis in graphics



BBC:

The US sub-prime mortgage crisis has lead to plunging property prices, a slowdown in the US economy, and billions in losses by banks. It stems from a fundamental change in the way mortgages are funded.
Traditionally, banks have financed their mortgage lending through the deposits they receive from their customers. This has limited the amount of mortgage lending they could do.
In recent years, banks have moved to a new model where they sell on the mortgages to the bond markets. This has made it much easier to fund additional borrowing,
But it has also led to abuses as banks no longer have the incentive to check carefully the mortgages they issue.

A Bit of Wisconsin Open Records History

Bill Lueders:

Walter H. Besley may well have been Wisconsin’s first open-government crusader.
Back in 1853, five years after Wisconsin became a state, Besley, the clerk of circuit court in Jefferson County, billed the County Board of Supervisors $22 for two expenses: wood to furnish his office and a large box of candles to light and warm it.
The board rejected the expenditure. Besley sued and won. The board was ordered to pay these expenses, plus interest and “the costs of suit.”
In 1856, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard the case on appeal. It affirmed the circuit court’s ruling, citing a state law mandating that the clerk and other county officials “keep his office open during business hours, Sundays excepted, and all books and papers required to be kept in this office shall be open for the examination of any person.”
The court said the Legislature’s intent was clear: “to accommodate the wants of the citizens” who had business to transact. “To require these officers to keep their offices open during business hours,” it wrote, “and yet provide no means of warming or lighting them would be simply absurd.”
While the law did not require the clerk “to keep a tavern” — which presumably would also accommodate the wants of some citizens — “it is clearly the object and intention of the statute that these county offices shall be kept open, and in a suitable condition.” Thus the expenses presented by Besley were “a proper and legal county charge” that the board was wrong to reject.

An Interview with Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly

Terry Maxon & Suzanne Marta:

Southwest Airlines Co. chief executive Gary Kelly doesn’t have any offers out to buy another airline, but he expects Southwest to jump in when the consolidation fun begins.
“At some point, I think we’ll probably acquire somebody,” Mr. Kelly said in a recent discussion with Dallas Morning News business editors and reporters. “There’s bound to be a scenario that we would say, ‘That scenario out of these 10, yep, that one would work for us.’ We’d want to be prepared for that opportunity that presents itself.”
Southwest’s investment in bankrupt ATA Airlines Inc. in 2004 offers a good example of being ready, he said. Of course, the airline is well aware of the pitfalls of acquiring another carrier, a strategy it followed in 1993 when it acquired Morris Air and in 1986 when it bought Muse Air.

Perhaps, one day, Madison will be fortunate to have Southwest air service.

Top Tech Predictions For 2008

Stephen Wellman:

Yesterday I attended the Third Annual SNS New York Dinner, a gathering of tech professionals and investors at the famous Waldorf=Astoria Hotel hosted by futurist Mark Anderson. As usual, Anderson stirred controversy with a big dose of his high-powered brain candy.
Anderson opened the evening with a set of interlocking observations about the current global landscape. First, Anderson said that the world will face two crises as it transitions into the new year. The first is a climate crisis and the second a financial liquidity crisis.
“We must now agree that the climate crisis is true. We are past the time for debate. But now we need a rapid response,” he said. “What if the global climate crisis is non-linear? There are no straight lines in nature,” he said. Anderson agreed with Albert Gore’s recent remarks that humanity is at war with the planet, but he reminded SNS attendees, as he did at the last two dinners, that there is lots of money to be made by figuring out to end humanity’s war against nature.
Anderson predicted that the West’s good will with China would come to an end in 2008, in no small part due to China’s role as a massive polluter (which the world will notice at the 2008 Olympics) but also because China has taken its current role in the global economy as far as it can. Soon China will have to grow up and evolve.
High oil prices, which Anderson has spotlighted at the last two SNS dinners, will continue to climb. “$70 a barrel for oil is the new floor,” he said. “We’ll see another run to $100 a barrel by December 31 next year, or shortly afterwards.”

Workshop of the World – Fine Arts Division

James Fallows:

Which brings us to the Dafen “art factory village” outside Shenzhen, in southern China. I had heard a lot about Dafen, including in a very good story by Evan Osnos of the Chicago Tribune early this year. (The story seems no longer to be on the Tribune’s site. For reference, it was published on February 13, 2007.) But only this weekend did I see it, guided by Liam Casey, the Irish “Mr. China” I described a few months ago in an article about Shenzhen’s more conventional factories. Now that I’ve seen it — my lord!