Silver screen

Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Clint Eastwood pulled the trigger, ahead
One more stupid bad boy dropped dead
Siddy dropped his popcorn and said
“I wonder what’s behind the silver screen”

The bandits turned their horses to fly
I turned to Sid and gave my reply
“It’s just a pair of speakers, now why
D’you wonder what’s behind the silver screen?”

He said:
“If we’re nothing but a beam of bright light
Moving on a sheet in the night
Caught between our fear and delight
I wonder what’s behind the silver screen”

He left his seat and jumped through the screen
Right between the good and the mean
Since then my friend has never been seen
I wonder what’s behind the silver screen

See also The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Kate Bush Spot

Kate BushOver at Pandia my wife and I try to keep track of the latest development in the social web scene.

One service we are particularly fond of is Fanpop. It is not as popular as MySpace and Facebook, and for a while we actually believed it would die from lack of oxygen.

Now, a year since we covered Fanpop the last time, it seems that it has reached the critical mass needed to deliver thriving online communities.

So, I spent some time yesterday catching up with the site, and Susanne helped me set up my first Fanpop spot.

A spot is a kind of mini web site or portal focusing on a particular topic.

You may include videos (often fetched from YouTube), add links to online resources, put up comments, start a discussion forum and add pictures. So it is both a directory containing relevant resources and an online community.

I found to my surprise that there was no spot for one of my favorite pop artists Kate Bush. She definitely deserves one, so Susanne and I found some illustrations, added some videos (including the brilliant Cloudbusting video with Donald Sutherland) and put up some links to Kate Bush sites.

If you are into her music, do take a look at the Kate Bush spot. And please add some comments! I gain “points” that way.

The electric car Th!nk and the timing of innovation

We all have a tendency to think that there is something inevitable about great innovations, but the fact is that timing is extremely important. If you launch a new invention, product or idea before the time is ripe, society will ignore it.

There may be several reasons for this:

Think from Norway

  • The necessarily infrastructure may be missing (hydrogen cars without hydrogen stations)
  • The ideological climate may not allow it (selling vodka in Saudi Arabia)
  • The entrepreneur does not have the marketing competences needed (marketing a high quality mobile phone with an old fashioned design to the in-crowd)
  • Lack of funding (do you know a good venture capitalist, and can you convince her?)
  • Bad luck (didn’t meet the right person at the right time)
  • etc.

The electric Th!nk car is an innovation that has failed repeatedly because of bad timing:

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On the rationale for innovation policy development

Learning and innovation is considered the engine of technological change and economic growth. Hence knowledge and innovation policies lay much of the foundation for the future welfare development of most industrialised countries.

It is therefore important that they develop sensible, coherent strategies in this area, as well as a set of policy measures that meet the specific needs of each country’s industry and social structure.

To develop such strategies, policy makers need a clear idea about how innovation takes place in society. And having taken part in research and innovation policy development both in Norway and in Europe for some 16 years, I know that that is not an easy task.

The systemic approach to learning and innovation

Innovation policies in the European countries are increasingly influenced by the so-called systemic approach to learning and innovation. It is also part of the policy discussions of countries as diverse as South Africa and New Zealand.

According to this view technological advance and competence building is characterized by constant interplay and mutual learning between different types of knowledge and actors, including firms, institutes, universities, sources of financing, relevant public agencies and more.

In short: The old linear model depicting science as the engine driving innovation is dead.

This new systemic view of technological change and competence development also forms the basis of, for instance, the EU Trend Chart on Innovation.

According to this way of thinking public authorities may encourage innovation by strengthening learning and by developing efficient networks for the distribution of knowledge and personnel. The general framework conditions for innovation, including taxation, physical infrastructure, public institutions, laws and regulations must also be taken into consideration.

This is why we now witness a new interest for the so-called third generation, “holistic”, innovation policy, i.e. an innovation policy that also includes policy areas that are not directly targeting innovation in companies as such, including educational policies and environmental measures.

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Buddha on the beach

The boy sat still for hours
He built a city in the sand
There’s the royal castle
There’s the baker with his band

The boy sat still for hours
His town was out of reach
He watched the tide approaching
Like a Buddha on the beach

The Moon takes 14 days to grow
And 14 days to die
No wonder she rules the tide

Buddha image from the Big Buddha at Koh Samui, Thailand

(I took the picture in Thailand at Koh Samui. This is one of the Buddha statues found behind the large “Big Buddha”. The lyric was written a couple of years ago for the Sandstone project.)

Understanding the Norwegian Puzzle

How can a country that seems to invest so little in research and development become one of the richest in the world? The explanation may bring us new insight into the relationship between learning and innovation on the one hand and economic growth on the other.

One great part of working in institutions like the research institute NIFU STEP and the Research Council of Norway is that you can discuss the phenomena of learning and innovation with a lot of clever people.

Over at NIFU STEP I had for instance a lot of interesting conversations with Johan Hauknes on the reasons for Norway’s strong economic performance. Another NIFU STEP researcher, Aris Kaloudis and I, brought important points from this discussion into the EU Commission Trend Chart on Innovation as early as in 2004.

Now I have the pleasure of taking part in intense discussion on this topic in the Research Council and with friends in the Innovation Norway agency. We are also discussing the matter with experts in the ministries, especially the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Tekna, The Norwegian Society of Chartered Technical and Scientific Professionals, has invited Norwegian economists and innovation experts to discuss the matter in their “Kunnskapsdugnad”.

The OECD is puzzled

The recent OECD Economic Survey of Norway (Volume 2007/2 – January 2007) was the first of its kind with a separate chapter on innovation. This chapter followed up on a national discussion on what has been called “the Norwegian paradox” or “the Norwegian puzzle”. In the OECD report this was formulated in the following way:

“The Norwegian puzzle is that despite weak innovation inputs and even weaker outputs, Norwegian per capital incomes are very high by international comparisons, even excluding oil earnings. Furthermore the level and growth of total factor productivity – TPF – has been respectable by international comparisons.” (p. 125)

The OECD commission points out that although measurement is incomplete, R&D intensity appears weak, patenting is moderate and business surveys report a limited interest for innovative activity: “Yet,” the report says, “the level of productivity is high in the mainland economy and its trend growth enviable, showing a capacity to absorb innovation spillovers and undertake organisational and managerial changes.”

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Double the value of your iPod

First of all, buy a decent set of earphones!

Black video iPodAs a young student in the early 1980s I bought my first proper NAD stereo paid financed with my summer job salary. The sound from the Boston loudspeakers was amazing compared to my old portable cassette radio, and I learned to appreciate the importance of a good receiver.

Fast forward to 2007: The old NAD LP turntable is now in the basement, and we haven’t used the living room CD player for over a year.

We are still buying CDs, but now we rip them in iTunes and put them up on the shelf, never to touch them again. Our primary mode of listening to music has become our iPods.

Here comes the paradox: The sound quality of a regular iPod setup is lower than my old cassette radio’s! So although a iTunes/iPod setup is a huge step forward as regards practical management of a music collection, it seems to represent a sad step back as regards sound quality.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and I am going to present a few steps that may give you back that great feeling of finally being able to listen to the music in the way it was supposed to be enjoyed.

1. Buy some great loudspeakers to your PC/Mac
Harman Kardon Soundsticks II 2.1 speakers
We have come to the point that we listen more to music when working on the Mac than in the living room. Adding a decent set of loudspeakers and a sub woofer to your computer setup, will improve the listening experience significantly.

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