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Town Hall Seattle Recap: Nathan Myhrvold and Richard Thaler Discuss Behavioral Economics

Last month, IV founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold met up with renowned behavioral economist Richard Thaler at Town Hall Seattle to discuss Thaler’s theories about how people, not “rational actors,” drive real-world economics.

Town Hall Seattle Recap: Nathan Myhrvold and Richard Thaler Discuss Behavioral Economics

The two had a lively discussion that’s well worth the listen. You can listen to the program in Town Hall Seattle's media library here: http://townhallseattle.org/event/richard-thaler/.

Unlike traditional economics, Thaler’s work seeks to incorporate human nature – including willpower, preference, and error. His most recent book, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, tells the story of his relatively young field.

During their wide-ranging discussion, Nathan and Thaler addressed questions like:

  • Can economics be a science – like physics – or is it more like engineering?
  • How do “supposedly irrelevant factors,” like automatically opting-in employees to a retirement plan instead of asking them whether or not they want to enroll, impact rational behavior?
  • Why does pricing an object at $5.99 instead of $6.00 impact purchasing behavior?

and,

  • When does economics work best?

To hear their take on these questions and more, listen to the audio above. And if you’re interested in hearing more from Nathan, check out his recent commencement speech at UCLA that, in part, deals with the importance of human fallibility.

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News You Can Use: Young Inventors Transforming Society

What comes to mind when someone says the word, “inventor?” Do you picture white coats and large laboratories? Maybe someone standing at a table pouring different-colored liquids into flasks? And yes, some inventors might actually match these characteristics. But, on the whole, the truth is that inventors come in all different shapes and sizes. In fact, some game-changing inventors are just beginning their innovative careers. For this edition of News You Can Use, we’ve profiled a few stories about exciting young inventors who are truly changing the world.  

News You Can Use: Young Inventors Transforming Society

20-Year-Old Invents Ocean-Cleaning Device

Boyan Slat is helping to clean up the ocean like never before. Only 20, he devised a system of floating plastic barriers that holds a net-like device and has the potential to remove more than 70 million kilograms of plastic waste in just 10 years. And it’s not only removing waste, it’s also breaking records – the 6,500-foot-wide apparatus has been labeled the longest floating structure to ever be put in the ocean. Oh, and Slat’s project is all part of the nonprofit he runs, Ocean Cleanup. And all of this at the age of 20.

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Reuters Reports: Innovation is at an all-time high

At IV, we believe that innovation, intellectual property, and a thriving economy are all interconnected. We aren’t alone. The “2015 State of Innovation” report from Thomson Reuters explains the importance of innovation for a growing economic future. “Innovation is global and is at the heart of the global economy,” the report says. But that’s not all. The report also makes clear that intellectual property, and specifically patents, are vital instruments for companies and the economies they benefit.

Reuters Reports: Innovation is at an all-time high

Image courtesy of Thomson Reuters. Their full report can be viewed here.

Here are some more details and quotes from the report:

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Behind the Breakthrough: Deb Peat

This week’s Behind the Breakthrough features Deb Peat, an adventurous and talented program manager at IV. Deb’s extensive background in marine geophysics and remote sensing has taken her to all corners of the planet. Her impressive credentials include partnering with a spinout from the University of Hawaii to help the telecommunications industry map the numerous fiber optic cables across the sea floor. Deb’s experiences allow her to work with both inventors and the management team to drive the next breakthroughs.

Behind the Breakthrough: Deb Peat

Here are some of her reflections:

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Our Favorite Quotes from Nathan’s Commencement Speech

This past weekend, IV founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold addressed UCLA’s 2015 graduation as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. In his speech, Nathan encouraged graduates to take chances and embrace failure.

“I think I’m here because of all my failures,” Nathan said. “Now that sounds weird. But it turns out that if you try to do anything interesting or hard in life, you’re going to fail sometimes. And I think one of the most important aspects of life is how you cope with failures.”

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Staff Spotlight: Dan Lieberman

Today we’re highlighting Dan Lieberman, a mechanical engineer and project lead at the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory. Dan’s background in the science of explosions gives him the unique ability to distill complex problems to their core elements and solve them in a quick and meaningful way.

Staff Spotlight: Dan Lieberman

On his background:

“As a student in college, I gained a lot of experience in McGill University’s Shock Wave Physics Lab. That’s actually where I began my journey studying the science of rockets. After that, I earned my PhD at Caltech in the Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories. I carried out several high-speed-chemical-reacting-flow projects including researching novel methods to ignite detonations in a Pulse Detonation Engine (basically a supersonic combustion equivalent to the V-1 “buzz bomb”).

“My early career involved trying to avoid explosions, instead of my previous experience harnessing them. I’d describe it as CSI but it takes more than 42 minutes to figure out what happened. I investigated all sorts of incidents that resulted in a fire or explosion including the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.”

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Reflecting on National Inventors’ Month

I’d like to reflect on the positive impact of inventors and their contributions to society now that National Inventors’ Month is officially over. Thomas Edison, though controversial, was our nation’s most prolific inventor with 1,093 patents to his name. A key to Edison’s success was his ability to harness the power of his team. He believed collaboration powers innovation and would often host midnight lunches with his “muckers” to share insights, brainstorm ideas, and build comradery amongst his diverse team.  

Reflecting on National Inventors’ Month

IV, like Edison, depends on collaboration to get things done. We partner with inventors, clients and our extended team in our quest to invent meaningful solutions. This ability to collaborate is even more important today as our global society takes on the insatiable desire to increase speed, efficiency and capabilities – and that spans everything from breakthroughs in computing power to global health. As Nathan Myhrvold said in his recent CNN interview regarding the Arktek Passive Vaccine Storage Device, “There’s a lot of heroes in the Ebola story … but we did our part.” And that’s what IV does – our part – to bring people together to invent solutions to all sorts of challenges.

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Humble Beginnings to Pioneer Scientist: Mildred Dresselhaus

Inventors and scientists change our world for the better every single day. At IV, we know that their hard work takes time, commitment, and focus. Mildred Dresselhaus exemplifies these qualities and so much more. Her accomplishments are vast and her career is extraordinary.

Humble Beginnings to Pioneer Scientist: Mildred Dresselhaus

Want to learn more about Mildred? Check out IV Labs tribute to her. We also profile other innovative scientists and inventors regularly on our Behind the Breakthrough series.

Later this month, Mildred Dresselhaus will be the first woman to receive the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Medal of Honor. This award is yet another accomplishment of a prolific scientist who has beat the odds over and over again.

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Behind the Breakthrough: Dr. David Bell

This week’s Behind the Breakthrough profiles Dr. David Bell, IV’s Portfolio Lead in Global Health Technology. Dr. Bell is a public health physician with global experience. Born and educated in Australia, he has worked at various organizations in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Europe, including the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. His research experience and interest in technology development gives him a unique understanding of potential solutions for the most pressing public health challenges.  

Behind the Breakthrough: Dr. David Bell

Here are some of his reflections:

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Wrapping up National Inventors Month

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: inventors and inventing don’t get nearly the recognition they deserve. The end of May officially marks the close of National Inventors Month, but at Intellectual Ventures, every month could (and should) carry the moniker. For their dedication, intellect and hard work, we can’t voice our appreciation for inventors enough. It isn’t hyperbolic to say that without inventors, there wouldn’t be an Intellectual Ventures.

In recognition of the end of May, we’re rounding up some of our favorite posts on inventors and invention:

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Miss Nathan Myhrvold’s @THSEA behavioral #economics discussion with @R_Thaler? Listen in via Insights: ow.ly/P05qU

Jun 30

Inspired by bats, this young #inventor is transforming how blind people interact with the world. ow.ly/OWbIx via @Upworthy

Jun 29

Business abroad? #IP attachés are diplomats that advise on #IP issues overseas. Learn more in new @uspto blog post: 1.usa.gov/1e82XK2

Jun 29