The Downside of the “Knowledge for Knowledge’s Sake” Argument

On the PBS New­shour Duke Uni­ver­sity biol­o­gist Sheila Patek just made a pas­sion­ate plea for “why knowl­edge for the pure sake of know­ing is good enough to jus­tify sci­en­tific research” using her own research into man­tis shrimp as an exam­ple. While I sup­port pub­lic fund­ing for basic research, Patek makes a con­vo­luted and ulti­mately harm­ful to her own case argu­ment.

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An Alternative View of Funding for Innovation

My rant on what’s wrong with Indus­trie 4.0 argued that it focuses too nar­rowly on too incre­men­tal a domain.

The real tec­tonic change of the last 20–30 years in my opin­ion is the speed of inno­va­tion that soft­ware gives you over any other tech­nol­ogy domain. What­ever the gad­get or con­cept, if you can add soft­ware to it, you can speed up inno­va­tion by a major fac­tor. The rea­son for this is that soft­ware can be mod­i­fied and brought to mar­ket within sec­onds, rather than weeks or months. This is the result of the last ten years of devel­op­ment of “con­tin­u­ous deliv­ery”.

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What’s wrong with Industrie 4.0?

Short answer

A lot. The overly nar­row focus on a par­tic­u­lar domain of inno­va­tion starves the sup­port for inno­va­tion is other domains, mak­ing Ger­many lose out in those domains. 

This has been bug­ging me for some time now.

Longer answer

Some­how Ger­man pol­i­tics declared “Indus­trie 4.0” (indus­try 4.0) to be a major area of inno­va­tion for Ger­many. Focus, atten­tion, and fund­ing fol­lowed. Indus­trie 4.0 is sup­posed to be the next evo­lu­tion­ary step in indus­trial pro­duc­tion based on the con­ver­gence of the var­i­ous tech­nol­ogy streams we are cur­rently wit­ness­ing (soft­ware, biotech, high­tech, what have you).

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Some Progress on Wikipedia Editing

Wikipedia has long been suf­fer­ing from its rather raw “wiki markup” edit­ing expe­ri­ence. The rea­son is that the under­ly­ing soft­ware is stuck in the mud and any progress is slow and painful. Right now there is some excite­ment over progress on the “visual edi­tor” of Medi­awiki. As you can see in the video below the look and feel is 2016, while the func­tion­al­ity is still 1999. How we will catch-up with Google Docs or Medium or any rea­son­able edit­ing expe­ri­ence this way remains a mys­tery to me.