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How's everybody doing?
Are you as nervous as me?
Probably not.
So today I'm going to talk to you about
how to be a technology innovator without
an engineering degree or Asperger's.
If you look at something from one angle long enough
it becomes very difficult to see it from a different perspective.
Check out this picture. This is a burr.
It's one of those prickly plants that gets stuck to
your clothes when you're walking outside.
But what if you could look at the burr and think of Velcro?
The burr was the inspiration for the creation of Velcro.
I try to think like this whenever I learn about a new technology,
or about how anything in the world works.
How can one thing,
one technology be applied to something else in the world?
An example is a while back I learned about a new
waterproof film for electronics.
And I applied this exercise.
Where else in the world might a waterproof film be useful?
Then I realized, if you could stick a waterproof film into shampoo,
you could eliminate umbrellas.
Now, I have no idea if this is scientifically plausible
but it seems like a cool idea and it's worth exploring, right?
If you open your mind you can come up with really creative ideas
by connecting objects and technologies that on the surface
seemingly have nothing to do with each other.
Here's another example. This is the Breathe Right nasal strip.
This was created by a Disney Imagineer, not a doctor.
And one night he went to sleep and his nose was stuffy
and he realized that if you lift the skin on your nose
you can breath clearly.
And so he invented a strip that does just that
and the result is a multimillion-dollar product.
Space elevators, energy derived from water,
food that is synthesized from boxes of carbon and oxygen.
These kind of all seem like crazy ideas,
but maybe these ideas just haven't been fully explored yet.
We live in a world where we are divided by skill set
according to our educational backgrounds
and the letters next to our names like PhD and MD.
These people are considered the experts in their fields.
And so naturally one would assume that the people
that know the most about their fields
will be the innovators within their fields.
And often times they are.
But these people are also hindered sometimes because they know too much.
They've been trained to think in a certain way
and so their knowledge and expertise in a field
is thus narrowly tied to their own experiences
and to what they've been taught.
And in this way people are sometimes trained to think
inside of the box.
Experts often look at problems from the same viewpoint
that it becomes almost impossible for them
to see it from a different perspective.
And in fact it creates a cognitive dissonance or
a discomfort in all of us when we're forced
to view things in a way in which we are not used to.
So in other words, by virtue of having perspective,
we lack perspective.
And this phenomenon greatly hinders
technological innovation and creativity.
And so it's no coincidence that most great discoveries
were made by people early in their careers.
It's no coincidence that most Nobel Prize winners
came up with their groundbreaking research
during or soon after their graduate studies.
And yet these people are often not awarded their big prizes
until decades after their research.
Until the implications of their research are in common use.
So I propose that it's the people who don't look at new fields
with a jaded eye, who are not tied to five, ten, twenty years
of training who are able to come in and look at a problem
from an entirely fresh perspective.
They can come in with a fresh way of looking at problems
departing from the traditional approaches
that have been followed by the experts.
And without constraints of an ingrained framework
they can look at problems without decades of prejudice,
and be able to come up with big connections
between objects and technologies that seemingly
have nothing to do with each other.
So last October while I was an undergraduate at Penn
I came up with a way to wirelessly transmit power
through the air in just two days.
Just by thinking about the problem differently
and by asking a lot of questions.
I was not an engineer and I did not have Asperger's.
My experience has shown me that there is a lot
of creativity in this world that is not being harnessed
because people don't have the right letters next to their names.
And because people are too afraid to push forward
their ideas that can't possibly work because they thought of it.
When I looked at my wireless laptop with a 15-foot wire
dangling from its power socket
I wondered how can I get rid of that cord?
How could I beam energy to my computer
so that I didn't have to plug it in to charge it?
How could I make charging more like Wi-Fi?
I began by thinking about objects
that beamed energy through the air.
I asked really simple questions.
Things that people in this room probably already know.
Like, how do remote controls work?
How do lasers work? How does Wi-Fi work?
I googled the wireless power landscape
and realized that there were a few viable solutions.
But each solution had its own set of problems
that would get in the way of its commercialization.
So I realized that you could beam the entire
electromagnetic spectrum, which is basically everything
from radio waves to gamma waves.
But the right half of the spectrum was too dangerous to beam.
You know, you wouldn't want X-rays whizzing through your body
just to be able to charge your cell phone.
And the left half of the spectrum was either too inefficient
or too tightly regulated by the government.
So I had to approach the problem creatively.
I looked into harnessing the energy from vibrations
that constantly surround us like the road bumps you feel in your car.
But how could my electronic devices harness this energy?
I knew that no one would want to stick a shaker to the back of their phone
or stick bulky energy harvesting plates in their shoes.
So I had to figure out a way to send vibrations through the air.
And then I realized sound does that.
Sound travels through the air by vibrating air particles
and because sound is a form of energy,
you can harness the vibrational energy of sound.
So I started doing research on ultrasound
because it was too high in frequency for you to be able to hear it.
And in my research I learned that ultrasound
was used to create acoustic weapons.
So I figured that if there was enough energy from ultrasound
to create a bomb, you could probably charge your cell phone with it.
So how does a Paleobiology major at Penn
learn how to convert ultrasound into electricity?
Well, I literally just googled it. And I found a --
(Laughter) (Applause)
And I found a material that did just that.
So this is less than 48 hours after
the original idea of creating wireless power.
Ultrasonic wireless power. It seemed like an awesome idea,
but I figured that if I thought of it there was no way it could work.
Why hadn't somebody else thought of it before?
Why hadn't the ultrasound expert thought of it before?
I didn't know enough about the technology to determine if it could work or not.
And I was a little hesitant to tell any real engineers about it.
Because honestly, I thought they would laugh at me.
I thought they would think I was stupid.
But about a week or so later I decided
to tell my physics professor about the idea.
And when I did, he told me that it wouldn't work.
That there was no way that I could get enough energy
out of ultrasound to be able to charge a cell phone.
I was crushed, but I kept thinking about that acoustic bomb.
I knew that I needed to do more research,
so I read paper after paper on ultrasound and I devised the basic system.
I tried to teach myself as much as I possibly could.
I was reading "Electrical Engineering For Dummies"
and begging professors to teach me extra concepts after class.
And as outlandish as it sounds, I decided to submit the idea
to the Penn Invention Competition.
I ordered a few ultrasonic transmitters and receivers online.
And got an electrical engineering student
to help me wire a few things together.
We were able to prove that you could beam
a tiny amount of power over about an inch.
This was enough to keep me going.
We won the student invention competition.
And a few days later, I was told that Walt Mossberg,
the senior technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal
wanted to speak to us.
This was crazy. (Laughter)
He told us that if we could build a real prototype of this technology
we could demo it at his annual tech conference.
Now, at the time I didn't know much about Walt or his D conference.
But I soon learned that this was the premier tech conference of the year.
That this was where Steve Jobs debated Bill Gates.
I knew I needed to get to this conference.
But I had absolutely no idea if I could really build it.
I had one month. The race was on.
So to make this thing work, I had to scale it up
from basically what was a tiny little toy to a decent sized prototype.
Now remember, I was the idea person, you know.
I could tell you about the science and how it works,
but I had absolutely no idea how to wire anything together.
So I found an engineer in Indiana and I begged him
to help me build this prototype.
I simplified the design using off the shelf parts.
And we worked together day and night for two straight weeks over the phone
building this prototype and we finished it just two days before the conference.
And I got it working only 10 minutes
before I had to demo it for the first time. (Laughter)
Talk about anxiety.
But it worked and that was so cool.
We beamed energy over three feet and at about thirty times
the amount of power that we got out
from the initial proof of concept model.
The conference was an enormous success.
But it surprisingly spurred a lot of anger and criticism
from real engineers.
They told me that it could never work on a larger scale,
there was no way you could actually
use ultrasound to charge a cell phone,
that what I was trying to do was impossible.
But I also knew that no one could really determine
if the technology could work or not.
Because the technology didn't exist yet.
And what I had shown there on the D stage
was using off the shelf parts.
We hadn't even tried to push it further.
And I kept hearing the same story about
how one person would say something was impossible,
then somebody else would figure it out.
But despite my optimism, I still felt insecure
because so many people were trying to knock me down.
So I flew around the country talking to the top professors
in acoustic research.
And I was happy to find that most of them thought it could work.
But with a few questions.
And probably the biggest nagging question was:
If this thing could work, why hadn't it been done before?
And it also seemed that for every positive opinion I got
there was another negative one.
I couldn't believe how there were such different
opinions by experts in the same field.
But despite my frustration, this was a very important lesson for me to learn.
This taught me to be skeptical of experts,
that expertise represented a narrow way of looking at things,
and that experts knew what they knew based on their own prior studies.
And since ultrasonic wireless power didn't exist yet,
no one had prior studies with it.
So no one could really determine if this could work on a larger scale.
And nobody really fully understood the problem.
And so no one could accurately answer my questions.
I realized that it was up to me to solve it.
And this was a very daunting prospect
considering my scientific background was at the undergraduate level.
And my engineering was largely self-taught.
So asking seven people the same question and averaging the answer
was a very inefficient way about doing things,
but it did push the concept forward.
And the further that I dug into the technology
and the theory behind it
the more complex the technological hurdles became.
And with each new hurdle another engineer would tell me:
It's not going to work.
But because I already learned to not trust one person's opinion
I became immune to the naysayers.
For each technological hurdle deemed insurmountable by the experts
I would spend just a few hours thinking about the problem
from a variety of approaches.
As Steve Jobs said, I had to think differently.
So I found solutions based on the acoustics of musical instruments,
based on other technologies and from basic research,
such as -- from authoritative sources such as Wikipedia.
And when I would present my progress to the engineers
they'd say, "Yeah, that could work."
So I was able solve problems
when the PhD experts couldn't
with just a few hours of really simple research.
Every single argument over why the technology couldn't work
has been indisputably wrong.
And for every objection that's been raised
I've found solutions.
This was another very important lesson for me to learn.
Engineers are inherently linear thinkers
and tend to take a very binary approach to solving problems.
When faced with a problem they think: Can this work, or can this not work?
But I would think, How can I make this work?
As a non-expert I had an advantage because
I could look at a problem from different angles
because I just didn't know it was possible.
Being naive is sometimes a good thing.
Because without constraints the world is truly your oyster.
Now this is not to say that experts aren't necessary, that is entirely false.
Experts are extremely critical in carrying scientific visions forward
and driving ideas to reality.
And now eight months later I have four of the top
ultrasonic engineers in the world working for me, or working with me.
And developing my prototype according to my design.
It's going to work and it's going to be awesome.
And I can't wait to give the middle finger and smile
to all the engineers that criticized the crap out of me.
My experience also made me wonder
how many game changing, brilliant ideas out there
thought of by laypeople, teenagers, store clerks, paleobiologists
have been squashed by experts that said:
"That can't work."
I know that if I weren't as stubborn as I am
I would have chucked this entire idea eight months ago.
Because I was told that my idea was impossible.
But by thinking differently, by thinking outside the box,
by thinking around corners you can outthink the top thinkers.
They say that the most revolutionary ideas in the world
were considered crazy up until the point that they became revolutionary.
The world was flat.
The Earth was at the center of the Universe.
Electricity could never be tamed and ultrasound can't charge your iPhone.
But that was then and this is the future.
So dream out loud. Ask questions.
Take risks. Never give up.
Keep pushing and believe in yourself
even when no one else does.
Thank you.


【TEDx】如何當一個科技創新者 (How to be a technology innovator: Meredith Perry at TEDxNashville)

8968 分類 收藏
阿多賓 發佈於 2014 年 2 月 1 日
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