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Author Topic: How do people dream up new technologies?  (Read 11936 times)

Emmanuel Mamo

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« on: 19/02/2009 10:30:02 »
Emmanuel Mamo asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I am very interested in technology, and how it did come to us, can a person come to think about some thing so sophisticated that really do not know why it work, and how can he think all about the things that makes his technology real?

What do you think?


 

Offline Don_1

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #1 on: 19/02/2009 10:43:16 »
Not all technology is sophisticated. The man who invented these

Cats Eyes, got the idea from these

Cats eyes!
 

Offline dentstudent

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #2 on: 19/02/2009 10:49:41 »
Why have I heard that the Duke of Edinburgh came up with the idea of coloured cats eyes? Or that he introduced them somewhere?
 

Offline techmind

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #3 on: 19/02/2009 11:01:14 »
Emmanuel Mamo asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I am very interested in technology, and how it did come to us, can a person come to think about some thing so sophisticated that really do not know why it work, and how can he think all about the things that makes his technology real?

Widespread adoption of a technology depends not only on the technological capability but also on matching that to a need/market.

Technologies such as speech recognition (voice to text), handwriting recognition (writing to text), 3D television have been around in some form for 10-15 years now, but are not widespread because the need/market is not there. They're still waiting for the "killer application".


Successful technologies rely on the right mix of technical success and finding the right market/application and (sometimes) novel business-models.


While some technology products arise from fundamental discoveries/breakthroughs, many others are just step-by-step evolution of ideas - but may still suddenly take the market by storm when the price-point becomes competitive for example.

In my childhood, LEDs only came in red, orange, yellow, green. No blue.
LEDs were great for indicators on equipment etc... but the emergence of the blue LED in the early 1990's (the first one I bought cost £10 and wasn't very bright) and their becoming cheaper since since then suddenly opened the possibility for making huge bright billboard-sized television screens for advertising and use in stadiums and outdoor concerts and the like.


Very often one existing technology can suddenly find a new application, particularly when people from different disciplines or with different experience meet.

There's a lot of stuff out there that, when you look into it, is not as new/novel as it first appears.


Consider the mobile phone. Essentially it's "just" a two-way radio which plumbs into the existing telephone infrastructure. In the 1960's, top-level politians and presidents had two-way radio-sets in their cars which could be connected to telephone network at the other end - but this was far too cumbersome, labour-intensive and costly to be mass-market. When Vodafone lauched their first-generation "brick" phones in the late 1980's they still thought the worldwide market would only be 100000-1million. But the market was huge, and costs came down especially with the advent of 2nd generation, digital, technology (GSM) - and now they're often cheaper than landlines. Third-world countries which never had landlines suddenly have mobile infrastructure because it can be cheaper to install!
« Last Edit: 19/02/2009 11:21:16 by techmind »
 

lyner

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #4 on: 19/02/2009 22:07:07 »
Apparently, the inventor of cats eyes got the idea when a cat was walking towards him. He got the idea for a pencil sharpener when it walked away. . . . .
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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« Reply #5 on: 20/02/2009 03:35:44 »
Eh? What's with the pencil sharpener bit?
 

Offline Don_1

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #6 on: 20/02/2009 08:20:02 »
Apparently, the inventor of cats eyes got the idea when a cat was walking towards him. He got the idea for a pencil sharpener when it walked away. . . . .



 

Offline Chemistry4me

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #7 on: 20/02/2009 08:22:16 »
Alright, whats the joke that I'm not getting?
 

Offline dentstudent

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #8 on: 20/02/2009 08:25:25 »
Use number 34 of 101.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #9 on: 20/02/2009 08:26:19 »
Eh?
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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« Reply #10 on: 20/02/2009 08:28:15 »
Whoever thought of this must have had a lot of time on his hands.
 

Offline Don_1

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #11 on: 20/02/2009 08:28:53 »
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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« Reply #12 on: 20/02/2009 08:31:50 »
Ahhh, I see :)
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #13 on: 20/02/2009 12:46:07 »
A good answer from Techmind. A while back a came across a website from a guy who was an electronics engineer but who insisted that semiconductor designs and the underlying technology must have been originated by aliens (I kid you not). He could not believe that such technology could be developed by mere humans. I have worked in the semiconductor industry for 37 years, from 6 mask structures with a few transistors to todays 50+ mask designs with many millions of transistors and can attest that there is no magic, just a lot of step by step developments and, importantly, a lot of money.
 

Offline techmind

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #14 on: 25/02/2009 22:30:44 »
I've had a number of technology-inventions which have been patented through my (former) employer - a couple of which were based on ideas which came to me while in the toilet cubicle...   ;D


As I said before, many technologies you see are not as novel (original) as you might think.

I find that the novel ideas often come to me (someone familiar with many technology fields) out of the blue (often on the first or second day of a holiday, when the pressure is off), or sometimes there's something not immediately related to my work area which is intriguing me, and may be in the back of my mind for many months then suddenly I realise a new connection or insight which may or may not then have relevance to a new technology application.

Often I'm just trying to figure something out for my own curiosity, which forces me to confront the gaps in my knowledge and understanding -things you would just gloss over if you were merely studying for an exam- and as such can develop quite a deep understanding (which may or may not be the 'traditional' approach - my mental model may be based on something I know or suspect is related). This understanding may lead to a new useful technique straight away, or might merely be filed away as "experience" which is called upon years later.


I think curiosity goes a long way to being in a position to have new ideas. Always seeking new information, testing it, figuring out how it fits together with what you already know. More importantly, figuring out where it seems to conflict with what you already know and then resolving whether that difference is true, false (you were mistaken either with the new input or with the previous "knowledge"), or dependent on conditions not previously considered to be relevant...


I work with technology-people, but there's still quite some spread in different people's approaches. The way I think is very much on "principles" or "methods". I'm always trying to fit new information into what I already know. This approach is good for detecting what seems sound and what looks doubtful (or needs further clarification), but makes taking on board completely new ideas/concepts rather tricky. I like to believe that my thoughts have become more self-consistent as I've got older - but I might be deluding myself! I was never much good at rote-learning anyway.

I'm a "details" person, so I can often envisage precisely how an idea would be implemented (and all the limitations) which is useful, and especially so if an understanding of all of the details is critical to the success/total performance of a device - but conversely I can often suffer from "can't see the wood for the trees". I'm impressed by someone else I work with who has superb clarity of thought and just cuts through all the detail and gets straight to the key principles of anything. He might be better at different sorts of problems/ideas.

There's also the possibility of ideas arising from group work - combination of minds, not only when you understand each other, but even when you mis-understand some details you may contribute new insights to a discussion.
« Last Edit: 25/02/2009 23:05:19 by techmind »
 

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How do people dream up new technologies?
« Reply #14 on: 25/02/2009 22:30:44 »

 

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