Thursday, November 08, 2012

Walking Into The Landscape

Landscape Study - Jim Belfiore (c) 2012
I've been fascinated with trends in computing and futurism ever since I was a little kid.  In the late 1960's, I got hooked on ideas postulated in science-fiction, particularly in hard science-fiction (where science was extrapolated as far as possible to project possible futures, as opposed to just giving in to pure fantasy).

Conventional ideas from science-fiction such as faster-than-light travel, time-travel, and immortality are just a few of many fantastic goals that, while not likely to be realized ever, drive real-world innovations.  They've certainly had impacts on my careers and side-projects over the last quarter century.  As one friend once told me a long time ago, "You're always shooting for the moon, and even if you never get there, you always seem to make it to the next mountain along the way."

Some ideas, however, seemed almost to be within reach (certainly within my lifetime), and as I've gotten older, I've never lost the sense of wonder that comes at the special moment when an idea that seemed to be an impossible element of fiction, became reality.

In particular, I've been fascinated with advances in computation, particular as applied to creativity.

If you're my age or older, then you know the old-fart stories we're telling the younger generations about the history of computers: "When I was your age, computers were as big as cities and only did arithmetic!" (etc, etc).

If you're in college (or earlier in your schooling) then you're rolling your eyes and about to wipe this page from your smartphone to queue up another song on Pandora or iTunes.  Give me another minute before you go Gangnam Style for the umptieth time.

The specific fascination and wonder I'm speaking of is something I dreamed about decades ago, that only now am I able to realize from both a technology and economic perspective.  My first real training and passion wasn't in the sciences, but was in the arts.  Music performance and composition were a big part of my early life, and I also was captivated by visual arts, especially the very beginnings of computer graphics.   There have been many symphonies locked in my head since I was young that I've wanted to pull out and hear, but I've had no orchestra.  There have been many landscapes and vistas in my head that I've wanted to paint, but my stick-figure drawing skills have never not up to the challenge.

Many years ago, one of the most powerful ideas I ever heard was that, "someday, artists could take what was in their minds, and immediately share it without depending on canvas, or the ability to paint or draw".  A similar idea was just as inspiring to me where music was concerned.  Over the years, innovations in computer science, systems, and software have bridged gaps in connecting human creativity to expression. The costs and barriers to entry have become insignificant (in some cases, free open-software platforms are being used create incredible cinematic experiences).  I am certainly not leading the pack when it comes to unleashing the "artist within", but the fact that within my lifetime, something that was only the stuff of novels and screenplays has become commonplace is still a wonder.

After many years of charting, designing and building innovation landscapes, it's nice to be able to start exploring a little bit of that terrain.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Samurai Innovator

Everything I've every learned and practiced about innovation, can be boiled down to the following:

  1. Think of what is right and true
  2. Practice and cultivate science
  3. Become acquainted with the arts
  4. Know the principles of craft
  5. Understand the harm and benefit in everything
  6. Learn to see everything accurately
  7. Become aware of what is not obvious
  8. Be careful even in the smallest of matters
  9. Do not do anything useless.

(From 'The Book of Five Rings' - Miyamoto Musashi, 1643)