tv Discussion on Innovation CSPAN September 17, 2018 6:29am-7:30am EDT
presley. who's going to make the change? not a bunch of leaders, it's you and us, it's all of us. [applause] >> and you can see what that call to action and the prescription, why we needed to have our third speaker b manny well. i want to saybefore it becomes a major motion picture you should buy this book . it really lays out in both detail and with inspiration how to look at and react to the fractured place our society is right now. and it's a wonderful read, as are the other two books so if you will join me, we are out of time but i wish we had twice as much.
we don't. if you wouldjoin me in thanking our authors and remember they will be signing outside the building their book . [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> thank you very much for joining us here to talk about what really drives innovation with two very accomplished and multiplatform talented authors who approached the subject from very different angles, quickly my name is sheila, staff writer at the new yorker, i cover business broadly defined there, i'm also a former hedge fund analyst, i published a book last year called black edge inside information, dirty money and the quest to bring down the most wanted men on wall street which is about a big insider trading investigation involving a group of corrupt hedge funds to innovation of a very different sort, i wanted to quickly
mention that our authors' books will be for sell outside the kiosk outside building and both will be signing immediately following the program, so please at the conclusion go right town there and get in line to get your book signed. so with me simon winchester, the professor and madman, atlantic, crack at the edge of the world, just a few, all of which were new york times best seller and appeared best and notable book lists. in 2006 mr. winchester was made officer of the order of the british empire by her majesty the queen which is very impress i have to me, i don't know, he looks very modest but he lives in western massachusetts, latest book perfectionist, how precision engineers created the modern world.
steven johnson is the best-selling author of ten books, is that right? >> 11. >> 11 now. the queen doesn't know who i am. [laughter] >> you have more twitter followers, i think, you win on that score. just to name a few of them, wonderland, how we got now, where good ideas come from, the ghost map and everything bad is good for you. he's the founder of several influential websites including the online magazine feed, the community site plastic.com and the hyperlocal site outside in. he's the cohost and cocreator of pbs how we got to now, steven lives in california and brooklyn new york, two of my favorite places in the entire world actually with wife and three sons and latest book is far sighted, how we make decisions that math the most. i want to ask you you both
approach innovation from very different perspectives, i wanted to start by asking, first, steven, give us overview of far sided and how it is with innovation? >> somewhat a book that you allude today where good ideas come from and squarely looking at innovation and the lessons were in innovation if you analyzed many different time periods, far sided which i've actually been working on and off for 8 years now which is appropriate for a book about long-term thinking is -- is a look at complex-life decisions, how we make them and in a sense some of the science behind how we make complex decisions and it actually starts with this kind of crazy excerpt from darwin's journals from 1838 in the middle
of the period in darwin's period where he's coming with the theory of natural selection and has all the notes about observations from the beagle and the idea of this, you know, really transformative scientific idea coming to the head on the page in these journals and at some point in the middle of the journals he devotes two pages to slightly different topic, different decision existential, different nature which is should he get married and what he basically does jots down pros and cons list and it's kind of a comical list if you look at it. one side is not mary and the other mary and writes the values he associates with both and hasn't aged particularly well and on the side of not marry, one of the advantages is clever conversation of men in clubs, one of the things he feels le give up if he gets married apparently and on the other side
you have things like constant companion and children if it please god he writes, but he also writes something like an object to be beloved better than a dog anyway. that's the line that he has which is unfortunate. i started because the pros and cons list is techniques that most of us do know for making complex decision in our lives and it actually dates back to ben franklin. so we have this kind of strategy for making complex decision and trying to be creative about coming up with all the potential variables and factors and that strategy has basically been stagnant for 200 years, we haven't seen innovation in terms of tools for making these kinds of choices and turns out that there's very rich literature, some of it scientific but some of it creative, artistic that
has developed over the last 30 or 40 years that actually does help us make more complex decisions and much of it overlaps with the tools and strategies that we use to be more innovative and creative in our lives, farsighted is lots of crazy stories, whole theme running through through it aboue march and novels and parallel simulation that helps us make choices and big analysis, the decision that led up to the raid on bin laden's compound. i think it's the only book, i believe in existences has threat of bin laden. but anyway, out of two weeks ago. >> already helped me make some complicated -- >> good, working. >> simon, could you explain what the perfection is, what you set out --
>> it's almost the same thesis as your book called how we got and looks machines that work properly and essential element that allows where that came from and included in the manufacturing of things and that's precision, and you can actually fix it, a date 1776 which is very nice for americans but not july the fourth but may the fourth, what i didn't know when i read this book being an old foggy is there's another significance to the date of may the fourth, i'm sure young people here would know exactly may the fourth be with you, it's star wars day which seems wonder fully and it began because
was incapable of making proper cylinders, when you put what he made it leaked steam all over the place and it's insufficient, 70 miles away from where he worked, the english midlands, 70 miles away the welch border, sord of a lunatic called wilkinson who was upset with metallic iron. he melted it and did all sorts of things with it, iron desks, before me too movement if he knew that a las was come he would lie and spring it and surprise her. >> that sounds like an effective
seduction. [laughter] >> he made cannons for the royal navy and developed a technique of drilling the iron, chunks of iron in such a way that the hole through is constant damage throughout and when james met him and tried to sell him a steam engine so that he could drill into the iron instead of hands using steam and showing wilkinson that he didn't know how to make cylinders properly, wilkinson said, i can make one for you, and he did. i should be very brief but introduce critical number into the story. will -- wilkinson how big is the pistol, he said 30-inches, 2 for 6 across. you can make a
cylinder 2 for 6 and a little bit that would be perfect. and so he did, he drilled a hole which was exactly 2-foot 6 and a little bit for about the 5 feet length, turned vertically, lowered the piston into it and once the governor, added to it and lit the fire and set the water boat boiling, so the steam engine started going like crazy without any steam leaking from it and at that moment which was the fourth of may 1776 one can legitimate say the industrial revolution began and the number that i was mentioning is the distance, tolerance between the piston and the edge of cylinder which was for thickness of english chilling which was point one of an inch and so that number marks the beginning of this book and he goes right up to the times where i think one
of the most precise mechanical things that's made to this day is also cylinder in one of the -- i don't know if you know, stands for the laser, gravitation, two of them, one in washington and one in livingston, louisiana, the cylinders are those pieces, they are four of them, polished and measured, they can detect changes in distance of one 10,000 diameter of a -- so you have .1 at the end of the scale and ten minus 19 on the other one and within the story is how we got to now. i should have given it your title. >> the book is organized that way. the chapters get -- the tolerance gets increasingly high, right, you say higher
tolerance which is one of the things that is so interesting when you think about books like, this there isn't a natural organizational structure, you're not just following the chronology of a single life or something like that so when you're writing a book like, this how do i organize this, what's the best way to -- to create what's best architecture for this book and so simon designed the whole book about increasing tolerance levels as you go into the book which is one of the most inventive -- >> sweet of you to mention that, i should go to how it all began, they sent me an e-mail clear water florida, he read my books and liked them and he said i'm a scientific glass blower, makes extraordinarily elegant pieces all over the world and he was fascinated with the idea of
precision and i could write a book about it. i read the story, english chilling and i realized the numbers could tell the story. [laughter] >> you both had really the same theme although you're thinking about it differently, how do you start to figure out what to put in the books -- >> many years ago and the epidemic in london, i thought we could use more intestinal disease today, good to cheer everyone up. it's funny thing about book
structure, the book follows the outbreak in london over the course of two weeks and every chapter is a day during that period and i knew i had this chronology that i had to follow on some level so anchored to that so i knew there was going to be this ticking clock, there's an investigation that's going on that leads to the discovery of the water-borne nature of cholera and during research to have book given the events of each day corresponding to these chapters, there was a way to attach to each chapter one particular theme that i was exploring in the book that mapped on to the events, so there's one chapter tells the story of the tuesday but it's also about the way in which cities recycled their waste and the thursday actually maps on to the biographical history and to this day, i think it's one of the more -- when i came up with
the idea that's really clever and this is going to add to the structure and interesting and add asymmetry to it and i'm very proud of that and no one has ever mentioned it. [laughter] >> in my review of the book, did very nicely. no one has ever picked up on that and i sometimes think that those are -- those are the kind of crucial organizational choices that are processed somewhere by the reader and the book works on some level because the structural decisions have been made, you know, in a smart way but they aren't showing and if the structure is right is flows. after the book came out, maybe the best light that i've gotten from a reader, someone wrote in and said, listen, i did ve --
research in london, soho in london and i mentioned in the book that marks was there and in residence between the outbreak had happened, he would cross to go, i love this to his fencing lesson because he would work congressman festo or capital or whatever he's working on and he would go take fencing class. the reader imagine if coming back from his fencing class he had been a little thirsty and stop at contaminated well and got sick and died out of the outbreak, thinking of how the course of history would transform because of that. >> i did a book few years ago, a
biochemist who fell in love and had an affair with a chinese lady and didn't leave his wife but maintained household with the two women and learned chinese and ended up writing the longest book on china ever written in english language, 24 volumes, 4 million words, he became civilization in china essentially demonstrating how china int vented almost everything from wheel barrel to air-conditioning and so on, he got himself terribly unstuck during korean war. he was a nudist and accordion player. brilliant fellow as his wife
dorothy. fell under if you like the communist party during korean war and invited to go over to china and korea to prove in quotes that the americans had used biological weapons in the korean war, infected with anthrax in northern part of chinese border and for that he was thrown out of college at cambridge but was banned from the united states. the ban was instituted at the time of mccarthy so he was sort of a communist legitimately banned from the united states. the ban was lifted, by which time he was elderly and master
of college at cambridge and distinction, finally let in and he went to, let in to get honorary degree from the university of chicago and give speeches at north western university, one of the speeches was on chinese gun powder, the view of the west that the chinese used gun powder purely for fireworks and never used it aggressive or military sense. in fact, he found a drawing from the second century ad, if you like to use the phrase, various bonds made by chinese using gun powder and drawing on the black board, very detailed diagram of the chinese bomb, second century, 2,000 years old roughly
and sitting in the back was a wild head mathematic student copying furiously everything he was saying and six weeks later precisely mimicking the design that demonstrated, he sent the first bomb off to someone at the university of michigan which exploded and killed security guard, he was the uni bomber. [laughter] >> so it had not been repealed, the unibomber had never occurred, i'm sorry, it's completely irrelevant. >> that's an amazing story. >> can i just talk about -- the two of us are interested in structure and i believe and i think you do the three key elements for nonfiction books, the principle idea, you might think that the next component in order is fancy s good writing, it's an important thing but it's
not as important i'm sure you agree as structure because you can write about the most wonderful idea and if your structures, you'll lose the intention of the reader and the reader will get asleep and never finish the book. that was the problem with steven's book with brief history of time. proved to be strangely organized and i -- i like you and very interested in organization and for instance when i did a book on the atlantic ocean, big, big subject, i decided to use the 7 ages of man from as you like it so child infancy, school child, soldier, lover, justice, old man returned to childhood, oddly enough you can coral everything you think you know about the atlantic into that structure, works very well, i'm wonder if you also used what you do structures. >> yeah, particularly with books like far farsighted an where
ideas comes from, there isn't a timeline necessarily, good ideas which ultimately being structured on these patterns of innovation that i was seeing in resthearnlg -- research that occurred in different stories and it would be across scales, innovation on the level of neurons. what is your work space and how do people create and on the scale of coffee houses an small clusters and cities and then networks and the internet and i think for like two years as i was researching and starting to write it, i had the structure in my head and i got to eventually when there's kind of this really
challenging thing when you're commit today a structure and you start to realize actually you've kind of been on the wrong horse and, you know, what i loved about the ideas in the book and writing the book is it would jump around a lot and i was too trapped inside the brain and the neuron level chapter and i was trapped inside the city and so i had to rethink the whole thing and that is emotionally draining because you so don't want to have to do that, you know, it's like renovating your house while you're living in it and which i'm kind of doing right now so i feel how painful that is. but i do think you have to get that right and -- and when you do, i do love that part of it, it's one of the things that whenever a friend of mine is writing a book, do you need my help with the structure? [laughter]
>> you only get to think about it once every couple of years with the book for myself and it's the one thing that i do love the imagine how, you know, how a book could open and the book i wrote invention of air which maybe you reviewed for publishers weekly years ago. [laughter] >> very nice of you. >> that could have been very awkward. [laughter] >> now finally i'm getting my revenge on stage. but that book jumps around in time, you start in the 1790's and go back to 1760 and you go back 200 million years, i'm going to write a history book but it's going to be structured like episode of lost, lost was on tv and it was doing all the interesting kind of time jumps and it was definitely one of the structural convexes --
conventions, the shape came into my head before i figured out how it was going to work with the actual facts to have book or the argument of the book, the inspirations can be really fun. >> while we are on the subject of process can you each explain how long it takes you write a book, simon on the phone the other day outlined this very intimidating one-year research, it's out and what is the sequence and how quickly, at what stage do you start the book, are you working at two in once? >> yes, one is the lesser book. >> the later? >> the lesser? >> at the moment, i hope tomorrow monday being working day and if everyone is back in the office that we will sign the contract for the next book for which i've said i'll deliver, fairly long, 175,000 words, 400
pages, more than that. >> yeah. >> on the 31st of march 2020 and hope that it can be published later or early 2021. so once i've got -- you are going to hate, maybe you do exactly the same in which case -- >> i'm not going to hate you. it's safe space. >> you gave a good review. [laughter] >> you can never hate me for the rest of your days. i did the research obviously what you're doing when writing proposal, so you are when you sign the contract and some money starts coming into your account, you're hitting the ground running, but i will start writing that book in, let me see due march 2020, at the end of, middle of -- yeah. june 2019, given me nine months to finish.
, what i do always is i put it at the top-left-hand side of my screen, 175,000 words, 180 days it is, do the math, 104 words a day or something and every day say i see machines that you see in hotels with your head behind -- >> is that on a post-it? >> top left -- sort of post-it. >> on the screen and you have countdown. >> i change it every day. if i'm really virtuous and i'm four days ahead i will take a bit of time off. thus far -- did you ever work for a newspaper? you worked for a mag seen and you had to have deadlines, the new yorker is flexible.
[laughter] >> sorry, you shouldn't be here. [laughter] >> i have my laptop. yes -- >> i worked for the essentially correspondence and you're sitting in places where i lived and you know what the deadline is for the addition of the paper that's coming out in london, and you have a meeting. can i say a story? >> please, you're here to tell stories. i was covering the war which gave us bangladesh, east pakistan and india in 1971 and india is 5 and a half hours ahead of london, 10:30, 6:00 o'clock deadline, it was 11:30 p.m. we would send stories to london, one circuit sort of every hour
and so we had an agreement among us that whichever foreign city we got through to which ever foreign newspaper, that we would download all the copy and in london or new york would pass it on and there was no competition. we've all got -- you have long strips, probably no one here knows what italics machine is, you round it around your hand, so you had the bizarre scene of 12 or 15 foreign correspondents wondering around the hotel lobby what looks like big bandages on their hands, all they want to do a beer and shower and go to bed and coffee but the telex machine does not spring into life about 11:30 on deadline. it does and all of us craned over it to see was it bbc
london, ny times new york or which was the foreign rodent that was going to talk to us, it was none of those. >> i recognized it to my horror it was my father in company in london typing one finger at the time, mother and i greatly enjoying stories you sending from india. it was so humiliating and embarrassing and ended up with deadly sign, mother says, simon while in india mother said simon, while in india take care to keep off the salads. i always had at least three
projects going in different stages so i try to have one book that i'm kind of wrapping up in and copy editing mode or promoting mode. it's just come out. and then one book i'm actually actively writing or researching. usually two or three ideas that are like planes on an approach. you're not totally sure what they are. what you have some sense a that you can write a book about this general topic. there is an efficiency reason to do that.ec once you send off that first manuscript. you get all of these collisions between the
i began to realize it's really good. as a trick in this book. to walk the reader through what was confronting this character at that particular moment in the middle of the indian ocean trying to decide whether to go after this ship into take the reader through that choice so that when they actually do make the choice tthey understand the full sake of it. i think it adds to the drama.
with the rise of all of these tech companies. the anxiety is coming out about those in front long time we were celebrating them for their innovation and coming up. now people are very anxious about the power and there's concern that they through the sheer size are stifling innovation. what is the downside of innovation. when can cause a problem. there is a really interesting exercise that gary klein came up with many years ago's. ou calls it a premortem.
once you've gotten to that stage.ec that you've you decided whether it's a personal pcision or corporate decision to release a new product into the world once you decided this is the pathway to go. run the premortem exercise. your job is to figure what killed the patient. the patient is going to die. imagine the story that willl explain the future death of the patient. take the time to run the simulation. tell us how this became a catastrophic failure. and as an exercise of the family ends up unlocking a lot of creative insight you wouldn't normally had what are the flaws in this model or this choice you're making.
if he asked them to actually tell the story of how it turns out to be a cash racket failure they end up seeing things they would not had otherwise seen. even if they don't do it they are aware of the pitfalls of that path. every startup in a disruptive space that is messy messing with the way people communicate they need to be running those internal premortem exercises. that's what facebook and twitter failed to do. t they just said working to connect everyone it's good to be fantastic. didn't actually take that question seriously. and let's imagine how the new
features could be exploited and do to really think about those alternate more damaging scenarios and take them seriously. i think we are starting to see this happen more. a lot of discussion about how this could be abused or in 40 or 50 years turn t into something that is threatening to us. i think it's a sign of progress my book is a bit more limited. i look at both mechanical position and electronic position. a classic case six or seven years ago with an airbus 380
taking off in one of those double-decker planes. taking off from singapore on its way to sydney. and they did for trenton 900 engines. and when up as high as it could go very quickly. the inboard port side engine exploded. they means to get back to singapore and then you have any breaks in the end everyone lived and everyone was all right. what have occurred was there:
oil feed stub pipe. have been misaligned. and that plane have taken off and they sought take off from los angeles it survived and it landed in london without incident. suddenly this tiny to narrow section fractured it all over the center of the aircraft. one begins to wonder if we are machining things to tolerance that are beyond human
can the precision continue to operate without becoming mysterious are reared. i loved the fact that i will summarize this. in japan and in korea where he just i just got back from and in china they still give awards to this day usually elderly men and women not making anything precise but working in the woods in ceramics and middleware two. but worshiping the imprecise. they regard bambi with the same agree of references.
no more writing about the 18th century coffeehouse. igat's where the enlightenment happened. it's what we now kind of call a third space. it's not work, it's not home is not the church. you have the great flourishing of new ideas that happened in england and actually when they took off they were so popular that charles the second issued an official decree banning coffee houses from london. these spaces are distracting men.
he was exactly wrong. it led to the invention of magazines and a lot of the publishing industry. it was an incredibly generous space. one of the things that made it so much like that. it was a multidisciplinary space. it was a space where people with eclectic interests would get together and have these open-ended conversations were industry collisions could happen. i'm not sure if necessarily the starbucks has the intellectual pop ad.
i think it's fascinating with what you said. so many of the heroes of the world i'd like to write about and james murray in english dictionary. they knew about everything. i want to know whether the people that run the great corporations that you are talking about a few months ago --dash make are there any other wants. please come forward and identify. it's a complicated answer. but the style of managing a corporation has really changed this nba financially oriented management style has come in. i think there has been a decline and those kind of people.
there has been a real change in the way that they are run. they are much more focused on short-term results for their shareholders. that is a sort of innovation that has had a lot of negative effects. >> their question was what could be disastrous for us, not for everybody else. we are going to talk about what they think. nobody wants to think about
those results. it was developed with our space. they were destroying it. we never includede for the industry. you still don't think about those things. in your area. is a really an important direction. as an example of a much more nuance and egg vans. is really what we see in sustainable planning decision processes that had developed. you consult all of the stakeholders. you just don't look at the
problems through a single lens. the environmental impactac of building a new park or a freeway. that is a science that has advanced a lot over the last 50 years. they factored in. this is not widespread yet. but things like this which were created. that was the big thing that changed 20 years ago. we are obliged to make sure that our shares go up in value. and executives that wanted to think about other impacts. actually kind of hamstrung legally.
my question is do you think the innovations that we are created now is like the next step to stifle creativity. it allows me to answer that question. that is where the future is. we check the artificial intelligence. everyone is suddenly saying now wait a minute. this is something we are busily creating and developing but we are not certain it's good for us in and the long-term ramifications. with the primitive awareness of it.
i think to answer your the answer your question in the back. that specific area one of the many things people must be concerned about they make too extensive end roads into our lives. ma well have the effect of the starving intelligence. i think it's what stifled out the innovation beforehand. maybe it's can be the new road to stifling our innovation and creativity. i think the path we should be pushing ourselves towards that
the diversity of interests and perspective makes us more innovative and better decision-making. that is going to include in the near future if it doesn't already and some problems can be best approached with a bunch of humans with a bunch of backgrounds. and an ai who g has a seat at the table. this is gonna be a can be a collaborative process.e we are probably good thing at things the computer is not. we can turn into a duet. that might be a better outcome. but if we hand over the reins entirely.in that is a scenario that i'm
worried about. we can control religion and people who wanted power. i think were at a time even though we could go on. thank you so much everyone for coming, just a reminder our authors are going to be signing books outside. c-span where history unfold daily. it was created as a public service by america's cable television company.
in public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. since then we've covered thousands of authors and book festivals totaling more than 54,000 hours of programming. michael eric dyson. in 2008 he was a guest on our monthly call-in program in depth. i used to think we could change a little bit here and a little bit there. and now had dick complete overhaul of society. he was at the nadir of his popularity.
but the stench and foul odor of his resistance was swept away by the sweet of party kids. as part of that re- founding fathers you can watch this and many other book tv programs from the past 20 past 20 years online and book tv network. here is a look at the current best-selling nonfiction books according to the new york times. at the top of the wall street journal's bestseller list. girl, wash your face. a memoir by the late senator john mccain. the russia hoax.
they place swedish physician thoughts on human progress in the seventh position. in ninth on the wall street journal bestseller list. and on the times listed. they look at the opioid epidemic in america. wrapping up our comparison of the wall street journal as the 12 rules of her life the journal. it's a soul of america. by john amico.