Spence Green

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I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Think Like a Child

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Tom Kelley, the General Manager of IDEO, began his much anticipated 12 November talk at Stanford with an anecdote. While doing research for his whimsical book ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball’, Kelley’s friend Gordon Mackenzie visited a grammar school in search of artists. To the kindergarten class, he asked, “Who here is an artist?” An eruption of shouting, jumping, and enthusiastic gesticulations confirmed that everyone in the room made art. The first-graders responded similarly, albeit with perceptibly less earnestness. By the second grade, a few had retired from the vanguard, though the majority still remained. At the sixth-grade level, MacKenzie offered his question to a group of obviously annoyed youth: “Who here is an artist?” At first, no hands moved. Then a few timid adolescents volunteered, conscious of the snickers and grins that such an admission produced. MacKenzie resisted the conclusion that artistic skill deteriorates with age. For Kelley, the lesson is clear: creative potential must be nurtured, for there are forces–envy, criticism, and worst of all, inertia–that stifle it. “You’re too young to be stuck in a rut,” he exclaimed, “There is a difference between being ‘childish’ and being ‘childlike’. Creative people cultivate the attitude present in that kindergarten classroom.”
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December 15th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Ideas

What I Learned from the Crash

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Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,519. Had you invested $100 in the market 10 years ago, you would now have $101.22, exclusive of dividends. Of course it would be presumptuous–and a bit naive–to say that investing in equities as a method of wealth accumulation is a poor choice. Look at Warren Buffett, you might say, and his ‘snowball’. This line of reasoning has merit: indeed, Buffett started with hundreds of dollars, not the millions that Rockefeller Jr. used to magnify his family’s wealth. But at that point, a distinction should be made. First, it is not possible to make a fortune in equities through investment unless you are entirely devoted to the task (speculators are not included in this statement; they gamble, and their success follows the associated probability curve). Market inefficiencies exist, but those of us who do not devote our days to studying it are highly unlikely to perceive and to exploit those opportunities.
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October 22nd, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Ideas

Resonating with Computers

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Donald Knuth spoke to a group of first-year doctoral students last Wednesday. He was the second lecturer in a two-hour seminar designed to expose the students to different areas of ongoing research. The first lecturer interpreted ‘exposure’ to mean trauma with a blunt instrument. The young proselytes tried to follow his 120-slide presentation–with its equations, monographs, and animated images–but within the half-hour, they had conceded defeat. By the time I arrived, many had lost themselves in other diversions.

Presently, the clock, indifferent to the scientific advances being described, compelled the first lecturer to yield the microphone. The angular, bespecaled man who rose from the second row declined this device, however. He carried with him neither computer nor pen. He did not introduce himself. “I can’t do PowerPoint, and I haven’t prepared a talk, so…Look, you people need to come closer so that we can see each other,” he said. The students for once did not consider this a pedantic request, and eagerly arranged themselves in the first few rows. Leaning against a railing, the renowned computer scientist said, “So, what do you want to know?”
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Written by Spence

October 15th, 2008 at 9:15 am

Posted in Ideas