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The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives Hardcover – June 7, 2011
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"Out of the creative chaos at the MIT Media Lab have come fantastical inventions that have changed how we work, play, and live. Frank Moss’ stories of the ‘digital magicians’ behind these experiments and discoveries are inspiring and engaging."
—Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google
"MIT Media Lab has been inventing the future for more than 25 years. Frank Moss explains how - and the lessons can help you be more creative - and your organization be more innovative."
- Steve Case, Co-founder of AOL, Chairman of the Startup America Partnership, and co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship
"This book will be a delight for anyone who cares about innovation. For more than twenty-five years, the MIT Media Lab has been inventing the future and humanizing technology. Weaving fascinating tales with insightful concepts, Frank Moss tells us how. He shows the way to harness passion and break down the walls between disciplines in order to unleash creativity in fields ranging from robotics to music to the making of mechanical limbs."
—Walter Isaacson, CEO and president, The Aspen Institute, former chairman and CEO of CNN, and bestselling author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
"Anyone who wants to succeed - be it in technology art, or business - needs to follow the unique multi-disciplinary approach described in this book. Our future depends on innovation. This book provides the inspiration and motivation we need to change the world, one page at a time."
—Chad Hurley, Co-Founder & former CEO, YouTube.
"As a CIO, I understand the challenges of managing brilliant and creative people. Frank Moss' insightful case studies from the Media Lab provide a roadmap for leaders who want to accelerate innovation. There is no better example of a culture that inspires and enables invention."
—Dr. John Halamka, Chief Information Officer, Harvard Medical School and The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
“The stories begin about the gadgets for which the MIT Media Lab is well known, but then they turn human, as Frank Moss introduces us to the professors and students flourishing in the Lab's unique innovation ecology. SORCERERS ends too soon, leaving you curious, excited, and determined to know more about the MIT Media Lab's unique approach to inventing and innovation. This book is timely for America, right now looking to innovate on innovation, to winning the future.”
—Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet Inventor, formulator of Metcalfe's Law, and Professor of Innovation at UTexas Austin.
“Our world is changing at an exponential rate. Billion dollar industries are folding overnight and Billion dollar start-ups are seemingly coming out of no-where. Small teams empowered by technology can now do what was once only possible by large corporations and governments. Frank Moss’ book shares countless examples of inspired creativity and fearless innovation. This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to change their company, industry or the world.”
-Peter H. Diamandis, MD, MS, Chairman/CEO, X PRIZE Foundation, Chairman/Vice-Chancellor, Singularity University
"On every page, this essential book underlines the importance of the human - both in the individuals who make the Lab tick, and the people who are directly affected by the creative brilliance of the Lab's minds and the practical outcome of their work. Moss expertly threads the multiple strands of the Media Lab story - it's innovative past, present and most importantly it's future - and demonstrates how it has continued to be one of the most unorthodox and influential brain trusts in the world."
- Alex McDowell, Royal Designer for Industry, production designer of Minority Report and Fight Club
"‘The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices’ is in essence a tour through the Media Lab... and the reader can almost hear Mr. Moss leading the visitor through the glass-walled building with an infectious enthusiasm for the stories of its occupants and contents, much of which exists in the form of the models and prototypes for which the lab is famous"
-The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
FRANK MOSS served as director of the MIT Media Lab from 2006-2011, and is currently Professor of the Practice and head of the New Media Medicine group there. After earning a BSE from Princeton and PhD in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, he held positions at IBM, Apollo Computer, Lotus Development and was CEO and chairman of Tivoli Systems, which he took public in 1995 and merged with IBM a year later. He is a co-founder of many companies, including Stellar Computer, Bowstreet, Infinity Pharmaceuticals and his latest startup venture, Bluefin Labs.
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1) The author discusses what can be a polarizing and overhyped topic with reserve and thoughtfulness. Way too many writers in this genre are either trying to scare the bejesus out of you by painting a "science run amok" picture of the near future, or they become so over-awed by the promises of such technology, they oversell where we are today and how such advances will likely change our world. I think Moss does a great job of presenting a fairly accurate view of what this technology can and can't do, now and in the future. And because the book is about the Media Lab itself, he's not tempted into comparisons with other researchers in the field that frankly don't serve anyone.
2) The book doesn't just limit itself to "then we did this, then we did that" descriptions. It contains powerful ideas that will change the way you think about this field of science. One example: many people get uncomfortable with augmentation technology when it is applied to healthy individuals as opposed to those who are sick. So if you want to help Alzheimer's patients with their memory, most people are enthusiastically supportive. But if you develop a pill that helps otherwise "normal" individuals improve their memory, a lot more people get squeamish. What Moss and the researchers at the Media Lab suggest is to view it from the perspective that "we are all disabled sometimes." So you are fixing disabilities in both cases, but those disabilities are much more severe in one case than the other.
3) The book is truly well written and I'm surprised by reviews that suggest otherwise. As a writer, I appreciate details of what the building looked like, the personal background on Professor Herr and why he's so passionate about prosthetics, and so forth. Those details aren't necessary to appreciate the research being done at MIT's Media Lab, but they make the work so much more enjoyable. In fact, the book is so well written, I wondered at times if it was professionally ghost-written, as I rarely see such readable work from my fellow scientists (sorry, but true). If you like Gladwell's style of telling story after story to illustrate various points, you'll probably like this book as well.
Overall, I heartily recommend this balanced and insightful book for anyone interested in where the fields of robotics, human/machine interface, and human augmentation are going. You'll learn a lot and enjoy the read.
It is very interesting to read it now to see that how many inventions in ML are actually false promises. Product which Synthia works now is far far simpler than these research projects she did in MIT, Cory works on new projects and no news on Autom at all. Where are Citycars? It is just a good reminder- inventions and innovations are very different things
I am looking into many of the ideas in this book for my family and colleagues.
Todd Rowland MD