Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category


Stephen Wolfram: Computing a theory of everything

by TED Talks - 8 June 2010

So I want to talk today about an idea. It’s a big idea. Actually, I think it’ll eventually be seen as probably the single biggest idea that’s emerged in the past century. It’s the idea of computation. Now, of course, that idea has brought us all of the computer technology we have today and so on. But there’s actually a lot more to computation than that. It’s really a very deep, very powerful, very fundamental idea, whose effects we’ve only just begun to see.

Well, I myself have spent the past 30 years of my life working on three large projects that really try to take the idea of computation seriously. So I started off at a young age as a physicist using computers as tools. Then, I started sort of drilling down, thinking about the computations I might want to do, trying to figure out what primitives they could be built up from and how they could be automated as much as possible. Eventually, I created a whole structure based on symbolic programming and so on that let me build Mathematica. And for the past 23 years, at an increasing rate, we’ve been pouring more and more ideas and capabilities and so on into Mathematica, and I’m happy to say that’s led to many good things in R and D and education, lots of other areas. Well, I have to admit, actually, that I also had a very selfish reason for building Mathematica. I wanted to use it myself, a bit like Galileo got to use his telescope 400 years ago. But I wanted to look, not at the astronomical universe, but at the computational universe.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Lalitesh Katragadda: Making maps to fight disaster, build economies

by Pablo Matamoros - 8 March 2010

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar. Millions of people were in severe need of help. The U.N. wanted to rush people and supplies to the area. But there were no maps, no maps of roads, no maps showing hospitals, no way for help to reach the cyclone victims.

When we look at a map of Los Angeles, or London it is hard to believe that as of 2005 only 15 percent of the world was mapped to a geocodable level of detail. The U.N. ran headfirst into a problem that the majority of the world’s populous faces: not having detailed maps.

But help was coming. At Google, 40 volunteers used a new software to map 120,000 kilometers of roads, 3,000 hospitals, logistics and relief points. And it took them four days. The new software they used? Google Mapmaker.

Google Mapmaker is a technology that empowers each of us to map what we know locally. People have used this software to map everything from roads to rivers, from schools to local businesses, and video stores to the corner store.

Maps matter. Nobel Prize nominee Hernando De Soto recognized that key to economic liftoff for most developing countries is to tap the vast amounts of uncapitalized land. For example, a trillion dollars of real estate remains uncapitalized in India alone.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Evan Williams on listening to Twitter users

by TED Talks - 29 July 2009

Four years ago, on the TED stage, I announced a company I was working with at the time called Odeo. And because of that announcement, we got a big article in the New York Times, which led to more press, which led to more attention, and me deciding to become CEO of that company — whereas I was just an adviser — and raising a round of venture capital and ramping up hiring.

One of the guys I hired was an engineer named Jack Dorsey, and a year later we were trying to decide which way to go with Odeo, and Jack presented an idea he’d been tinkering around with for a number of years that was based around sending simple status updates to friends. We were also playing with SMS at the time at Odeo, so we kind of put two and two together, and in early 2006 we launched Twitter as a side project at Odeo.

Read the rest of this entry »