TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 17

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

1. Is the Taliban’s fracturing a sign of its demise or a possible turn to a more lethal strategy?

By Sundarsan Raghavan in the Washington Post

2. To fight cybercrime, President Obama needs Silicon Valley.

By Katie Benner in Bloomberg View

3. The FDA needs updated systems to review drugs — made from our own cells — that target cancer and more.

By Peter W. Huber in City Journal

4. Our high incarceration rate no longer reduces crime.

By Lauren-Brooke Eisen in USA Today

5. Better than an action movie: Catch a college lecture on your next commercial flight.

By Kim Clark in Money

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

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 13

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

1. After the shootings in Chapel Hill, a Muslim-American school teacher asks what they must do to be ‘part and parcel’ of America.

By Deanna Othman in the Chicago Tribune

2. Imagine insulin that can read a diabetic’s blood sugar level from inside the body and start working on-demand.

By Anne Trafton in MIT News

3. City governments are using Yelp to warn the public about restaurant health code violations.

By Michael Luca and Luther Lowe in Harvard Business Review

4. The FDA is cutting the red tape so doctors can get experimental drugs to patients more quickly.

By Peter Lurie in FDA Voice

5. How can we support entrepreneurial inventors in developing countries? Create innovation ecosystems.

By Alexander Pan in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

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

Here Comes the Microwave of Our Dreams

This microwave could ensure your Hot Pocket is heated thoroughly without becoming molten lava

This story was originally published at the Daily Dot.

YouTuber Mark Rober has been working nights and weekends for the past year to create a prototype of the newest coolest microwave. If his idea comes to fruition, gone are the days of scorching the roof of your mouth on a sizzling Hot Pocket.

Yesterday, Rober tweeted his excitement for Wednesday’s product reveal.

Rober wonders why with technology advancements making cars and computers adapt throughout time, why hasn’t the microwave? After months of expanding on that question Rober on Wednesday revealed the anticipated project on his YouTube channel. He calls it “Better Microwave.”

Read the original story at the Daily Dot.

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 12

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

1. Proprietary tech under the hood means farmers can’t service their own equipment. Time for open source tractors.

By Kyle Wiens in Wired

2. These grassroots efforts to improve life are glimmers of hope for Guatemala.

By Shannon K. O’Neill at the Council on Foreign Relations

3. Secular Americans aren’t morally adrift. For many, altruism is their moral compass.

By Nick Street in Al Jazeera America

4. It takes a package of policies to substantially reduce poverty.

By Linda Giannarelli, Kye Lippold, Sarah Minton and Laura Wheaton in MetroTrends

5. “Ultimately, the most effective way to create shareholder value is to serve the interests of all stakeholders.”

By Marc Benioff in the Huffington Post

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

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 11

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

1. Syria’s own ‘Monuments Men’ are trying to stop antiquities from becoming looted to finance terrorism.

By Joe Parkinson, Ayla Albayrak and Duncan Mavin in the Wall Street Journal

2. Scientists have combined a bionic leaf with a bioengineered bacteria to convert solar energy into liquid fuel.

By Elizabeth Cooney at Harvard Medical School

3. A dozen states are using a smart data center to keep voter information up to date. Meet ERIC.

By the Pew Charitable Trusts on YouTube

4. Deciding to embrace big data is a lot easier than changing your culture to use it well.

By Matt Asay in ReadWrite

5. Fighting malaria is going to take more than just nets.

By Utibe Effiong and Lauretta Ovadje with Andrew Maynard in the Conversation

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 Tech

Apple and Tesla Battle for the Most Important Resource

Apple HQ (left); Tesla (right)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (left)—Reuters (right)

The fight for talented employees

Although they are in substantially different industries, Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 0.7% and Tesla TESLA MOTORS INC. TSLA -2% are often compared in terms of innovation, brand equity, and quality. Even Tesla founder Elon Musk is often compared, favorably, to Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs. In many ways the designation fits: both are groundbreaking visionaries who are looking to reinvent existing products — simply put, Musk wants to reinvent cars like Jobs reinvented the cell phone.

Outside of that, you’d be hard-pressed to find any similarities to their products — or would you? Apparently Tesla feels like you should. In fact, fact, Tesla is desperately competing with Apple; but instead of market share, it wants something much more important over the long run: talent. According to a new Bloomberg article, Tesla is aggressively poaching engineers, lawyers, and other employees from the Cupertino-based tech giant — 150 as of last count.

Unsurprisingly, Apple isn’t happy about this. Bloomberg reported that Apple is itself trying to woo Tesla employees with “signing bonuses of a quarter-million dollars and salary increases of up to 60%.” This is good work if you can get it, and it shows the importance of human capital to an organization.

A long-term competitive advantage

It’s unfortunate that Wall Street analysts focus on revenue and earnings without considering the strongest long-term driver of results: innovative employees. And when employees are cited for spectacular results, it generally tends to be only the CEO or other C-Suite management types. While prudent vision and management is important, so are those on the front line adding value every day.

Wall Street tends to look at labor quite unfavorably, mainly due to the fierce clashes of yesteryear between management and labor unions. Those battles are mostly over, and capital won in a rout as labor union participation in the private sector is less than 7% — but the nasty relationship has remained. In many cases, management views labor (read: employees) as something that needs to be controlled and culled. Even now, conversations about company productivity tend to revolve around doing the same with less rather than “scaling up” (doing more with more).

That’s unfortunate. Quality employees might not show up on the balance sheet, but they are perhaps the best long-term advantage any company could have. Apple and Tesla shareholders can rest assured these two companies understand that.

A tale of two companies

For perhaps the best example of two distinctly different human capital strategies in action in a familiar industry, look no further than Wal-Mart WAL-MART STORES INC. WMT 0.7% and Costco COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION COST -0.68% . Both Wal-Mart and Costco pursue a low-cost strategy, but Costco as of June 2013 reportedly paid its hourly employees $20.89 per hour on average, versus Wal-Mart’s $12.67.

And how is that working out for the two? Over the last four fiscal years, Wal-Mart has grown revenue by 3.9% per year while Costco’s sales have risen at an annualized rate of 9.6%. While there are notable differences between the two companies, mainly the revenue generation model and scale, Wal-Mart’s woes seem to center on poor staffing, inadequate stocking, and a poor shopping experience. These are all problems that arise from an extreme low-cost model.

In the end, business models can be copied, copyrights and patents expire, and products get old. Meanwhile, successful businesses and brands can innovate on a daily basis. To do that you need to employ and retain better talent than your competitors have. It seems Apple, Tesla, and Costco understand that investing inhuman capital is an important part of business. I’d encourage Wal-Mart to work on this overlooked asset.

 

TIME Innovation

The U.K. Is Making Rules for Driverless Cars

British Transport Minister Claire Perry and British Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills Vince Cable ride a driverless 'Meridian' vehicle in London, Feb. 11,2015.
Andy Rain—EPA British Transport Minister Claire Perry and British Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills Vince Cable ride a driverless 'Meridian' vehicle in London, Feb. 11,2015.

It's all part of an ambitious, nationwide program to put self-driving cars on the road

The United Kingdom is paving the road for driverless cars by reviewing road regulations and launching autonomous driving trials across the country.

By the spring, the government will publish guidelines that will allow the testing of driverless cars to begin in the country, BBC reports. A full review of current legislation will be completed by the summer of 2017. The effort will involve rewriting highway regulations to take into account the effect of automated vehicles on traffic.

The U.K. is also providing £19 million—or about $29 million—to launch driverless car projects in four locations, including a vehicle called the Lutz Pathfinder pod, which will be tested on the pavements of Milton Keynes this year.

“Driverless vehicle technology has the potential to be a real game-change on the U.K.’s roads, altering the face of motoring in the most fundamental of ways and delivering major benefits for road safety, social inclusion, emissions and congestion,” said transport minister Claire Perry.

[BBC]

TIME Innovation

5 Things You Need to Know About the Coolest Company Google Owns

Boston Dynamics makes incredible robots that look like animals

What’s cooler than robots? Robots shaped like adorable puppies, of course.

That likely explains why a new video of a robotic dog is making the Internet rounds. The dog, named Spot, is from Boston Dynamics, a robotics company Google acquired in 2013. Google has been relatively quiet about its growing robotics ambitions, but there’s plenty to be gleaned by understanding how Boston Dynamics operates and why Google bought the company.

Here’s what you should know:

Boston Dynamics has been around for a long time

The company was founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, a former researcher at MIT. Boston Dynamics originally focused on developing human simulation software used to train law enforcement. But Raibert had done extensive research on robotic mobility at MIT and Carnegie Mellon, leading the company to eventually expand to producing robotic machines.

They’ve built a whole robot animal kingdom

Spot is not Boston Dynamics’ first animal-like design. The company has also built BigDog, a 3-foot long, canine-like creature; WildCat, which can run at speeds of 29 miles per hour; and the six-foot humanoid robot Atlas.

Mobility makes their robots special

Boston Dynamics’ robots are renowned for their incredible balance. In the video of Spot, company employees can be seen kicking the robotic dog, trying to topple it over. However, Spot simply staggers sideways a few steps and easily regains its footing. The larger BigDog can walk up slopes as steep as 35 degrees and navigate through snow, water and muddy hiking trails.

Broadly, Boston Dynamics’ goal is to create a fleet of robots that can easily navigate real-world terrain. This could be useful for everything from sending Atlas into a disaster zone to letting Spot clean up a cluttered apartment (sorry, DJ Roomba).

They work with the military

Boston Dynamics has partnered with DARPA, the U.S. Navy, the Army and the Marines, according to its website. BigDog was funded in part by DARPA and is envisioned as a kind of robotic pack mule that could accompany soldiers on missions. The robots are incredibly strong—check out BigDog hurling a cinderblock—but to this point their uses seem centered on aiding people, not being weaponized to hurt humans. There’s a growing debate within the United Nations about whether nations need to establish rules about weaponied “killer robots” before they become easy to produce.

They’re part of Google’s robot army

Boston Dynamics is the most famous of Google’s robotics acquisitions, but the search giant snatched up at least seven other robotics companies in 2013. It also put Android creator Andy Rubin in charge of a new robotics division, though Rubin said last October that he was leaving Google. Google hasn’t said what it plans to do with all these robot companies, but the New York Times reports it will initially target enterprise customers and offer robots that can be used in manufacturing or retail.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 10

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

1. Is the technology that is supposed to increase resilience actually making us vulnerable?

By Colin Dickey in Aeon

2. Stock buybacks — usually to prop up a corporation’s perceived value on Wall Street — are draining trillions from the U.S. economy.

By Nick Hanauer in the Atlantic

3. The Navy of the future wants to use lasers and superfast electromagnetic railguns instead of shells and gunpowder.

By Michael Cooney in Network World

4. An after-school culinary skills program gets teens ready for work — and thinking about food in our society.

By Emily Liedel in Civil Eats

5. The next wave of bike lanes in London could be underground.

By Ben Schiller in Fast Co.Exist

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

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 9

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

1. A humanitarian intervention for Aleppo could provide a glimmer of hope in Syria.

By Ana Palacio in Project Syndicate

2. The U.S. needs a new Church Committee to strengthen oversight of our intelligence services.

By Michael German at the Brennan Center for Justice

3. A regional force is the wrong approach to fight Boko Haram — and might make things worse.

By Hilary Matfess in Al Jazeera America

4. The mystery of autism might be unlocked by studying the microorganisms in children’s stomachs.

By Ruth Ann Luna at the Baylor College of Medicine

5. Test for HIV and syphilis with an iPhone.

By Tasbeeh Herwees in Good

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.

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