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Can Innovation Be Automated?

timothy posted 1 year,30 days | from the column-a2-column-b6-and-lychees dept.

AI 92

JimmyQS writes "The Harvard Business Review blog has an invited piece about Innovation Software. Tony McCaffrey at the University of Massachusetts Amherst talks about several pieces of software designed to help engineers augment their innovation process and make them more creative, including one his group has developed called Analogy Finder. The software searches patent databases using natural language processing technology to find analogous solutions in other domains. According to Dr. McCaffrey 'nearly 90% of new solutions are really just adaptations from solutions that already exist — and they're often taken from fields outside the problem solver's expertise.'"

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Mathematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268069)

We already have analogy finder. It is called mathematics.

Can Innovation Be Automated? (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268139)

Of course. And nothing can possibly go wrong. ibly go wrong. ibly go wrong. ibly go wrong. ibly go wrong.

90% of new solutions ... (4, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268835)

90% of new solution may be, as TFA stated, re-adaption of existing solutions into other fields

But that's not "innovation" in pure sense

Innovation is something that is new

It may be a combination of two old items, like putting tea leafs in a bag made of paper, the result, however, is a brand new thing

That "90%" quote from TFA is akin to replacing "tea" with "coffee" with the outcome of "coffee bag" instead of "tea bag"

Thus, having a software that "innovates" may offer us some "re-application of technologies", but it won't give us new ideas

Re:90% of new solutions ... (3, Insightful)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | 1 year,30 days | (#43269109)

An idea is joining two things which seem different, but can be shown to actually be the same. By providing possible reapplication, that is part of the way to "something new," depending on how far afield. If you look at many "new" ideas, the parts and their origins become obvious. The "new" part will often be the means of moving the solution to its new context.

Take, for example the derivation of the Lorentz contraction from a description of the movement of light in aether. Lorentz simplified the mathematics by inventing the idea of local time, to move equations meant for kinematics to this new context of Maxwellian radiation. Poincare recognized that "local time" was an ingenious idea, but did not quite get to what we think of as relativity. The Lorentz contraction, and "local time" are then moved, essentially wholesale, into Einstein's kinematics.

New isn't always the elephant, it is the ability to visualize the elephant where it has never been before. Since innovation is not a completely black box problem, aiding visualization of it can be valuable.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43270389)

An idea is joining two things which seem different ...

This is true for all learning algorithms - with a few exceptions. It is true for neural networks, which cannot produce ideas out of nothing, they can only combine existing ideas, basically duplicate patterns they have seen before.

The exception to this rule are genetic algorithms, and their degenerate form of just executing -literally- random actions.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | 1 year,29 days | (#43269521)

90% of new solution may be, as TFA stated, re-adaption of existing solutions into other fields

But that's not "innovation" in pure sense

Innovation is something that is new

It may be a combination of two old items, like putting tea leafs in a bag made of paper, the result, however, is a brand new thing

That "90%" quote from TFA is akin to replacing "tea" with "coffee" with the outcome of "coffee bag" instead of "tea bag"

Thus, having a software that "innovates" may offer us some "re-application of technologies", but it won't give us new ideas

Then there have only been a few innovations in the history of mankind that are totally unique the rest are derivatives from those very basic innovations. In a pure sense 99% of all advancements are just derivatives from earlier works, going from using a stick to bash your fellow caveman's head in to using your smashing stick as a lever to move rocks is an innovation even though the smashing stick is a lever in both cases.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,29 days | (#43269821)

That is not innovation and surely if a tea bag exists than a coffee bag does not deserve a patent.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | 1 year,29 days | (#43269857)

...surely if a tea bag exists than a coffee bag does not deserve a patent

Please correct me if I am wrong ... I do recall that someone did receive at least one patent related to coffee bag

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,29 days | (#43269893)

How does that not fail the obviousness test?

Re:90% of new solutions ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43271157)

The patent office has an IQ of 1.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

suutar (1860506) | 1 year,29 days | (#43273609)

I suspect the PTO tries very hard (too hard, perhaps) to avoid tagging as 'obvious' things that are obvious in hindsight but not beforehand. To distinguish between "well duh" and "of course, why didn't I think of that?", as it were. They really need to come up with a better method (I've seen several suggestions on /. over time) but for now the best they can probably do is "okay, it seems ingenious rather than obvious to me, so I'll let it go".

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,29 days | (#43274319)

Coffee in a teabag is not obvious in hindsight, just obvious.

What if I put mate in a bag? Or dried fruit?

Stuff that goes into hot water, in a bag is as obvious as it gets.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

jbengt (874751) | 1 year,29 days | (#43269919)

"Re-adap[ta]tion of existing solutions into other fields" is something new.
90% of innovation is using existing concepts in surprising ways.
Innovation is not identical to invention.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | 1 year,29 days | (#43270507)

The Australians actually have coffee bags. They're really a fantastic idea. Not really innovative though.

Re:90% of new solutions ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43270875)

Welcome to the contemporary definition of "innovation." You put two lego blocks together and what you've done is now an entirely new object that no one has conceived of before.

It's one reason the whole idea of IP is bullshit, among many reasons (not to mention the fact that "innovation" is not a binary, either-or thing).

Re:90% of new solutions ... (2)

Ghostworks (991012) | 1 year,29 days | (#43271897)

Innovation is extremely overrated. Most of our tech-driven culture is not based on innovation. Not even close. All the innovating was done decades ago, when people started dreaming up what might be possible given phenomena they had only a slippery grasp of once they were leveraged into machines that hadn't yet been built.

No, our culture is driven by cost-reduction. Once something becomes cheap enough, we do it. If it's not, we put it on a shelf until it is. For the computing revolution, the internet bubble of the 90s, and the social web of today, the driving factors have all been about scale: quantity as a quality all its own. You could have done the same things decades earlier -- hell, we _were_ doing the same thing decades earlier -- but only when it's cheap enough that we increase the scale by three orders of magnitude or more did it become a game-changer.

There are plenty of cases in recent history of a product being invented "before its time". It exists in relative obscurity, figuratively collecting dust until it is brushed off to solve the problem that we only got to at just the present moment. You can't drive technology from behind, it has to be pulled along by the context of the situation. Technology by its very nature is very light on innovation, because it is firmly rooted in a practical context of costs and needs.

Now as to whether some technological innovation can be automated: definitely. All engineering is about working around the edges of a problem until you can describe what you need in terms of what you can do. You probe the problem, consider edge cases, and trace the general shape of a missing block until you can say, "what we really need here is some way to measure X and Y, figure out which is closer to Z, and then just give us that one." And then you have a block-level spec. And then you drill into that block as a device all its own, filling in the parts that are obvious from experience and education until you get to the difficult part, the truly novel part, and again say "what we need here is some what to measure X...." Once you get down to a block that only has things that have already been invented, you're done. Then you have your new block, in your new device, solving your new problem. That's what invention is: work.

Get a "smart" enough robot, one which is flexible enough in its model of the world that you can teach it roughly like a human, and you can certainly train it the way you could a junior engineer. A simpler robot will have more limits, but can also be trained to do simpler, smaller steps of the same process. TFA basically describes a system for making a bot context aware... by trawling through records of what humans have done, it can recognize problems that humans have solved before to help another human solve a similar problem (even if he doesn't know it's similar). It can recognize that a margarita machine, a cement mixer, and washing machine all have similar problems to solve on some level, even though no one human really looked at any two of those problems. It looks at your statement of "what we need here...," and chimes in "oh, like a ____ but for _____."

Re:90% of new solutions ... (1)

slick7 (1703596) | 1 year,29 days | (#43279195)

Thus, having a software that "innovates" may offer us some "re-application of technologies", but it won't give us new ideas

Here's an innovative idea. Have mechanical and electrical engineers serve 8 to 10 years residency in their respective fields in maintenance ( much like a medical doctor ) so they can grasp concepts like working in conjunction with other people. Too many times I have heard when an engineer's project doesn't go according to plan, maintenance will fix it. It's not the responsibility of maintenance to make the engineer's project work when even the engineer can't do it. I have had to train engineers that come into the "field", that there are other people out here as well. More than once I had to calmly ask an engineer to slowly remove their hand away from an energized 970 volt bus bar because they didn't think it necessary to contact the operator/maintenance person responsible for the equipment.
I have had engineers laugh at me when I make simple suggestions to make their job easier only to have them thank me later, after wasting three months doing it "their way". After 40 years in operations/maintenance field, it never ceases to amaze me that some people do not grasp the difference the text book case and the field realities.

Re:Can Innovation Be Automated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43269271)

Some innovations require interpreting emotions and eliciting a better emotional response, so not entirely.

Re:Can Innovation Be Automated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43273197)

Of course, I have no doubt and neither will you if read the article carefully. It has been writen by an automaton.

Re:Mathematics (2)

jewens (993139) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268899)

Yes but this is with a computer! (on the internet?)

Re:Mathematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43273377)

That's exactly what I thought too, but while using an ipad.

Re:Mathematics (1)

c0lo (1497653) | 1 year,30 days | (#43269155)

We already have analogy finder. It is called mathematics.

Excellent. Now, if someone would apply mathematics to invent a "car analogy finder for mathematics", I'd be able to get it.

Following Betteridge's law of headlines (5, Informative)

grouchomarxist (127479) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268075)

Can we stop this tired cliche? (3)

six025 (714064) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268161)


It's really well past its use by date.

Re:Can we stop this tired cliche? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43269279)

Slashdot has paid for Betteridge's college fund, but it turns out the kid wants to go to med school. So, no.

Except the Answer is unfortunately Yes (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268297)

I'm a little tired of people of people aimlessly quoting that, without understanding the relevance. Is this a without facts article, about something contentious, or simply a question.

The article is about using software to pick *keywords" to solutions to problems that other fields have already solved. Its something *everyone* is familiar with here a whole host of "On the Internet"; "On a Mobile Phone" type crap...or interface innovation that mimics real life behaviour(Almost everything on a computer does from email to social networking), or imaginary from real life. The whole concept of the mobile phone only happening not due to magic at Sony, but due to certain technologies becoming mature.

Its not just a yes, but something we should all be aware of, its also seems fairly trivial to do. Worryingly for those with a lot of cash, an ideal way to search a related technology, and *patent* technology that is otherwise obvious, or relevant as the field has matured, or identity gaps in things not patented.

Re:Except the Answer is unfortunately Yes (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268497)

the headline isn't "can research be made more efficient by using machine searches?".

Re:Except the Answer is unfortunately Yes (1)

hweimer (709734) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268513)

Its not just a yes, but something we should all be aware of, its also seems fairly trivial to do. Worryingly for those with a lot of cash, an ideal way to search a related technology, and *patent* technology that is otherwise obvious, or relevant as the field has matured, or identity gaps in things not patented.

Actually, I'm inclined to believe that algorithmic patent generation might actually make it much harder to claim non-obviousness. If your patent claims can be generated by a person having ordinary skill in the art just by running a computer program, what is the actual contribution by the inventor?

Re:Except the Answer is unfortunately Yes (2)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268833)

Doesn't matter, the requirement these days is that you pay the fee. Everything else is extra. Prior art is seen as a court's problem.

Re:Except the Answer is unfortunately Yes (2)

rioki (1328185) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268515)

Except that "Can Innovation Be Automated?" is clearly answered with a bright and clear NO by the article and summary. They did not build a "innovation" software but a "redundant invention finder" software. Except that the word innovation is tossed around willy nilly and is basically a synonym for development (as in the D part in R&D). Note though that it is never used for research, that could actually lead to innovation. Sure the software may be useful, but I think more to a patent attorney, that an engineer. In my 10 year career as software developer I have never seen real innovation, just solving an old problem in a new context and it helps to know it was solved by others, but in the end you need to take the local specialties into account.

Re:Except the Answer is unfortunately Yes (2)

dkf (304284) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268579)

In my 10 year career as software developer I have never seen real innovation

Keep on looking! It does happen very occasionally, and it is wonderful to observe. Hold to the hope!

Re:Except the Answer is unfortunately Yes (1)

X0563511 (793323) | 1 year,29 days | (#43270337)

People call out Betteridge's because the editors/submitters need to stop using such a contentious headline format.

Re:Following Betteridge's law of headlines (1)

g4b (956118) | 1 year,29 days | (#43269887)

i had the same answer, without the link planned.

not only this, but there is already a good way of increase innovation... by doing other stuff not related to the problem, but indirectly related to problem solving. may it be cooking, playing, reading, taking a walk or making sports.

so increasing innovation cannot be automated. any human with a critical amount of life experience understands this.

Re:Following Betteridge's law of headlines (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | 1 year,29 days | (#43270007)

There is another question that should be answered first: Do we want to automate innovation? If we do, very few humans will get a lot of practice at innovating, which means that when innovation beyond the capabilities of the software is desired there won't be a good supply of humans up to the task.

Re:Following Betteridge's law of headlines (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,29 days | (#43270349)

The next generation of patent trolls could make this an exception to that rule.

Re:Following Betteridge's law of headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43270531)

Just to spite everyone, I think I'll write a headline:

Is Betteridge's Law Accurate?

Re:Following Betteridge's law of headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43271001)

Just to spite everyone, I think I'll write a headline:

Is Betteridge's Law Accurate?

Any competent journalist would phrase a headline in it's shortest correct form. Therefore if the answer to the question is "yes" a competent journalist would have phrased it "Betteridge's Law Accurate" or "Betteridge's Law Is Accurate" as either of those have a lower character count and are valid headlines. Therefore we must conclude that either the journalist who wrote the headline is incompetent or the content of the article will reveal that the answer is "no" (note that if the article fails to answer the question posed in the headline that is also an indication of incompetent journalism.)

Yes (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268079)

Just making a patent creating bot, and sue for trillions.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268089)

Rather, make the patent office use this to weed out aol patents.

After they've worked through the backlog they can retroactively kicking out those that've slipped through.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268099)

But you don't do 100% automation. You do 90% automation and offer it as tools in the engineer's toolbox.

All innovation is automated (1)

ceview (2857765) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268179)

Nature itself is always innovating in the most bizarre and strange ways that allow organisms to evolve adaptations to various environment. So yes, if you can create an 'evolving' algorithm sure why not. In fact most engineering challenges should be 'evolved' and computers are particularly good at that process. Produce a design create a hundreds of thousands of tweaks or mutations and breed them. The surviving solution then is what works best in that scenario.

Re:All innovation is automated (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268243)

Sure, innovation can be automated, if we start by redefining innovation to follow it's meaning when used in marketing speak.

Innovation = Data mining (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268201)

Why are you trying to spin what people have been doing for years? A new area to data mine is not innovation, especially patents? It's an amazing tool. A fabulous idea! But let's not be patting each other on the back saying it's creative, adaptive might be a better word. As a word innovation has no place however as an adjective for this. Oh wait, it's ivy league. What could I be thinking? Would they repackage old ideas and market it as their own? Defines the word innovative!

Sure it can, however ... (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268247)

Of course innovation can be automated, but until brute-force automation surpasses human ingenuity (or computers learn to self-replicate and force natural selection), it'll always be more effective (but not timely) to have a human doing it.

"One Click" (4, Insightful)

Required Snark (1702878) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268317)

Yep, just as creative as Bezos's "One Click" patent. Perfect technology for a legal regime dominated by lawyers with patent examiners recruited from regions that have only horses, and people go to town to use the only telephone.

Just imagine how great it will be when Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, HP, IBM, etc get in a automated patent race where they each file millions of patents applications a month.

They'll just do to patents what they did to taxes; change the rules so that the more you file, the less you pay, and the big players make the government pick up the tab.

Why should intellectual property be any less corrupt then Wall Street? After all, big bank profits are derived from direct subsidies, so why should big tech have to pay for patents? They deserve to be on the corporate gravy train just as much as Goldman and JPMorgan.

Anything else would be unamerican. Don't you want to win the war on drugs, terrorism, the environment, free speech, privacy, ...?

patent databases ?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268339)

>The software searches patent databases

Wrong turn. There ain't as such thing as innovation in patent databases. Make a U turn and search in scientific papers.

Re:patent databases ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43270491)

Same is true for scientific papers.

Most papers in maths are -at least- 50% software constructed. And I don't mean a word processor, I mean that the theories and proofs in them are constructed by a search algorithm running expansions over equation databases, not by human ingenuity. Physics is following closely. It may not be well known, but most of Gerard 't Hoofd's contributions to quantum physics - the cornerstone of the unification of Magnetism with the Weak force - and later the Strong force - was found by a computer program, by one of his grad students. It's not that the prof wasn't working on it, he just never got anywhere.

Why would you want to know about existing patents? (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268351)

Why would you want to search existing patents, especially in software?

Patents, particularly software patents, are written to be incredibly general and almost entirely devoid of anything that's actually useful.

All you would get from searching for patents would be wilful infringement liability and treble damages when the patent holder sues you.

Maybe patents for physical processes and inventions are more useful to someone doing novel work?

Re:Why would you want to know about existing paten (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268439)

I don't know, maybe there's something in the patent for swinging side-to-side that could influence the field pancake algorithms. I'll leave it to the computers to figure out, I assume they'll use something like genetic programming because that sort of AI always comes up with creative real world solutions.

Re:Why would you want to know about existing paten (1)

suutar (1860506) | 1 year,29 days | (#43273693)

what you'd really find that was useful is things that don't appear to have been patented yet. Then you just whip up an application for the particular set of buzzwords in question, file it, and voila! Patent war chest.

Analogy:prior art search. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268391)

I could see this tool being used by patent examiners.

Re:Analogy:prior art search. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | 1 year,29 days | (#43270063)

I could see this tool being used by patent examiners.

Not as long as the patent office is paid to grant patents. It would lead to too many disqualifications.

Of course! (1)

Alex Belits (437) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268423)

Of course, innovation can be automated! It already was, considering what human brains really are.

On the other hand, this pathetic exercise of regugritation of drivel based on superficial similarity... No, it won't produce anything genuinely new.

A lawyer's dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268529)

'nearly 90% of new solutions are really just adaptations from solutions that already exist — and they're often taken from fields outside the problem solver's expertise.' ... and are therefore covered by the relevant patents!

TRIZ (5, Informative)

eulernet (1132389) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268543)

I'm surprised that the article doesn't mention TRIZ and ASIT, which are methodologies for innovation.

TRIZ was invented by Genrich Altshuller in 1946, and has been used by russian engineers to counter the american domination on technology.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIZ [wikipedia.org]

The history behind TRIZ is interesting, since Genrich Altshuller http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genrich_Altshuller [wikipedia.org] was working as a clerk in a patent office (like Einstein), and he noticed that the patents were using some patterns.
He started to categorize all patents to enumerate the used patterns, and he found 39 characteristics with 40 generic solutions.
The idea is that you want to solve a contradiction between 2 characteristics, the contradiction is called a "conflict".
A contradiction matrix of 39*40 cells has been built: http://www.triz40.com/ [triz40.com]
Recently, the TRIZ group succeeded to verify that the matrix was able to map more than 3,000,000 patents.

TRIZ was kept as a secret before the Soviet Union exploded, then the russian engineers went to a lot of different countries.
In Israel, the TRIZ group started to simplify the methodology in a smaller set, called SIT.
Very recently, Roni Horowitz simplified SIT into ASIT, which is a set of 6 rules able to map innovation.

TRIZ explains that there are 5 levels of invention:
http://www.trizexperts.net/5levels.htm [trizexperts.net]
and it's dedicated to the 4 first levels.
TRIZ is also more adapted to engineers that need a framework to solve problems, but it's not really creative in my opinion.

Re:TRIZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268951)

Yep, came here to mention TRIZ and the irony that this is just a new method of an old idea.

Re:TRIZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43269881)

This all pre-supposes that the stuff in patent databases is actually innovation. If you're talking about the US one, I'd say it's anything but. YMMV.

Re:TRIZ (1)

CODiNE (27417) | 1 year,29 days | (#43271645)

Would be nice to have one of these made for computer science problems.

Re:TRIZ (1)

eulernet (1132389) | 1 year,29 days | (#43272631)

TRIZ has been applied on software:
http://www.trizforsoftware.com/ [trizforsoftware.com]

Since TRIZ is a method, it has been derived as an algorithm: ARIZ.
And it is the algorithm that is used in innovation-assisting programs (there are a few ones, I'm too lazy to google them).

But as I said above, innovation != creativity.

No it cant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268663)

If innovation could be automated it would be sentient already. And to tell you the truth that is a path we don't want to follow, it will just turn us into batteries.

Re:No it cant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268703)

To follow this thought through, humans are probably a form of automated innovation. We are sentient and we are trying to turn everything else into batteries. What we don't want is any other construct to become automatically innovative. Because they will definitely try to use us as a resource.

Of-course it can (1)

udachny (2454394) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268709)

Of-course innovation can be automated, evolution proves it - innovation does not need a guiding hand.

The question is can we automate innovation? First of all we have to define what innovation is, then we have to admit that most of any type of innovation will not be useful at all.

Even if we can automate innovation, can we use this for any meaningful purpose? Evolution doesn't have an end goal, it only has the intermediate goal of copying data further and further into the future, and that goal is not even a conscious decision by anything or anybody, it's just the inherent property of the copying mechanism itself.

TFA talks about applying known solutions to problems where those solutions haven't been tried yet, what is the purpose and criteria, who is going to be doing this, how much energy will it require, what are the constraints?

Seems to me it's a fine idea in abstract to have a PhD theses on but it has very very little useful potential. No business will be trying to solve all problems by coding in all of the known solutions into some matrix. So a government then? Then it's a search for a subsidy to run a very expensive (and never ending) pet project.


Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43274019)

udachny is, "of-course", just another sock puppet for roman_mir. he writes this only to make it appear that his fascist religious and political agenda has more support than it really does; this comment deserves to be down moderated as such.

Re:Of-course it can (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43276781)

evolution proves it

why are you attempting to reference evolution? your church does not acknowledge it as a biological process, and you don't understand anything about the life sciences any-ways. you would have been better off leaving it out, roman_mir.

Of course it can be automated (1)

Su27K (652607) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268733)

And it doesn't have to be brute force approach, the dumb approach would be to build an equivalent of human brain and teach it for a decade or two, I'm sure there're easier ways. However I don't think we're there yet.

It's confirmed, it works very well! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43268819)

When asked the question "find solutions relevant to my problem" Analog Finder returns http://www.google.com/patents .

EZ Innovation (1)

David Govett (2825317) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268957)

Why make such a big task out of innovation? Find a problem and solve it. Anticipate a problem and proactively solve it. It's that simple — and that difficult.

Wisdom = Incorporating Unrelated Knowledge (1)

turp182 (1020263) | 1 year,30 days | (#43268979)

The answer to the original question is no. Because we don't have the AI technology at this point.

Why? Because of wisdom, a completely human trait that our technology cannot reproduce.

Wisdom involves knowing enough about disparate topics to develop a novel solution. That's what this "keyword" based system is trying to target.

Wisdom is something inherently human, per our evolution and our ability to think about things and react to our knowledge.

Computers, at this point, can provide specific results. This is important. If you know what to search for then the results could inspire. If you don't, then there is no benefit. The person searching has to know what to search for, that is the wisdom. The results are basically an more specific Google search.

Re:Wisdom = Incorporating Unrelated Knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43273289)

Intelligence and knowledge may give you the right answer to questions. Wisdom gives you the right responses to the situation. Giving the right answers to questions may not always be the right response to the situation.

Take Solomon's "splitting the baby scenario" as an example of what I mean. Modern DNA testing may determine the true genetic mother for the child. But the better mother for a child is not always the genetic mother of a child.

Also when Jesus was asked (as part of a trap) whether the Jews should pay taxes to the Romans or not, he asked them to show him the coin for the tax and then asked whose face and inscription was on it. The answer was "Caesar" and so Jesus responded with his famous "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." remark. Which even applies today - there are those who try to justify not paying taxes but still want to use the currency and other stuff that its Government maintains.

Re:Wisdom = Incorporating Unrelated Knowledge (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | 1 year,27 days | (#43290237)

Intelligence and knowledge may give you the right answer to questions.

The problem is finding the right question...

It cannot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,30 days | (#43269133)

The proof is that the innovative "Analogy finder" cited in the headline had to be developed by hand.

It's a Framing Problem... (1)

Akratist (1080775) | 1 year,30 days | (#43269185)

There needs to be a distinction made between innovation and refinement. It's true that most "innovation" is just building a better mousetrap. Real innovation is taking a look at a fish and deciding a submarine doesn't need fins to swim -- in other words, first defining a problem, then a new context to solve it in, not steadily deriving from existing processes or devices. If it's a matter of derivation and refinement, this isn't a difficult problem...just determine some "win states" and then let semi-automated software begin to crunch designs. However, being able to properly frame the problem in the first place is where the real difficulty lies, so the person writing a program to "innovate" at that point is already performing the process of innovation, while trying to create a process to perform it..

123 Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43269331)

Modern "innovation" is easy. Take an idea that has existed for a hundred years, add the words "on a computer," "on a cell phone", or "on the Internet", and re-patent. Put the "licensing" squeeze on small businesses that has been using that idea for the last 50 years. Profit.

If you follow any of the big corporations "innovations" over the last few years that is pretty much all that is happening. This can be computerized quite easily, take a list of existing ideas and run it through a shell script that adds those phrases and prints them out on pre-filled out patent forms.

Can innovation be automated? Not with this tool! (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | 1 year,29 days | (#43269849)

Having used the linked-to tool mentioned in the article, the answer is a resounding "no".

What an ass-tasktic demo.

Re:Can innovation be automated? Not with this tool (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | 1 year,29 days | (#43270639)

It's a decent demo of what the software does. It's just that the software doesn't do anything like what it's hyped to. It's a very limited patent searcher (you enter a verb and a noun) that also searches for synonyms of your search words. It's not automated innovation unless you're a PHB.

even asking that question.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43271399)

.... is a mistake frought with danger.

Wrong question (to me) (1)

tchi.keufte (1154325) | 1 year,29 days | (#43272517)

To me, innovation is how humans (or animals) make use of something that already exists. The new use IS the innovation. For instance, some monkey groups are using wood sticks to get ants out and eat them. Creating the wood stick (even by separating it from a tree or bush) isn't innovation : They already exist. Putting the stick into the ant nest isn't innovation : Any random event (wind, birds...) can result in having a stick into an ant nest. Putting the stick into the ant nest, waiting for the ants to walk on the stick, and eat them isn't innovation : If you create a database of things where you have stick, monkey, ant, nest and possible relationships, extracting random information from your database will inevitably result in this tuple / words being extracted "monkey uses wood stick to get ants out and eat the ants.". To me, the innovation is WHY the heck the computer / random record picker would choose / consider this possibility as more interesting, from one point of view (the monkey, the ant, the universe, whatever...) than previously. To me, THIS is innovation. There has to be a point of view. There has to be an innovator. Does the computer need to innovate for himself ? My answer is no. Can the computer propose something innovative, useful and meaningful ? Put it another way, can the computer judge the utility of an innovation for humans ? My answer is probably no. Because humans care about monkeys, ants, universe and the rest. And humans are creating culture, whereas computers are not.

triz (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43279415)

The triz method pioneered by altshuller uses analogies and was discovered by reverse engineering patents

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