The SXSW Creativity Report, December 2

Written by Hugh Forrest | December 2, 2013

Motorized paper airplanes are another cool Kickstart project

A weekly collection of people, organizations, businesses, or events that have inspired us with their creativity.

1) Sentient Code from Stephen Wolfram

We are even more excited about Stephen Wolfram’s new project after taking in John Koetsier’s report in VentureBeat on November 29. According to this article: “Included in the new project is natural language programming — not that a program can be created exclusively with natural language, but that a developer can use some natural language. Also included is a new definition of literally anything in your application — from code to images to results to inputs — as being usable and malleable as a symbolic expression. There’s a whole new level of automation and a completely divergent approach to building a programming language, away from the small, agile core with functionality pushed out to libraries and modules and toward a massive holistic thing which treats data and code as one. And there’s a whole new focus on computation that knows more about the world than the programmer ever could.” Learn even more details on this new concept at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival, where Wolfram will serve as a Feature Speaker.

2) Motorized Paper Airplanes

Yes, we all love to dream about privatized rocket ships and the potential of next generation space travel. And, for most of us, this love affair with the magic of flight started at a very young age when we launched our first paper airplanes. Re-live that initial spark of excitement via a new project on Kickstarter that connects your smartphone to your favorite folded creation to allow for an extended orbit. A pledge of just $40 gets you the basic package, with a scheduled May 2014 delivery date. Also, remember that paper airplanes are so much more peaceful and playful than drones!

3) John Cleese Gets His Creativity On

In recent weeks, the 1991 lecture on creativity from John Cleese of Monty Python fame has been regaining lots of traction on the interwebs. Indeed, his insights on thinking differently are touching, timeless and full of wit: “Telling people how to be creative is easy — it is only being creative that is difficult.” Watch the full 30-minute video by clicking here. Or, if your time is more limited, then take in the 11-minute version, which includes five useful (but unorthodox) insights from Cleese: “The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”

4) Two Bills Are Even Better Than One

Steven Levy’s interview with Bill Gates and Bill Clinton in the December issued of Wired provides an amazing example of big-picture thinking. Whether you believe in American Exceptionalism or not, reading this piece will remind you that some of the nation’s smartest thinkers have devoted a significant amount of their attention to solving some of the world’s biggest problems. Said another way, an optimistic outlook about a better future for humanity is perhaps the greatest gift of this (or any other) holiday season.

5) Vaclav Smil Abhors Outsourcing

Speaking of Bill Gates, he recently gave this glowing endorsement of a little-known University of Manitoba professor: “There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.” Read the profile of Smil from Clive Thompson and you may understand the attraction. One of the biggest problems for America’s future says Smil is that we have outsourced manufacturing and therefore innovation: “Most innovation is not done by research institutes and national laboratories. It comes from manufacturing—from companies that want to extend their product reach, improve their costs, increase their returns. What’s very important is in-house research. Innovation usually arises from somebody taking a product already in production and making it better: better glass, better aluminum, a better chip. Innovation always starts with a product. . . . Look at the crown jewel of Boeing now, the 787 Dreamliner. The plane had so many problems—it was like three years late. And why? Because large parts of it were subcontracted around the world. The 787 is not a plane made in the USA; it’s a plane assembled in the USA. They subcontracted composite materials to Italians and batteries to the Japanese, and the batteries started to burn in-flight. The quality control is not there.” Bah humbug after all.

Paper airplane images courtesy Photos.com.