My goal in this blog is to distill meaning from the seemingly endless river of advances in science, technology, and business.
The challenge I find in reading about new technology innovations is that most of the articles are noise. It can be fun to read a breathless press release about a graphene battery or perovskite solar panel or LIDAR for a self-driving car, but these stories are often solitary, stripped of any context. Tech articles describe the details well, but don’t provide any more than a sliver of understanding of which are important, or how or when they will be integrated into products that change our lives.
So we are left to wonder: Is it worth learning what all these fancy words mean?
To use journalistic lingo, most articles are from the “sell side” – stories that inventors offer to tell the world how great their singular advance will be. But I’m an inventor myself, so I have some insight behind the hype. My focus is instead the “buy side” – should you buy what a company or scientist is telling you? Does the advance really matter? And most importantly, does this kind of advance change something that we personally value in life?
I focus on technologies that influence the environment, jobs, and society because that is where I find meaning. And I find it hard to maintain my own interest unless I also understand the stories behind the technology: Where did it come from? How will it make a difference to me? And why should I believe it?
So what you’ll get here are longer stories that ask substantive, value-laden questions about how technology innovation will change our world. My hope is that by the end of each, you’ll understand the what, how, and why. And together, we can use that knowledge to invent a better world.
Perspicacity is “the quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness”. This 1966 story from the journal Science about astronaut recruitment efforts sums up its meaning in a more practical way:
To quote an Academy brochure, the quality most needed by a scientist-astronaut is “perspicacity.” He must, the brochure says, be able to quickly pick out, from among the thousands of things he sees, those that are significant, and to synthesize observations and develop and test working hypotheses.
The word has dropped in popularity in the last half-century. It’s time for it to come back.
Seth lives in Longmont, Colorado and works as a technology innovation consultant. He has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Caltech, which he got in order to satisfy a long-standing itch to understand how the world works. But it’s probably just as useful to know that he has a bachelors from a really good liberal arts college, has co-founded several startups, and has over 80 issued US patents in a bunch of different fields, from energy storage to medical devices to software. You can reach him at seth /at/ perspicacity /dot/ xyz.