Five big ideas from Nathan Myhrvold, the original ‘mad scientist’ from Microsoft


Do a search on “Nathan Myhrvold” and “mad scientist,” and also you’ll get almost 2,000 hits, together with profiles from the likes of The New Yorker, Esquire and Men’s Journal.

Myhrvold, nevertheless, would in all probability choose the title of “polymath”: Over the course of his profession, the 60-year-old tech wizard has been a postdoc physicist underneath Stephen Hawking’s wing, Microsoft’s first chief technology officer, founding father of Intellectual Ventures, creator of Modernist Cuisine and other high-tech cookbooks, and a researcher into subjects starting from dinosaur tails to near-Earth asteroids.

The polymath held forth for greater than an hour on such issues and extra, with out slides or notes, throughout a Seattle meet-up offered on Wednesday by the realm’s Hacker News fan group and Cofounders Connect. Is Myhrvold actually mad? Take a look at these 5 huge concepts from the speak, and then you definately inform me:

Utilizing AI to diagnose illness

Global Good – a enterprise involving Mental Ventures and Microsoft co-founder Invoice Gates – has been working for years on synthetic intelligence purposes that may recognize the signs of disease. This 12 months, a research revealed within the Journal of the Nationwide Most cancers Institute confirmed {that a} machine-learning algorithm developed with Mental Ventures’ assist outperformed human visual inspection techniques and Pap tests in diagnosing cervical most cancers.

“Our diagnostic works on a single cellphone picture of the cervix, and it’s greater than 90 % correct,” Myhrvold stated. “We’re presently present process scientific trials in a few nations in Africa, and that’s fairly thrilling. You are able to do a calculation that will counsel, over a time frame if we get this rolled out, we may save the lives of a billion girls.”

Quantum metamaterials

Mental Ventures has spun out a half-dozen startups that make use of metamaterials, specifically designed digital constructions that bend electromagnetic beams in ways in which enable for antennas with out transferring components. The subsequent huge step will probably be metamaterials that make use of the weird characteristics of quantum physics.

“In case you make a quantum metamaterial, you would possibly be capable of make a room-temperature superconductor,” Myhrvold stated. “So that will be actually cool.”

Robotic pizza

After writing the “Modernist Cuisine” and “Modernist Bread” cookbook sequence, Myhrvold’s subsequent culinary mission is a magnum opus on “Modernist Pizza” (with Francisco Migoya as his collaborator). However earlier than that will get written, there’s nonetheless some further analysis to do. One of many attendees on the speak invited Myhrvold to go to Zume Pizza in the San Francisco Bay Area to see how the startup makes use of robotics and AI to make pizza extra shortly.

“We’ve been to 140 pizzerias,” Myhrvold replied. “We haven’t been to the Bay Space, but. We actually need to come see robotic pizza.”

Open-source furnishings

Myhrvold famous that the open-source strategy has revolutionized software program growth, and helped assist the rise of wildly worthwhile purposes together with cloud computing at Amazon Web Services. However are there different tech sectors that might profit from open supply? Myhrvold pointed to the maker neighborhood as one other instance.

“I wanted to get some furnishings, and I lately went concerning the world’s stupidest option to get furnishings: I purchased a five-axis CNC router,” he stated. The expertise taught him that “most issues aren’t difficult sufficient that it’s definitely worth the bother,” however he stated an open-source software program system that lets customers design and create difficult objects themselves may open up new frontiers for 3-D printing.

The way forward for tv

Again in 1994, Myhrvold foresaw that digital networks would revolutionize communications to the purpose that you just wouldn’t have to fret how a lot you have been spending per minute on a cellphone name. He foresaw that the grip of the Big Three TV networks would give option to a multiplicity of on-demand video choices. “The stranglehold that cable had on the time, I assumed would go away,” Myhrvold stated. “It hasn’t gone away as a lot as I might have thought it had.”

Myhrvold’s 1994 memo to Invoice Gates even predicted the rise of smartphones, nicely earlier than the iPhone was a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. “The opposite system that was in that [memo] was a completely programmable TV platform, and that hasn’t occurred,” Myhrvold stated.

“We have now set-top bins, and set-top bins have some extra options in them, and a few of them will do some voice recognition. The sport consoles have continued, and so they’re vastly extra highly effective now than they have been then,” he stated. “However we don’t have a platform for tv. All people’s tried, and everyone’s failed. Microsoft tried. Google tried. Apple tried. They usually’ve all been kind of … eh. So perhaps that’s one the place I simply get it mistaken, and the world won’t ever have that. That simply appears bizarre to me, however perhaps.”

Bonus spherical

In previous years, Myhrvold and Mental Ventures have are available for some grief from critics who noticed the corporate’s efforts as centered on “patent trolling.” Myhrvold has stated what he actually had in thoughts was to create a marketplace for intellectual property. However through the Hacker Information speak, he famous that Mental Ventures’ focus has shifted to supporting home-grown innovations, partly as a result of a landmark Supreme Courtroom ruling “made it nearly unimaginable to implement software program patents.”

“By and huge, we’ve achieved effective with each the innovations we’ve invested in, and we’ve achieved very well with the issues we invented ourselves … I believe I’ve received 4 or 5 hundred innovations, one thing like that?” Myhrvold stated.

Myhrvold stated he had little interest in going public with Mental Ventures, largely as a result of “the precise technique of being a public firm sucks.” (That’s a sentiment that might well be seconded by Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.)

Though Myhrvold didn’t deal with America’s present political local weather immediately, he did emphasize how necessary it’s to assist technological improvements – and the individuals who create these improvements, no matter the place they arrive from.

“It might be a really completely different continent if we had not drawn on gifted individuals from everywhere in the world,” he stated. “Now, for the time being, our administration has determined that’s a foul factor. With sufficient of the mistaken selections, we may go the identical manner because the Chinese language emperor that banned books and did quite a lot of different issues to destroy their technological society. We may f— it up. I hope we don’t, however we’re one tweet away from something as of late. And on that unhappy word, I believe I’ll finish!”

Timothy Kitchen, co-founder of Thunderpenny and an organizer of the Hacker News Seattle Meetup, streamed Myhrvold’s presentation on Fb Dwell. Organizers of the occasion additionally included Vlad Mkrtumyan, co-founder of Logic Inbound; and Jasper Kuria, managing partner of The Conversion Wizards, who moderated the Q&A. Here’s the archived video of Wednesday’s occasion.

Speaker Nathan Myhrvold — CEO of $6 Billion Invention & Funding Fund Mental Ventures and former Microsoft CTO 🙂

Posted by Timothy Kitchen on Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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