Butterflies All The Way Down

When I saw this a few minutes ago as I trolled through my daily folder, I thought of an email I got yesterday titled “turtles all the way down” that referred to an article yesterday on TechDirt titled What If The Very Theory That Underlies Why We Need Patents Is Wrong?  The article discusses a new paper out by my MIT advisor Eric von Hippel and his Harvard Business School colleague Carliss Y. Baldwin titled Modeling a Paradigm Shift: From Producer Innovation to User and Open Collaborative Innovation.

I expect this to be a key paper cited in the ongoing debate about software patents (and patents in general).  Anyone in the software industry will quickly understand this paper and the massive shift we’ve seen from a “producer innovation model” to a “open single user and open collaborative initiative model” of innovation. 

In the mean time, here are the butterflies.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

What do you think this is?  I’ll give you a hint – the little white line in the left corner is a scale that represents 5,000 km. 

  • Surface of the sun?

  • Chuck

    That would be my first guess too.

    At a scale of ~20k miles across the entire image, anything other than a celestial body (or maybe a planet) would be hard to imagine.

  • the astronomy picture of the day? http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

  • That also!

  • Web 2.0 bubble?

  • Dru

    Some type of solar pic – thermal spectrum or other…

    • Good guess – it's actually the surface of the sun.

  • Brad:
    Did you read the article?
    Just curious
    ~Rini Das

    • I read it closely.  And I strongly agree with the last paragraph: “Either way, it's yet another study that suggests our patent system is tremendously obsolete in terms of actually promoting the progress, and is set up in a way that favors a concept of innovation and invention that may not be how the world actually works.”

    • Yes – I read it very carefully. What point do you think I missed?

  • Trent

    What would Hank Rearden say about “collaborative” patents?

    • It’s not “collaborative patents” – it’s “collaborative innovation.”  And – I think Hank Rearden would be totally fine with no patents.  Rearden Steel wasn’t patented – it was a trade secret.  It’s a super important point – the government forced Rearden to hand over his trade secret to them.  He never had previously relied on a government granted monopoly (a patent) nor would he have.

  • I'll take your surface of the sun and raise you lighting in an ash column!

  • Right-clicked on the pix, which of course brought me to that fantastic image from NASA.

    Makes you just a little more aware of our place in the cosmos!

  • OK, so bit of a rant…(hope you'all enjoy a good rant) 🙂

    "Open Collaboration"? Hmmm. As a first time innovator who ISN"T already a "made man" with the "powers that be" VC investors I see "open collaboration innovation" from a different perspective.

    Because I am cash poor and having to bootstrap my disruptive and soon to be profitable idea in a somewhat slow fashion this "open collaboration with no patent protections" concept looks fishy to me.

    To me it smells more like a really good way for a lot of vultures with money to come steal my idea from me before I get a chance to get it up to speed and earn a living from it.

    Possible scenario from "Open Collaborative Innovation World"
    (Opening for your dining and dancing pleasure next year at Disney EPCOT! 🙂 )

    A first time entrepreneur comes up with killer new idea and researches it, prototypes it and gets initial positive market feedback showing it will be a viable business generating a profit.

    But unfortunately this innovator doesn't have cash to get the company rapidly built up around the idea and get to that critical mass where he can make enough money to feed himself and his family and offer jobs to a small group of like-minded visionaries who would like to help the innovator make the idea real.

    So he and his team "eat bean soup" and sweat and struggle and learn and work slowly on figuring out how to get the idea moving toward reality. Piece by piece and inch by inch they stick to it and make progress.

    But then, in hopes of moving faster, newbie innovator goes to a rich/powerful/cash laden group of VC's asking for startup funding.

    Several of the VCs love the idea but realizing the entrepreneur is a newbie and not already a "made man" in their "serial entrepreneur henchmen" stable. So they turn newbie down for funding.

    This is where the fun begins: (end of part 1 of rant)

  • (Part 2 of rant)
    Because it's a wonderful world of "no patents and open collaboration" the VCs immediately go grab 3 of their serial entrepreneur henchmen and have those 3 guys steal the newbie's idea. Because they are experienced and have VC backing they rapidly bring newbie's idea to market while poor newbie has to go begging back for his corporate job.

    Now this is all candy-corn and rainbows and "Willy Wonka-chocolate-waterfalls" for the VCs. They make the innovation happene and get their payday and can pat themselves on the back saying…

    "Open collaboration with no patents is just so darn wonderful! I love openly collaborating with my henchmen and fellow "mafiosa VC dons" in being being able to openly steal others people's ideas and dreams.

    You know those non-"made man" innovators are just posers and annoying. They really don't deserve to benefit from their ideas. I mean look at 'em. They can't make it happen fast enough! What peasants! If they weren't around for us to steal ideas from they would be completely worthless! We VC "Dons" have the money. We are the "innovation mafia". We own the "innovation neighborhood". People step on our innovation turf and they get "whacked"! It's the way of the world, my friend! Plus that newbie bastard wouldn't even kiss my "VC godfather" ring and tell me what a God on earth I am. Shameful!"

    Plus now on top of this, in this Wonka-esque wonderland of patent free living, not only can VCs steal the ideas from first time innovators, the big and small incumbent companies can fly in and also steal the idea with impunity.

    Is this really what we want to be happening on a regular basis?

    The whole core idea of innovation and entrepreneurship to me is where "the little guy" with an idea and chutzpah and perseverance can work at it for a few years and become the next Steve Jobs or Michael Dell or Larry/Sergey. Complete new guy innovators coming in and disrupting the establishment from rags to riches by the sweat of their brow. Thats the innovation world I want to live in.

    A world with ZERO opportunity for guys like that to succeed is not a world I look forward to.

    A world where cash-soaked and cash-crazed "powers that be" can steal every new idea they see from anyone they like is no way to keep the spirit of innovation alive.

    So I apologize but….it just strikes me that VCs calling for the abolishment of the patent system, instead of calling for it to be fixed, is a perhaps a bit self serving.

    It's like wall street bankers calling for Congress to allow them to invest in risky in mortgage-backed securities based on first and second derivative algorithms and then also being allowed to short those toxic assets for their own benefit while screwing their "customers"….and then GETTING AWAY WITH IT!

    Oh but I'm sure I'm sure those superhuman transcendant beings that have elevated themselves to "VC-hood" would never get corrupt in any kind of fashion like that, right? right…? Bueller, Bueller…?

    I'm old enough ,and non-naive enough, to step back buying that "swampland".

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If VCs get to run around randomly stealing ideas from newbie innovators and "whacking" them in the process AND GET AWAY WITH IT?

    They WILL!