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jerryking : serendipity   23

Opinion | Useless Knowledge Begets New Horizons
Jan. 3, 2019 | The New York Times | By Bret Stephens, Opinion Columnist.

Fundamental discoveries don’t always have practical uses, but they have soul-saving applications......In October 1939, as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were plunging the world into war, an American educational reformer named Abraham Flexner published an essay in Harper’s magazine under the marvelous title, “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.”

Noting the way in which the concerns of modern education increasingly turned toward worldly problems and practical vocations, Flexner made a plea for “the cultivation of curiosity” for its own sake.....The marriage of disinterested science and technological wizardry on the farthest-flung adventures of the human race is what John Adams had in mind when he wrote that he had to “study Politicks and War that my sons may have the liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.” It is among the greatest fulfillments of the American dream.....Typically, we think of the American dream in materialistic terms — a well-paid job; a half-acre lot; children with better opportunities than our own. Or we think of it in political terms, as an ever-expanding domain of ever-greater freedom and equality.

But prosperity, freedom, equality for what? The deep critique of the liberal society is that it refuses on principle to supply an answer: Each of us lives in pursuit of a notion of happiness that is utterly subjective, generally acquisitive and almost inevitably out of reach — what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill.” Religious cults and authoritarian systems work differently: Purposes are given, answers supplied, questions discouraged or forbidden, and the burdens of individual choice and moral agency are largely lifted. They are dictatorships of meaning.....Flexner’s case for such untrammeled freedom isn’t that it’s a good unto itself. Freedom also produces a lot of garbage. His case is that freedom is the license the roving mind requires to go down any path it chooses and go as far as the paths may lead. This is how fundamental discoveries — a.k.a., “useless knowledge” — are usually made: not so much by hunting for something specific, but by wandering with an interested eye amid the unknown. It’s also how countries attract and cultivate genius — by protecting a space of unlimited intellectual permission, regardless of outcome....All of this, of course, has its ultimate uses — hence the “usefulness” of Flexner’s title. Newton’s third law of motion begets, after 250 years, the age of the rocket; the discovery of the double helix delivers, several decades later, Crispr. It’s also how nations gain or lose greatness. The “reorganized” universities of fascist Italy and Germany had no place for Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi or Albert Einstein. They became the Allies’ ultimate weapon in World War II.

Which brings us back to New Horizons, Osiris-Rex, InSight and every other piece of gear flying through the heavens at taxpayer expense and piling up data atop our already vast stores of useless knowledge. What are they doing to reduce poverty? Nothing. Environmental degradation? Zippo. The opioid crisis? Still less.

And yet, in being the kind of society that does this kind of thing — that is, the kind that sends probes to the edge of the solar system; underwrites the scientific establishment that knows how to design and deploy these probes; believes in the value of knowledge for its own sake; cultivates habits of truthfulness, openness, collaboration and risk-taking; enlists the public in the experience, and shares the findings with the rest of the world — we also discover the highest use for useless knowledge: Not that it may someday have some life-saving application on earth, though it might, but that it has a soul-saving application in the here and now, reminding us that the human race is not a slave to questions of utility alone.
breakthroughs  Bret_Stephens  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  Colleges_&_Universities  Crispr  curiosity  exploration  expeditions  free_speech  free_will  freedom  fundamental_discoveries  Joseph_Stalin  knowledge  op-ed  serendipity  soul-enriching  space_exploration  the_American_dream 
january 2019 by jerryking
Travel Agents? No. Travel ‘Designers’ Create Strategies, Not Trips. - The New York Times
By JOANNE KAUFMAN JULY 5, 2017

Affluent travelers are turning to travel designers, whose services go beyond booking trips to managing travel portfolios.....a subset of travel planners — they prefer the term travel designers — who do far more than simply book trips. They manage the travel portfolios of their affluent clients, mapping out a schedule that might, over a year, include mother-daughter weekends in the Caribbean, father-son heli-skiing, a romantic husband-and-wife weekend getaway and an elaborate summer trip for the whole family.....A high level of planning and involvement “is part of an emerging market where there are people who have more money than time and want expertise,” ..... For example, he said, “a traditional travel agent wouldn’t know to ask questions like ‘what’s the smallest plane you’d be willing to fly on?’”

Such clients,...may not be price sensitive, but are highly sensitive to perceived slights. “Someone I know professionally,” he said, “went on a trip to a remote location and was served frozen orange juice, and told me he would never use his travel designer again because he expected fresh juice.”

Often, long-range planning is a practical necessity. Some of the most sought-after lodges and boutique hotels have limited space.....my own take, a caveat, is that it is unclear whether the degree of planning involved leaves room for serendipity (See Add Uncertainty to Your Financial Plans - NYTimes.com)
affluence  boutique_hotels  concierge_services  curation  detail_oriented  high_net_worth  high-touch  hospitality  hotels  itineraries  long-range  luxury  planning  portfolio_management  serendipity  travel  travel_agents  uncertainty 
july 2017 by jerryking
Creativity vs. Quants - NYTimes.com
MARCH 21, 2014 | NYT | Timothy Egan

"Creativity remains so unquantifiable, it’s still getting shortchanged by educators, new journalistic ventures, Hollywood and the company that aspires to be the earth’s largest retailer, Amazon.com.

An original work, an aha! product or a fresh insight is rarely the result of precise calculation at one end producing genius at the other. You need messiness and magic, serendipity and insanity. Creativity comes from time off, and time out.
Aha!_moments  Amazon  contemplation  creativity  creative_renewal  genius  insanity  insights  messiness  quantitative  quants  sabbaticals  serendipity  slack_time  timeouts  under_appreciated 
march 2014 by jerryking
Hotels Add Libraries as Amenity to Keep Guests Inside - NYTimes.com
July 29, 2013 | NYT | By AMY ZIPKIN.

For hotels, the challenge is to persuade guests to spend more time, and money, in restaurants and bars, rather than venturing outside.

The Indigo Atlanta-Midtown hotel, for example, has a separate space in the lobby it calls the Library, with books, newspapers and coffee. The Indigo Nashville Hotel also has a library-style seating area.

Country Inns and Suites, with 447 hotels, now has an exclusive arrangement with Penguin Random, called Read It and Return Lending Library, that allows guests to borrow a book and return it to another location during a subsequent stay.

Scott Mayer, a senior vice president at Country Inns, says the goal is to provide guests, 40 percent of whom are business travelers, with “something they didn’t expect.”
hotels  libraries  reading  amenities  unexpected  perks  serendipity  hospitality 
july 2013 by jerryking
The Science of Serendipity
Q3 · 2011 | Think Quarterly by Google | WORDS BY Dave Allan, Matt Kingdon. The co-founders of ?WhatIf!, the world’s largest independent innovation company, explain how.

The best innovation leaders are good at asking questions that help make an idea real: what does it weigh? Can I put it in my pocket? What will be the consumer’s experience? What will they stop buying when they switch to our product?

One client of ours wanted to cut the time and expense of launching a new restaurant. They had budgeted $3m and several months. We took $150,000 and in three days had a pop-up restaurant running. We made plenty of mistakes, but we made them fast and cheap and we learned things that saved our client time and money.
innovation  serendipity  pop-ups  buyer_choice_rejection  restaurants  customer_experience  product_development  cheap_revolution  product_launches  questions  Michael_McDerment 
april 2013 by jerryking
How to Overcome Anxiety About What to Do in Retirement - WSJ.com
April 9, 2012 | WSJ | By ROBBIE SHELL.
Essay
A Lesson in the Joys of Learning
Later life offers a chance to embrace the unfamiliar. Including honeybees.
honeybees  serendipity  retirement  transitions 
may 2012 by jerryking
The serendipitous side of networking - The Globe and Mail
LEAH EICHLER | Columnist profile | E-mail
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jan. 06, 2012
networking  serendipity  Catalyst 
february 2012 by jerryking
Oops! - WSJ.com
JULY 7, 2008 | WSJ | By ROBERT D. AUSTIN, LEE DEVIN AND ERIN SULLIVAN
accidents  innovation  Medici  serendipity  IDEO 
december 2011 by jerryking
FT.com / Life & Arts - Lightning in a bottle
October 30 2010 | Financial Times | By Steven Johnson. The
physical density of the city also encourages innovation. Many start-ups,
both now and during the first, late-1990s internet boom, share offices.
This creates informal networks of influence, where ideas can pass from
one company to the other over casual conversation at the espresso
machine or water cooler....By crowding together, we increase the
likelihood of interesting ideas or talents crossing the companies’
borders. The proximity also helps to counter the natural volatility of
start-ups...Economists have a telling phrase for the kind of sharing
that happens in these densely populated environments: “information
spillover.” When you share a civic culture with millions of people, good
ideas have a tendency to flow from mind to mind, even when their
creators try to keep them secret....The musician and artist Brian Eno coined the odd but apt word “scenius” to describe the unusual pockets of group creativity and invention that emerge in certain intellectual or artistic scenes: philosophers in 18th-century Scotland; Parisian artists and intellectuals in the 1920s. In Eno’s words, scenius is “the communal form of the concept of the genius.” New York hasn’t yet reached those heights in terms of internet innovation, but clearly something powerful has happened. There is genuine digital-age scenius on its streets. This is good news for my city, of course, but it’s also an important case study for any city that wishes to encourage innovative business. How did New York pull it off?
ideas  creativity  innovation  cities  cross-pollination  urban  idea_generation  scenius  Steven_Johnson  proximity  information_spillover  unpredictability  serendipity  collaboration  densification  ideaviruses  volatility  network_density  start_ups 
october 2010 by jerryking
Marc Ruxin: The Death of Touch and the Lost Joy of the Unexpected
Marc Ruxin

EVP, Chief Innovation Officer, Universal McCann
Posted: June 29, 2010 02:24 PM
serendipity 
july 2010 by jerryking
L. Gordon Crovitz: The Search for Serendipity as Web Readers Miss Editors - WSJ.com
APRIL 5, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By L. GORDON CROVITZ.
The Search for Serendipity. Believe it or not, some Web readers are
starting to miss editors. "While digital media have given us access to
endless information from diverse sources, many of us focus our news
habits on narrow topics and familiar points of view. We end up
discovering fewer new ideas or opinions. In short, we have more
information but less understanding.

The challenge for modern information consumers becomes: How do you
discover what you don't know you want to know?

Old-time print journalists bemoan the absence of serendipity—the
accidental discovery of stories that readers didn't know they were
interested in reading."
curation  curiosity  digital_media  editors  L._Gordon_Crovtiz  print_journalism  serendipity  unknowns 
april 2010 by jerryking
London’s School of Life
July/August 2009 | Departures | By Rhoda Koenig. Equal
parts self-help, continuing ed, and highbrow social mixer, the School of
Life is an idiosyncratic temple of the mind. Possibly run this by Ross
Mayot as a way to grab market share from U of T' School of continuing ed
as well as growing a lead-in to June's idea city or November's CARP GM.

ideas for ideaCity:
buy ads at U of T continuing education.
buy ads at the continuing education programs for Toronto-area alums of Queens, UWO, Waterloo, etc.
crowdsource seeking the best ideas for how ideaCity could expand its market.
position ideaCity as a unique retirement gift.
position ideaCity as a unique retirement gift spousal gift
continuing_education  serendipity  London  ideas  life_long_learning  ideacity 
january 2010 by jerryking
Perspective: The endangered joy of serendipity
Published March 26, 2006 | St. Petersburg Times | By WILLIAM MCKEEN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
serendipity 
december 2009 by jerryking
In the Hunt - Finding the Path to Success by Changing Directions - NYTimes.com
By BRENT BOWERS
Published: September 9, 2009

Andrew Zacharakis, a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College
outside Boston, said Scale Computing’s owners followed a classic
entrepreneurial path of shifting gears as necessary to seize real, as
opposed to perceived, opportunities.
entrepreneur  Sequoia  serendipity  serial_entrepreneur  pivots  data_storage  cheap_revolution  massive_data_sets 
december 2009 by jerryking
Practically Speaking - Creative People Say Inspiration Isn’t All Luck - NYTimes.com
Published: October 22, 2008 | New York Times | By MICKEY MEECE

Serendipity often plays a role in generating big ideas...inspiration,
but equally as important is having an open mind — especially in
tumultuous times like these. Big and small ideas are out there--if you
are looking for them.

2008 IdeaFestival was created by Kris Kimel whose own “Aha!” moment
occurred after attending the Sundance Film Festival and wondering about
hosting a diverse festival that celebrates ideas. In 2000, he helped
create the IdeaFestival, which brings together creative thinkers from
different disciplines to connect ideas in science, the arts, design,
business, film, technology and education. The goal is to promote
“out-of-the-box thinking and cross-fertilization as a means toward the
development of innovative ideas, products and creative endeavors.”
Aha!_moments  chance  conferences  contingency  creativity  creative_types  cross-pollination  entrepreneurship  ideas  idea_generation  ideacity  inspiration  luck  Mickey_Meece  open_mind  out-of-the-box  science_&_technology  serendipity  small_business  TED  thinking_big 
april 2009 by jerryking
Psychology Today: The Laws of Urban Energy
July/August 2007| Psychology Today | Anya Kamenetz
The world is flatter than ever. But while technology may give us each
the tools of creativity, it takes urban proximity and unpredictability
to sharpen them. One's mental garden buds, blooms, and proliferates when
cross-pollinated with the many other flowers and fruits crowding the
urban jungle. People come up with more and better ideas and produce more
results from those ideas by finding more collaborators as well as
critics.

By: Anya Kamenetz
cities  creativity  economics  urban  community  idea_flows  idea_generation  inspiration  cross-pollination  Anya_Kamenetz  playing_in_traffic  prolificacy  proximity  psychology  unpredictability  serendipity  collaboration  information_spillover  densification 
april 2009 by jerryking
Can a Click Replace a Glance?
March 24, 2009 | The American Prospect | Paul Waldman

Newspapers offered a serendipitous reading experience that online
formats haven't managed to replicate. "The real value of the open-stack
library, on the other hand, is not the book you were looking for, but
the book you happened across on your way to what you were looking for.
It's what you see and realize you're interested in, or what you might
never have thought you'd be interested in."
newspapers  reading  experience  online  serendipity 
march 2009 by jerryking

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