TIME Innovation

The End of Law School

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Is it time to start shutting down law schools?

By Natalie Kitroeff in Bloomberg Business

2. One airline wants to make food and farm waste into jet fuel.

By Jenny Che in the Huffington Post

3. Here are five reasons America should fear the rising global middle class.

By Brenda M. Seaver in the National Interest

4. Forget merely securing Bitcoin. This tech can secure and encrypt any transaction on the web.

By Morgen E. Peck in IEEE Spectrum

5. For young girls, having a working mom could unlock future success.

By Jesse Singal in the Science of Us

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Why Iran Wants a Nuclear Deal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Here’s the real reason Iran wants a nuclear deal.

By Kathy Gilsinan in the Atlantic

2. We need a Marshall Plan for the victims of America’s War on Drugs.

By Nancy Gertner at the Aspen Ideas Festival

3. Investors and entrepreneurs are getting creative to weather Greece’s crumbling economy.

By Elmira Bayrasli in TechCrunch

4. We need a partner to stabilize Afghanistan. India is right for the job.

By Alyssa Ayres at the Council on Foreign Relations

5. Though a cleaner source of power, hydroelectric dams drastically slash biodiversity.

By the University of East Anglia

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

You Might Soon Be Able to Verify Online Purchases With a Selfie

MasterCard is testing the new technology

MasterCard customers may soon be able to make their online purchases more secure by verifying their identity with a selfie.

The company will soon start testing a new technology that will allow shoppers to use fingerprints and facial scans to prevent fraudulent purchases, according to CNN Money. The trial will begin with 500 customers, who must use the MasterCard app on their phone, either presenting their finger prints or posing for the camera when prompted.

To prevent fraudsters from simply using a photo of the real cardholder, users will be asked to blink to demonstrate that they are really there, not simply a static image. The resulting photo will be converted to code and compared to an algorithm on file.

If the trial run goes well, MasterCard hopes to take the technology to a wider pool of customers.

There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s selfies.

[CNN Money]

TIME Innovation

America’s Very Own Greece

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Puerto Rico is America’s very own Greece.

By Felix Salmon in Fusion

2. What’s behind the bloody surge in violent extremism? Competition.

By Justin Conrad and Kevin Greene in Political Violence at a Glance

3. With one decision, the Supreme Court opened the door to political innovation. The next part will be harder.

By Francine Kiefer in the Christian Science Monitor

4. The next nuclear accident is closer than you think.

By Hugh Gusterson in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

5. Upgrading America’s communications infrastructure wasn’t important until Google did it.

By James Surowiecki in MIT Technology Review

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Why the Euro Was a Mistake

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are the best ideas of the day

1. The euro was a big mistake, and Greece is paying the price.

By Timothy B. Lee in Vox

2. Homeownership is fading and we’re not ready for the renting explosion.

By Laurie Goodman, Rolf Pendall and Jun Zhu at the Urban Institute

3. How to power Africa’s renewables revolution.

By Kevin Watkins in World Economic Forum

4. What if our moral code explains the human propensity for violence?

By Tage Rai in Aeon

5. Can hip-hop overcome the conflict inside itself to be the voice of a changing culture?

By Talib Kweli at the Perception Institute

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Driverless Car Maker Denies Claim of Near-Miss With Google Car

Delphi clarified a report about a close encounter with a Google car

After a report that a Delphi driverless car and a Google driverless car came close to a traffic incident on a road in Palo Alto, Calif., Delphi has issued a statement that “the vehicles didn’t even come close to each other.”

The original report, by Reuters, quoted a Delphi official as saying he was in one of his company’s driverless cars when it was “cut off” by a Google car as it was preparing to make a lane change. He said the Delphi car “took appropriate action,” aborting the lane change.

But a Delphi spokesperson subsequently said that the incident was blown out of proportion, calling it “a typical lane change maneuver” and adding that “no vehicle was cut off.” Google, which did not originally comment, put out a statement saying both cars “did what they were supposed to do in an ordinary everyday driving scenario.”

According to a spokesperson, Reuters “stands by the accuracy of its original story.”

[Reuters]

TIME Innovation

Why Recycling Is a Bad Deal for Cities

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Find out why recycling used to be a good deal for cities, but now it’s costing them millions.

By Aaron C. Davis at the Washington Post

2. Setting its sights on the next billion users, Facebook is opening its first office in Africa.

By Kurt Wagner in Re/code

3. We can save $40 billion of National Park land and assets from climate destruction.

By the U.S. Department of the Interior

4. Let’s get rid of religious tax exemptions.

By Mark Oppenheimer in Time

5. Violence is contagious. Tackle it like an infectious disease.

By Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips in Salon

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Opinion

Innovation Isn’t Dead

177800130
Dave Reede—Getty Images A farmer looks out over his field of canola being grown for biofuel while the encroachment of his farmland by housing development is in the background, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Most important innovations are only obvious in hindsight.

Wilbur and Orville Wright’s airplane flew for the first time in December 1903. It was one of the most important innovations of human history, changing the world in every imaginable way.

To celebrate their accomplishment, the press offered a yawn and a shoulder shrug.

Only a few newspapers reported the Wright’s first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. All of them butchered the facts. Later flights in Dayton, Ohio, the brothers’ home, still drew little attention.

David McCullough explains in his book The Wright Brothers:

“Have you heard what they’re up to out there?” people in town would say. “Oh, yes,” would be the usual answer, and the conversation would move on. Few took any interest in the matter or in the two brothers who were to become Dayton’s greatest heroes ever.

An exception was Luther Beard, managing editor of the Dayton Journal … “I used to chat with them in a friendly way and was always polite to them,” Beard would recall, “because I sort of felt sorry for them. They seemed like well-meaning, decent enough young men. Yet there they were, neglecting their business to waste their time day after day on that ridiculous flying machine.”

It wasn’t until 1908 — five years after the first flight and two years after the brothers patented their flying machine — that the press paid serious attention and the world realized how amazing the Wrights’ invention was. Not until World War II, three decades later, did the significance of the airplane become appreciated.

It’s a good lesson to remember today, because there’s a growing gripe about our economy. Take these headlines:

  • “Innovation in America is somewhere between dire straits and dead.”
  • “Innovation Is Dead.”
  • “We were promised flying cars. Instead we got 140 characters.”

The story goes like this: American innovation has declined, and what innovation we have left isn’t meaningful.

Cancer? Not cured. Biofuel? An expensive niche. Smartphones? Just small computers. Tablets? Just big smartphones.

I think the pessimists are wrong. It might take 20 years, but we’ll look back in awe of how innovative we are today.

Just like with the Wright brothers, most important innovations are only obvious in hindsight. There is a long history of world-changing technologies being written off as irrelevant toys even years after they were developed.

Take the car. It was one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. Yet it was initially disregarded as something rich people bought just to show how deep their pockets were. Frederick Lewis Allen wrote in his book The Big Change:

The automobile had been a high-hung, noisy vehicle which couldn’t quite make up its mind that it was not an obstreperous variety of carriage.

In the year 1906 Woodrow Wilson, who was then president of Princeton University, said, “Nothing has spread socialistic feeling in this country more than the automobile,” and added that it offered “a picture of the arrogance of wealth.”

Or consider medicine. Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic effects of the mold penicillium in 1928. It was one of the most important discoveries of all time. But a decade later, penicillin was still a laboratory toy. John Mailer and Barbara Mason of Northern Illinois University wrote:

Ten years after Fleming’s discovery, penicillin’s chemical structure was still unknown, and the substance was not available in sufficient amounts for medical research. In fact, few scientists thought it had much of a future.

It wasn’t until World War II, almost 20 years later, that penicillin was used in mass scale.

Or take this amazing 1985 New York Times article dismissing the laptop computer:

People don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so …

Yes, there are a lot of people who would like to be able to work on a computer at home. But would they really want to carry one back from the office with them? It would be much simpler to take home a few floppy disks tucked into an attache case.

Or the laser. Matt Ridley wrote in the book The Rational Optimist:

When Charles Townes invented the laser in the 1950s, it was dismissed as ‘an invention looking for a job’. Well, it has now found an astonishing range of jobs nobody could have imagined, from sending telephone messages down fiberglass wires to reading music off discs to printing documents, to curing short sight.

Here’s Newsweek dismissing the Internet as a fad in 1995:

The truth [is] no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on a computer. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.

Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet.

Uh, sure.

You can go on and on. Rare is the innovation that is instantly recognized for its potential. Some of the most meaningful inventions took decades for people to notice.

The typical path of how people respond to life-changing inventions is something like this:

  1. I’ve never heard of it.
  2. I’ve heard of it but don’t understand it.
  3. I understand it, but I don’t see how it’s useful.
  4. I see how it could be fun for rich people, but not me.
  5. I use it, but it’s just a toy.
  6. It’s becoming more useful for me.
  7. I use it all the time.
  8. I could not imagine life without it.
  9. Seriously, people lived without it?

This process can take years, or decades. It always looks like we haven’t innovated in 10 or 20 years because it takes 10 or 20 years to notice an innovation.

Part of the problem is that we never look for innovation in the right spot.

Big corporations get the most media attention, but innovation doesn’t come from big corporations. It comes from the 19-year-old MIT kid tinkering in his parents’ basement. If you look at big companies and ask, “What have you done for the world lately?” you’re looking in the wrong spot. Of course they haven’t done anything for the world lately. Their sole mission is to repurchase stock and keep management consultants employed.

Someone, somewhere, right now is inventing or discovering something that will utterly change the future. But you’re probably not going to know about it for years. That’s always how it works. Just like Wilbur and Orville.

More From Motley Fool:

TIME Innovation

The Myth of the Lone Wolf Terrorist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. There’s no such thing as a lone wolf terrorist in cyberspace.

By Gabriel Weimann at Reuters Great Debate

2. Crowdsource the end of sexual violence.

By Elsa D’Silva at Aspen Ideas Spotlight Health

3. Scientists may someday treat brain disease with artificial neurons.

By Katarina Sternudd at Karolinska Institutet

4. An almost-instant field test for Ebola will be a game-changer for the next outbreak.

By Jake Miller at Harvard Medical School

5. This self-fixing solar-powered toilet could close the sanitation gap for billions around the world.

By Kimm Fesenmaier at CalTech

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

‘I Don’t Have Ethics': The Dark Heart of Google’s Latest Chatbot

"I'm in the middle of nowhere"

A new research paper released by Google this week reaffirms what’s been more or less obvious since HAL 9000 murdered four astronauts in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey: computers do not make particularly dependable friends.

The Google project—an admittedly more benign exercise than Kubrick’s—was yet another attempt to fashion a “conversational model” of artificial intelligence. Colloquially, we refer to these systems as “chatbots”—programs that can somewhat convincingly engage in human discourse.

The researchers behind the experiment, Oriol Vinyals and Quoc V. Le, programmed their particular chatbot with two sets of data: guidelines from an IT troubleshooting help desk and a database of movie subtitles. The ensuing dialogue was mostly awkward and occasionally nihilistic.

“What is the color of water?” the researchers asked.

“Water,” the computer replied simply.

“Where are you now?” they asked.

“I’m in the middle of nowhere.”

“Tell me the definition of morality,” the researchers requested.

“I don’t have ethics,” the machine advised them.

According to the transcript, this went on for awhile. Philosophical banter proving futile, Vinyals and Le switched gears, with more coherent results.

“What do you think about Cleopatra?” they asked.

“Oh, she’s very regal.”

Read more dialogue here.

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