The Art of Scientific Innovation

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9780131473423: The Art of Scientific Innovation

For courses in engineering and science. Designed to help researchers move from passive thinking to creative thinking, overcoming knowledge and technological barriers, this text discusses the art of innovation and scientific invention. Included is a set of classic patents which have had an impact on society. The major inventions discussed are based on patents in electrical engineering, computers and communication. Provides tolls for research students to be more creative.

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Creativity, invention, and the requisite research environment essential for paving the way for new inventions and innovations are the subject matter of this profoundly important work. It is written by two highly accomplished authors who share substantial Bell Laboratories background, significant academic credentials, and an obvious passion for characterizing scientific innovation. It speaks to the need for restoring a climate of creativity and the thrill of in-depth research that inspired so many well-known inventors, engineers, and scientists in the past. The book illuminates the scientific process, with emphasis on inventions as disclosed in patents, providing the reader with insights into the realm of innovation and creativity. The primary audience consists of students of engineering and science. In addition, the subject matter should be of profound interest to working engineers and managers of any technical organization.

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Creativity can be a controversial topic. It has drawn considerable attention during the latter half of the 20th century. Stemming from imagination, creativity extends into the realm of finding new principles, concepts, relationships, and ways to solve problems. There is no precise scientific definition of the underlying concepts dealing with creativity, nor is there a standard operating procedure for the practice of creativity. As a result, we have used utmost discretion in keeping subjective opinions out of the material presented here. However, we were constrained by our own perceptions and judgments in selecting the breakthrough patents included in his book.

There is good reason for stressing the breakthrough nature of the earlier patents and the nature of innovations commonly documented in the later patents. Whereas we live an information-rich society influenced by the existence of high-speed networks, the Internet, and instant access to information, earlier scientists lived in an information-poor, but imagination-rich, society. This leads to basic differences in the nature and thought embedded in the creative process. This shift in paradigm is a major focal point of the book. It is possible to find more diversity in the thought process than what meets the eye on an initial reading of the patents presented the book. The comparison of fundamental concepts on which these patents are based provides substantial insight into the inventor's thought processes and intentions.

It is our objective to make this material available to those students and those individuals starting new careers in research and development who intend to make a genuine contribution to knowledge. Such contributions naturally vary from area to area, specialty to specialty, and discipline to discipline. However, the creative process as a broad concept unifies all scientific activity. We attempt to capture one such portrait of creative activity in the area of technology and present it as a possible guide and strategy in the evolving knowledge society. In addition, in the context of mentoring others who are working towards their advanced degrees, we feel we can substantiate the statements in the patents presented in this book and discuss the circumstances that led to these inventions.

We feel certain that many other authors writing on the art of innovation would present the material in a different manner. Nevertheless, it is our hope that the book will serve to help students and those dedicated to enhancing the contour and structure of relational knowledge by exploring the creative frontiers of great scientific minds. This is a highly variable and personalized activity and there is no intellectual highway. Many times, it takes many decades of effort and sometimes it requires a quantum leap. The mental process in this area is too complex to be described with mathematical precision or to be documented in complete detail. However, a certain amount of logical and inductive reasoning applies, and sometimes extrapolation and predictive reasoning become the only way out. Imagination, the use of creative graphics, portrayals of scenarios, and the consolidation of mental objects encountered in analyzing and solving mathematical equations, expressions, and identities all can help. It is the structure and the interaction that-become the solution to the riddle of scientific invention.

Even so, scientific invention is more than a riddle. Numerous factors combine to provide the circumstances and the environment that surround the time and location of an invention. The personalities and genetic predispositions of the scientists, their sensitivities, their acquired training and traits, and their opportunities and interactions all play a decisive role in the chain of events that culminates in an invention. The most sophisticated software provides no match for the mental activity that leads to invention. Otherwise, inventions would become programmable.

However, today the sophistication of software and of the processing power of computers does allow investigating patterns and recycling ideas. The underlying similarities in syntactic pattern recognition are within striking distance of the door to creativity. In a sense, the definition of creativity defies programmability. However, the element of chance that used to be buried in the subconscious of scientists now becomes an exhaustive search in a very close region of investigation. Then again, the close man-machine interplay may just be the initial barrier, and the machine may end up exploring the most promising venues. Two such examples that have substantially influenced the research community are Atal's algorithms for the predictive coding of human speech and Karmakar's algorithm for the efficient solution of large linear programs. In both instances, the convergence of human ingenuity and the (almost) boundless computational power of the computer are evident. The outcome of both of the contributions is remarkable.

In the first case, the predictive coding techniques for speech retrieve the symbolic characteristics of the vocal tract that produced the initial segment of speech. The temporary storage of these characteristic parameters and their subsequent use in digitally encoding the speech greatly reduce the bit rate requirements for encoding the rest of the speech. Predictive coding is successfully deployed to carry telephone conversations over wireless media, where the bandwidth is somewhat limited.

In the second example, the search for optimized solutions is based on Karmarkar's algorithm. The process uses the interior-point method to solve very large linear-programming problems. This algorithm provides solutions much more quickly than earlier ellipsoid methods. Very large optimization problems are quickly solved. In a sense, part of the solution lies in the correct formulation of the problem and in the correct choice of variables for which the optimization problem in polynomial time is going to be solved. When the initial knowledge bases/databases are empty, the ingenuity of the human is the last and only recourse for innovation or invention. Sometimes the genius or the circumstance lies here. In a very realistic sense, Atal's predictive technique and Karmarkar's computational approach would assume a highly different flavor of human thought from Louis Pasteur's observation of the interdependence between cowpox and smallpox.

Computer-aided creativity, though not an impossibility, is a contradiction in terms. On one hand, creativity is the highest state of intellectual activity. On the other hand, modern machine intelligence is presently competing with the intricacy of the human thought process. Random coincidences, correlation, and events are more systematically and expeditiously analyzed by machines than by humans. The machine searches are far more extensive and global than a chance phenomenon in the human mind. Knowledge banks derived from machine searches and pattern recognition are much more systematic and programmable than the scrap papers on which human beings write. There is good reason to believe that the nature of research will undergo an evolution of the type that computer-aided design (CAD)/computer-assisted manufacturing (CAM) has brought to industry.

In academia, the scenario is as follows: Whereas the research student will still perform the intellectual activity, the machines will provide the tools and process knowledge and information based on documented and available literature. The reward is the increased number of inventions and level of innovation, at the expense of not challenging the documentation and literature itself or the manner in which inventions are developed and deployed. A short spurt of pseudo-innovations may become eminent. The surest dead end of long-term creativity is an overreliance on computer-aided creativity and machine-assisted pattern recognition without an awareness of the genesis of the patterns being investigated and matched. Computer-generated music, for example, can drown the senses rather than incite the genius that lies dormant within the mind.

The adaptive processing of knowledge, tempered by the judicious use of wisdom, is likely to be a human activity for a long time. Whereas computer-based innovation is likely to become boring and mundane, the human mind can "invent" new dimensions in creativity that intensify the process. We dare these students pursuing an advanced degree to overcome the boredom of computer-aided creativity. We believe that reinventing the innovative process can be at least twice as challenging and can lead to a unique mode of thinking that still needs investigation. The patterns of thought from one inventor can become manifest as the program in an integrated circuit (IC) chip in another inventor's device. In some instances, social and technological changes force past inventions (e.g., the abacus) to return as reincarnated superinventions (e.g., handheld computers).

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