Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Sony and Sony Global Education Develop a New System on IBM Blockchain to Manage Students’ Learning Data

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IBM Japan today announced that Sony Corporation and Sony Global Education, a subsidiary of Sony that works to provide global educational services, have developed a new blockchain-based student education records platform.

With the solution, school administrators can consolidate and manage students’ educational data from several schools, as well as record and refer their learning history and digital academic transcripts with more certainty. The new platform, developed using IBM Blockchain, uses blockchain technology running on the IBM Cloud to track students’ learning progress, as well as establish transparency and accountability of scholastic achievements between students and schools.

The new system can record student data, sharing it with the network of need-to-know parties including school administrators and prospective employers. Using IBM Blockchain, student educational data on the platform is verified.

Educational institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities can use it to share data to help teachers more easily determine and implement unique teaching methods for each student, as well as help vendors target offerings based on verified needs. In addition, the platform can help manage a variety of student services offered by different parties and consolidate them in a single repository of information. It also enables parties to reliably share digital transcripts with one another.

Blockchain technology can help bring transparency and help build trust to transactions. It enables users to create networks that are permissioned and immutable; meaning they cannot be changed or altered by any one party. When a transaction takes place on the blockchain, all members of the network can see it, therefore operating from a common truth.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to impact systems in a wide variety of industries, and the educational sphere is no exception when educational data is securely stored on the blockchain and shared among permissioned users. We are pleased that we have worked together with IBM to build a new system which can help effect real change in the education sector,” said Masaaki Isozu, President of Sony Global Education.

The platform is built on IBM Blockchain, which is delivered via the IBM Cloud and powered by Hyperledger Fabric 1.0, a blockchain framework and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation.

Sony Global Education is working with various educational institutions with the intent to launch the blockchain-based service in 2018. Beyond the education sector, blockchain can be used in a wide range of fields, including supply chain and logistics. As Sony Group, which owns a variety of business domains, continues to evaluate and develop the system, it is considering how to apply blockchain to additional products and services.

IBM is the leader in open-source blockchain solutions built for the enterprise. As an early member of Hyperledger, an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies, IBM is dedicated to supporting the development of openly-governed blockchains. IBM has worked with more than 400 clients across financial services, supply chains, IoT, risk management, digital rights management and healthcare to implement blockchain applications. For more information about IBM Blockchain, visit www.ibm.com/blockchain.

Todd "Turbo" Watson
Twitter:@turbotodd
Blog: www.turbotodd.com
Email: toddhttp://about.me/toddwatson

Written by turbotodd

August 9, 2017 at 11:31 am

IBM Watson and Sesame Workshop Introduce Intelligent Play and Learning Platform on IBM Cloud

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If it weren’t for Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, and all the rest of my puppet teachers on Sesame Street, I wouldn’t likely be able to write this blog post.

Like so many millions of other kids coming of age in the 70s and 80s, Sesame Street was my equivalent of a mobile learning app or private tutor.

The tradition of having the Sesame family helping find new and novel ways of teaching continues.

IBM and Sesame Workshop today announced that Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools, one of the nation’s top urban school districts, has completed an initial pilot of the industry’s first cognitive vocabulary learning app, built on the IBM and Sesame intelligent play and learning platform.

The new platform, powered by IBM Cloud, enables an ecosystem of software developers, researchers, educational toy companies, and educators to tap IBM Watson cognitive capabilities and Sesame Workshop’s early childhood expertise to build engaging experiences to help advance children’s education and learning.

The cognitive vocabulary app is one of the first of many cognitive apps, games, and educational toys that will be built over time on this new platform, as a result of the two companies’ collaboration announced last year.

The Gwinnett pilot program marks the first time that Sesame Workshop expertise and Watson technology have been introduced into classrooms to be tested by students and educators.

In the initial phase, Gwinnett kindergartners and teachers in six classrooms engaged with a tablet-based, cognitive vocabulary app built on the Watson-powered intelligent play and learning platform to enhance vocabulary development of students. Fueled by Sesame learning design, this adaptive app features beloved Sesame Street characters alongside educational videos and word games.

Based on the initial Gwinnett pilot, with an expanded pilot currently being planned for this Fall, IBM and Sesame collected 18,000 feedback points from 120 students that helped determine a more accurate progression of words they were exposed to over a two-week period.

In the pilot, students learned words that are deemed challenging for kindergarteners, including “arachnid,” “amplify,” “camouflage,” and “applause,” with initial observations showing that many students appeared to acquire new vocabulary as a result of the app. In fact, one teacher noted: “We are studying animals, and children were able to notice various forms of ‘camouflage’ among animal skin patterns.” Another teacher said: “When we found a spider in the classroom, a student yelled, ‘an arachnid’!” Participating teachers overwhelmingly agreed that the app was a valuable addition to their class.

Watson’s augmented intelligence capabilities are designed to enable the app to provide digital assistance in the classroom. Teachers can monitor children’s vocabulary development in real-time through a secure dashboard and adjust lessons, pacing, and curriculum to each child’s needs.

The app will use adaptive assessments to determine a child’s current vocabulary range, and then deliver vocabulary learning experiences that focus on specific words. Continuously learning as a child engages with the app, words and areas that require additional focus are refined to deliver content and experiences that are engaging, fun and inspiring.

“Sesame Workshop is committed to reaching and teaching children in the critical years between ages 0-5, meeting them wherever they are and adapting to the ways they learn best,” said Jeffrey D. Dunn, CEO of Sesame Workshop. “Educational technology like the platform we’ve created with IBM Watson is a promising new channel for learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom, and we’re excited to explore it further.”

This app is still in early stages of development and it is being used as a vehicle to establish evidence of learning at scale. The current pilot is the first phase of a process to understand whether multi-modal learning experiences can improve vocabulary and literary.

This app and others like it will soon be available on the IBM Cloud for wide adoption in schools globally. These and other educational experiences being developed on the new Platform will be modular and easy to customize, built with the needs of educators and administrators in mind. A key partner in this unique co-design process, Gwinnett County Public Schools has offered insights and feedback as joint research and development teams from IBM and Sesame Workshop evolve the app.

Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks was excited about the opportunity to participate in this pilot with Sesame and longtime strategic technology partner IBM. He explained: “This vocabulary learning app complements our efforts to transform the classroom, actively engaging students in a fun and interactive way. Technology is a basic tool for today’s learner; and with this app, our very youngest learners had the opportunity to learn new words and expand their vocabulary.”

Gwinnett’s pilot of the cognitive vocabulary learning app is only the beginning of what’s possible with this technology. IBM and Sesame are customizing Watson for early childhood as well as developing new capabilities for it. Educational toys, apps, and games enabled with Watson’s speech- and image-recognition capabilities are expected to take the platform’s personalized learning beyond the classroom.

These products will be designed to engage directly with children and caregivers to deliver context-rich play experiences around literacy, emotional learning, and school preparedness, all adapted to each child’s preferences and learning patterns.

For more information on today’s news, please visit: https://ibm.co/sesameandibm.

Written by turbotodd

June 6, 2017 at 9:08 am

One Big MOOC

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Our CEO, Ginny Rometty, has taken to updating the IBM workforce via some nifty video blogs since she took the helm last year.

In her most recent update, she encouraged the IBM workforce to recommit to continuing to build our skills, and so asked each of us to pursue 40 hours of continuing education in 2013, and that IBM would foot the bill for the additional costs (travel, books, etc.)

Back in 2001-2003, I pursued and completed my MBA in technology management from one of the world’s first for-profit continuing education institution’s, the Apollo Group’s University of Phoenix Online.

This was still the way early days for online learning. Most of the learning was done through traditional books and Phoenix’s proprietary equivalent newsgroup software, where I would exchange asynchronous messages with my professors and fellow students. We also participated in a few self-directed teleconference calls and lots of instant messaging meetings, as there were loads of team projects that required coordination with other students.

One course in particular that I remember wishing I had had a longer course schedule beyond the traditional six weeks (which is how long Phoenix’s courses lasted at the time) was corporate finance. Half the reason I had pursued the MBA was to expand beyond my right brain-oriented BA and MA in English and Radio/TV/Film respectively, and take on more left brain pursuits.

The finance course was exactly the kind of stuff I’d been wanting to learn, but again, in six weeks, it just moved too quickly to completely grok such a vast expanse of information.

So, flash forward to 2013 and my new learning mandate from our CEO. It just so happened last fall I had stumbled onto massive online open course (MOOC) provider Coursera, which has been offering a wealth of classes from a variety of higher learning institutions, and it just so happened they were also going to be offering a corporate finance class through the University of Michigan.

Voila, problem solved. I could now return to revisiting my finance love and spend a little more deliberate time learning it from the ground up, this time over the course of 16 weeks and at no cost to myself or to IBM (other than by taking a little of my time).

This time around, however, I have a professor explaining many of the concepts through online video, snippets of which I can watch in my spare moments or in binge viewing on the weekends. I also have access to more sophisticated online messaging collaboration tools to learn from my fellow students.

And, I do believe, I’m starting to see some technological foundations laid that could completely disrupt the traditional bastions of higher learning, much the way Napster disrupted the recorded music industry.

Good education requires some basic Sophoclean give and take, to be sure, but who says such give and take has to be in a physical classroom with way too many students and not enough personal attention?

I remember courses from my own baccalaureate matriculation at the University of North Texas that filled entire stadium classrooms, and I probably said nary a word to many of those professors, other than answering a few questions over the course of the semester.

What if I could have an even more personalized learning experience, at my own pace, through a MOOC?

Who’s to say a MOOC, in partnership with some of the best professors in the world, couldn’t create their own virtual university, one that isn’t undermined by the increasingly failing economics of brick and mortar learning institutions?

One that, if put together with the right forethought and technology could charge far less than most state and private universities today, and yet still hire the best-of-the-best when it comes to instructors.

If you haven’t heard about MOOCs, you’re definitely not keeping up with the learning Joneses.

Many MOOC courses these days are attracting multiple tens of thousands of students. In fact, Coursera was developed by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller after Stanford University offered three MOOC courses in the fall of 2012 and each averaged an enrollment of around 100,000 students.

Yes, 100,000 each!

Will MOOCs scale to the needs of higher education aspirants everywhere?  Possibly.

But what if it were able to address just a quarter of the higher education needs?  Last fall, an estimated 21 million new college students were headed to universities, many incurring absurd amounts of debt and often experiencing an overhang from the mortgage debt crisis.

In fact, a Wall Street Journal article from January 30 found that credit bureau TransUnion had discovered that 33 percent of the almost $900 billion in outstanding student loans was held by subprime, or the “riskiest,” borrowers as of March of last year.

I suspect that new MOOC-oriented firms like Coursera, Udacity, edX — and probably more to come — are just one avenue that future college students may well want to pursue for a higher level of education at a fraction of today’s traditional university price, and of course they are no silver bullet.

On the other hand, the avaricious appetite for the early MOOC courses from students around the globe would suggest the higher education market is not even close to meeting the inherent demand, and it was that great learned scholar, Aristotle, who taught us that “nature abhors a vacuum.”

 

Written by turbotodd

February 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm

A Cinderella Golf Story

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I’m on vacation this week, so I’m purposely trying to stay away from the computer (and anything else with a keyboard for that matter).

The practice range at Austin’s Academy of Golf Dynamics, where Turbo spent last weekend blistering his hands and starting to undo 30 years of very bad golf habits.

However, I figured I should keep my writing chops up with at least a post or two, so long as it’s recreation or vacation-related, which this post is.

So here’s the question: Have you ever done something for 30-something years, only to discover that you’ve been doing it all wrong?

Well, that’s precisely what I learned this past weekend in the aforementioned golf school I had mentioned in a prior post, and though I’ve been doing it all wrong, I’m so glad I was finally made aware of this fact.

You see, for me, and my father, golf is kind of like a religion.  If you read the blog regularly, you know I’m a golf fanatic.

I grew up playing, even played on the golf team in junior high and high school, but honestly have never been that great.  My handicap in recent times has hovered around a 12-13, and even at that I very much enjoy the game.

But I also knew that I had ceilinged out, and I believed I was capable of doing much better.

So after attending the Academy of Golf Dynamics here in Lakeway just outside of Austin over a three day weekend, I worked to start unlearning thirty years of bad habits, and I have the blisters, and sore muscles, to show for it.

But man, what a blast…and that includes the bunkers!

The Academy says on its Web site FAQs that Golf Magazine has rated it as “one of the top 25 golf schools in the country,” and Money Magazine says “that they are one of the very best in value.”

I can only say this: Old habits die hard, and I’m going to be spending a lot of time over the next year trying to undo these past 30 years…but the Academy was a very well-structured, rigorous, yet palatable method by which to start undoing them, and I can honestly say I highly recommend it for anyone who’s serious about wanting to improve their game.

The Structure

I was fortunate, as I was in a class of about 10, with three roving instructors, so the personalized attention I received was substantial.

We started the first day working on pitch shots, not realizing that was the time that gave our instructors all the signals they needed to start analyzing our grips, stances, postures, and swings, so that they could then give each of us the guidance we needed to help our respective games.

For me, it all started with a bad grip, too wide a stance, and an over the top swing, which I was able to start correcting the first day, especially after seeing the before and after on video.

In fact, later that afternoon, I went out and played the Academy’s practice holes and hit some iron approaches and 100 yard wedges that any amateur player would be proud of, shots within 10-20 feet of the hole.

On the par 5 practice hole, utilizing the same swing, I hit a rocket ball 3-wood 230 yards just to the left of the green, a shot that, in my prior swing life, would have easily veered right of the green and possibly into the woods.

This was a great start, and as a reminder, this was all on the first day.

Over the rest of the weekend, we got lots of other instruction: On pitch shots just off the green, on improving our putting game (get more over the ball!), on sand shots (both good and bad lies), on hilly lies (up, down and sideways)…even under trees, an area I’ve tended to specialize in over the years, and so much welcomed the assistance.

Since class ended, I’ve played two full rounds, both well over my normal handicap (I usually shoot in the high 80s, and for those two rounds shot 95, and 99, respectively).

I also fully expected this. Changing 30 years of bad habits doesn’t happen overnight.

In today’s round, my dad and I were playing a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course in Salado, Texas, and I spent some time racking up some big numbers, much of it on my short game — which any good golfer knows is as much feel as skill. Relearning how to play those short shots with the new grip/stance/etc. is going to take some getting used to.

But the difference maker, at least for me, and the reason I knew what I had learned was starting to stick, was being able to step up to a 200 yard par 3, or up to a 150 yard approach shot, and be reasonably confident that I would likely put the ball on or near the green, and not instead veer off into the wilderness.

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.

In fact, on the signature 18th hole, a par 3 that must have dropped nearly 100 feet, I was able to club down to an 8 iron to hit what was yardage wise, 185 yards, and strike the most gorgeous, straight line shot you could imagine into a green, and plant it 20 feet just past the hole.  That for a shot that, before the class, would have had me scared into a fetal position off to the side of the teebox, afraid to even hit it.

Of course, then I went on to three putt, so clearly I have much work to do.

But what the Academy of Golf Dynamics three-day workshop gave me, more than anything else, was the tools and self-awareness to understand those things that makes the shot go where it does…or doesn’t.

Yes, the new grip and stance and swing plane are going to take some time to get used to, no question.  When I step up to the ball, it feels kind of like someone who’s quit smoking, but refuses to start again.  It’s uncomfortable, irritating, and thrilling all at the same time.

But my passion for the game has already increased 100 percent, because I now have an understanding of what my body is doing that makes/made the ball do what it does…and that, I have a feeling, is knowledge that’s going to help me improve my game in ways I had never even imagined.

And as any golfer will tell you, what keeps us coming back is when we hit those sweet, precise, elegant shots that send a warm jolt of endorphins streaming through our bloodstream.

I have no doubt moving forward that I’m going to have many, many more of those shots than I used to…I just have to keep working at it.

So, if you’re looking to improve your own game, and are willing to expose yourself to the blisters and humility three days of such abuse requires, you can find out more about Austin’s Academy of Golf Dynamics here.

And tell them Turbo sent you…they might just give me a discounted rate for when I come back next year!

Written by turbotodd

August 22, 2012 at 12:38 am

Singapore Sling

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Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore will play host to a new, first-of-its-kind IT event in Singapore this October 9-11, where smart businesses from around the globe that have been busy implementing new business and IT strategies will come together to network with IBM clients, industry experts, and IBM thought leaders and learn how they’re converting opportunity into outcomes.

It was a big day today in Singapore, where the country celebrated its independence, and where government leaders encouraged Singaporeans to make even more Singaporeans, in order to counter the country’s declining birthrate, which is among the lowest in the world at 7.72 births per 1,000 people.

I’m sure a few Singapore Slings may have been consumed, and I would have been right there with them, as the Raffles Hotel is definitely on my list of places to frequent for when I visit.

And that will be sooner rather than later, as IBM is going to be hosting a new, first-of-its-kind event at the Resorts World Sentosa this October 9th-11th.

This new IBM event will share with attendees the breadth of IBM’s integrated software and systems solutions capabilities, and demonstrate IBM’s strategic perspective on becoming a smarter busienss that excels in turning opportunity into outcomes in this new era of computing.

At the event, IBM will focus discussions on a variety of key “hot topics,” including those focused on speeding innovation with mobile computing, defending against cyber-threats with security intelligence, rethinking IT with cloud computing, and a host of others.

If you’re game, but need some compelling reasons to convince your boss to send you to Singapore, here’s a starter list:

  1. Networking. You’ll have the opportunity in Singapore to network with peers, industry experts, and IBM thought leaders from around the globe, including IBM customers already collaborating to better align business and technology investments.
  2. Learning. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from experts in our Solution Center, as well as through a personalized agenda of keynote session, “Hot Topic” sessions, and Exchange sessions built around your business interests.
  3. Delivering New Value. At IBM Interconnect, you’ll become one of the first to learn how to manage the velocity of change from real world examples of business delivering new value to the people they serve.
  4. Unleashing Innovation. You’ll also have the opportunity to begin to understand the new economics of IT, and how to use technology as the catalyst for unleashing innovation in your organization.
  5. Uncovering New Markets. And finally, in an environment where most every organization is looking for new customers in new markets, you’ll have the opportunity to start to develop a clear plan of how you can reinvent relationships with yoru customers and workforce and, in turn, start to uncover those new markets.

Changing With The Changing Times

Rapid change has become the new normal, as entire industries are now transforming to deliver compelling new value to their customers. In this era of interconnected industries, businesses and consumers, a new kind of leadership is required to turn opportunity into business outcomes.

Smarter businesses are capitalizing on information as an indispensable resource and using technology as the catalyst for unleashing innovation. They are expanding the digital world of the back-office into the front-office and the corresponding business infrastructures that are at the heart of business leadership and operations; the key interconnection points among consumers, business partners and employees.

Take advantage of this opportunity to develop a personalized agenda around your business needs, collaborate with business decision-making peers, and meet face-to-face with technical decision-makers and industry experts.

You can start by first going here to register, then heading on over to the Session Preview Tool to start scanning the sessions to make sure you get the most out of your visit.

If you’ve never visited Singapore, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s like visiting a future that has already arrived, and in the meantime, you’ll have the opportunity to attend an IBM event that’s intended to help you create a future looming just over the horizon.

IBM & Syracuse: Building Critical Software Development Skills

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If you’ve been watching any of the Livestream coverage emerging from the IBM Innovate event down in Orlando, you know that skills is a key issue facing software development shops everywhere.  The need for new and changing skills, skills for new platforms and development languages, skills to help pull it all together.

Today, IBM made an announcement from Innovate that it is working to help address the skills issue in a new partnership with Syracuse University intended to help college students build computing skills to manage traditional and new systems in large global enterprises.

As business value creation increasingly shifts to software, the skills needed to tackle disruptive technologies like cloud and mobile computing, particularly for enterprise-class, large industrial systems, have become critical.

Lack of employee skills in software technologies is cited as the top barrier that prevents organizations from leveraging software for a competitive advantage, according to initial findings in IBM’s Institute for Business Value 2012 Global Study on Software Delivery.

And according to IBM’s 2012 Global CEO Study, including input from more than 1,700 Chief Executive Officers from 64 countries and 18 industries, a majority (71 percent) of global CEOs regard technology as the number one factor to impact an organization’s future over the next three years — considered to be an even bigger change agent than shifting economic and market conditions.  

Syracuse GETs Skills

Syracuse University’s Global Enterprise Technology (GET) curriculum is an interdisciplinary program focused on preparing students for successful careers in large-scale, technology-driven global operating environments.

IBM and a consortium of partners provide technology platforms and multiple systems experience for the GET students. IBM’s Rational Developer for System z (RDz) and z Enterprise Systems help students build applications on multiple systems platforms including z/OS, AIX, Linux and Windows.

“Our students need to build relevant skills to address the sheer growth of computing and Big Data,” said David Dischiave, assistant professor and the director of the graduate Information Management Program in the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University. “These courses and the IBM technology platform help prepare students to build large global data centers, allow them to work across multiple systems, and ultimately gain employment in large global enterprises.”

Close to 500 students have participated in the Global Enterprise Technology minor since its inception. Syracuse University’s iSchool is the No. 1 school for information systems study, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, and serves as a model for other iSchools that are emerging around the globe.

Back To The Mainframe Future

More than 120 new clients worldwide have chosen the IBM mainframe platform as a backbone of their IT infrastructure since the IBM zEnterprise system was introduced in July 2010.

The zEnterprise is a workload-optimized, multi-architecture system capable of hosting many workloads integrated together, and efficiently managed as a single entity.

Syracuse University is a participant in IBM’s Academic Initiative and was a top ranked competitor in IBM’s 2011 Master the Mainframe competition.

As today’s mainframes grow in popularity and require a new generation of mainframe experts, the contest is designed to equip students with basic skills to make them more competitive in the enterprise computing industry job market.

IBM’s Academic Initiative offers a wide range of technology education benefits to meet the goals of colleges and universities. Over 6,000 universities and 30,000 faculty members worldwide have joined IBM’s Academic Initiative over the past five years.

IBM Impact 2012: A Q&A With Steve Jobs’ Biographer Walter Isaacson On Steve Jobs And Innovation, The Renaissance In New Orleans, And His Forthcoming Book On The History Of Computing

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The opportunity I had to sit down and interview Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson last week at IBM’s Impact 2012 event in Las Vegas was a kind of career denouement moment for me.  Let me explain: In 1994, as I was finishing work on my Master’s degree in Radio/TV/Film (they hadn’t yet added “Internet” to the RTVF degree in 1994) at the University of North Texas, I distinctly remember sending my resume off to the new inner digital sanctum of Time magazine, “Pathfinder,” which had recently been started to put some muscle behind Time’s digital presence.  They didn’t hire me, but they did hire Walter Isaacson, who would be asked to run the groundbreaking digital media organization for a short period before he was later promoted to editor of Time and, later, chairman of CNN.  

As for me, information technology, and the Internet in particular, would become central to Isaacson’s life, first at Pathfinder, later at Time magazine, and of course as the biographer of great figures ranging from Albert Einstein to Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs, all of whom were unique innovators in and of their own right.  What’s not as well known about Isaacson is that he is a Renaissance Man of sorts himself.  To read his biography (see below) is to witness the firsthand account of a personal witness to and participant in American life over these past forty years, one whose own accounts will be cherished for many years to come. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did conducting it!

(Photo by Patrice Gilbert) Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine. He is the author of Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986). Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times Picayune/States-Item. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003. He is the chairman of the board of Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved communities. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States, a position he held until 2012. He is vice-chair of Partners for a New Beginning, a public-private group tasked with forging ties between the United States and the Muslim world. He is on the board of United Airlines, Tulane University, and the Overseers of Harvard University. From 2005-2007, after Hurricane Katrina, he was the vice-chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. He lives with his wife and daughter in Washington, DC.

Turbo: First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with me, I know you’re very busy. You’ve now written biographies across a range of iconic figures of American life — Einstein, Franklin, Kissinger, and now Steve Jobs — I’m curious across all of these if you start to see some common traits and characteristics?

Walter Isaacson: Yeah, well like I said in the speech today, curiosity, a passion for what you do, an ability to think different, an ability to be imaginative and to think out of the box. You know Steve’s great mantra was “Think Different.” He also loved “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” The fact that Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, even in their final years, were thinking different, being creative, being innovative….to me, that’s the goal of life.

Turbo: Were there other characteristics? Some not so positive?

Walter Isaacson: They were different in some ways.  Benjamin Franklin is a nice counterpart to Steve Jobs, because Steve was more of a genius, more creative…but Franklin was more collaborative, kinder to the people around him, and more open to different viewpoints. So, Benjamin Franklin was really great at collaborating with other people. Franklin tells a wonderful story in his autobiography of listing all the virtues you need to have to be good in business: industry, honesty, frugality…and after he has all twelve of the virtues and he practices them, a person in the club he’s formed, called the “Leather Apron” club, says “You’re missing a virtue.” And Franklin says “What’s that?” And the friend says “Humility, you might want to try that one.”

Turbo: (Laughs)

Walter Isaacson: And Franklin says, “I was never very good at the virtue of humility, but I was very good at the pretense of humility…I could fake it very well. And I learned that the pretense of humility was as useful as the reality of humility. Because it made you listen to the person next to you, it made you try to see if you could find common ground.” And that was something that was part of the nature of Benjamin Franklin.  It was not part of the nature of Steve Jobs.

But, that’s why biographies are not how-to manuals…they’re tales about real people.  And you have to extract the lessons from each character that you think might apply to you. So for me, I’ll never be a genius like Steve Jobs…I’ll never drive to the concept of an iPad, drive into existence an iPad…I’m just not that genius…but I try to think about Steve’s passion for perfection, and I also try to think about Ben Franklin’s ability to bring people together, and be very nice and kind to people of all walks of life.

Turbo: I know you conducted 40-something interviews with Jobs, and I know you spoke with a lot of his friends, his family members and even his rivals…Was there anything that they all consistently said when they talked about Jobs as a person?

Walter Isaacson: I think that they consistently said that he was on the surface, very impatient and petulant. But once you got to know him, the important thing to understand, was that the petulance, that brattiness at times, was connected to a passion for perfection, and that’s what the narrative of the book is about, which is anybody can be a jerk.  It wasn’t that Steve was a jerk, it was that he had a passion for perfection and that’s why by the end of the book, you should be admiring him.

Turbo: We got to speak with Steve Wozniak at our IBM Pulse event earlier this year, and I asked him…and I’d like to ask you the same question I asked him, which is what do you think the world lost with him leaving us so soon?

Walter Isaacson: I think Steve was a person who reinvented at least seven industries: Personal computing, the music business, retail stores, digital animation, tablet publishing, journalism, phones…he would have reinvented more industries — digital photography, textbooks, television — we lost with Steve somebody who, because of his ability to think different, was able to transform industries. And that’s what the book is about: Sometimes you have to have a driven, intense personality in order to have the passion it takes to change industries.

Turbo: Okay, thank you for that.  I wanted to now take a step back in time to 1995-1996…I don’t know exactly what year it was, but I believe it’s when you took over the Time digital arm, Pathfinder.

Walter Isaacson: Yeah, actually it was a couple of years before that…when I took over Time, the magazine, at the end of 1995…

Turbo: Could you just describe for me that time at Time?

Walter Isaacson:  It was very interesting during that period.  In the early 1990s, there was a sea change happening. The Internet up until then had been based on community and networking and chat.  It had the BBS boards of the original Internet, you’d had the communities like The Well, and you had online services like CompuServe and AOL, where people gathered in chat rooms and on bulletin boards.

In the early 1990s, there was a shift from that type of Internet to a web-based Internet. That had some great advantages, but a few disadvantages.  The Web became a place that we could put all of our content up on Web sites, but it was more of a publishing medium than it was a community medium. You know, comments got relegated to the bottom of the page, as opposed to the smart bulletin boards and discussion groups, and Listserves, we used to have before the Web dominated the Internet.

Secondly, the business model for putting up your content online with a service like CompuServe or AOL, you would make money because people paid to be on those services, and people shared the money with you, if you were Time magazine. But once you started to put stuff on the Web, it sort of became free, and it undermined to some extent the business model of having journalists and bureaus around the world.

Of course it had much more of an upside than it had a downside, because it opened up reporting and journalism and commentary to everybody, not just those who owned a magazine.

Turbo: What are your thoughts on the greater impact of not only the commercialization of the Internet, but some of the trends it has enabled.  If we look at some of the workforce dislocation, and creating new market opportunities in countries like India and China, because of this wonderful connection via first satellites and later the Internet…When we’re looking back 100 years from now, what do you think historians will be saying about this time?

Walter Isaacson: They will be saying that the Internet was, like every information technology starting with the invention of papyrus and paper and Gutenberg’s movable type, that it empowered individuals. The free flow of information tends, over the course of time, to take power away from authorities and elites and empower individuals. The Internet’s role 100 years from now will be this transformation that not only did it take power away from the elites and mainstream media, but also the people running authoritarian regimes around the world.

Turbo: So, in looking at some of what we’ve seen with the Arab Spring….and China now trying with this recent situation (the social media crackdowns by the Chinese government)…

Walter Isaacson: I don’t think that it’s a simple process where free flow of information automatically leads to democracy. Because you’ll have a lot of back and forth. But, it does bend the arc of history towards empowerment and democracy and, eventually, whether it takes 10 or 50 years, what’s happening with the Arab Spring, what’s happening in China, what’s happening in many places, will be a trend towards more personal freedom and more democracy.

Turbo: You were chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and for people who don’t know them, they oversee Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.  What’s the changing role of the Board and the VOA in this increasingly Internet connected world?

Walter Isaacson: I think that if, sixty years ago, when VOA and Radio Free Europe were being created, if they had had the ability to sketch out on the whiteboard what would be the perfect technology to help their cause, they would have invented the Internet. Something that doesn’t respect national boundaries that well, that allows people to find proxy servers to get through to information they need. So there will be a big shift towards digital information. And I hope towards community and discussion, not just handing down information the way Edward R. Murrow would have done when he ran Voice of America but creating communities and discussions that can be facilitated by the Internet.

Turbo: A couple of other quick questions…You have deep roots in New Orleans: You grew up there, you went to school there.  And after Hurricane Katrina, Governor Kathleen Blanco appointed you vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.  We’re now seven years on — how do you feel New Orleans is doing?  Have you been back recently?

Walter Isaacson: I go back all the time.  And New Orleans has not only come back, but in most ways, it’s better than before the storm.

Turbo: How so?

Walter Isaacson: We have a better school system. More choice for kids in the schools.  More than 70 percent of the kids are in charter schools which allows innovative, entrepreneurial people like KIPP Academy to create schools that stay open until seven in the evening, eleven months a year, which is the way we should have education in our society. Likewise, there’s more entrepreneurship in New Orleans.

I think Forbes magazine called it maybe the best city for startups and entrepreneurship because so many young people are coming in. There’s a brain magnet in New Orleans.  Teach for America has almost tripled in size in New Orleans since before the storm, bringing young people in who want to be part of the educational renaissance there.  Tim Williamson has created Idea Village, which is an incubator for start-ups right in the heart of New Orleans. Tulane University has three times as many applicants as it did before the storm because eager, adventurous, entrepreneurial people want to be part of a city that’s rebuilding.

Mitch Landrieu is a great mayor — we have a political system that is much better than it was before the storm. There are even more restaurants than there were before the storm, probably more bars. So, for those of us who were worried that New Orleans would never come back, it is a great case study not only in resilience, but in reinvention — to say, if we were to build a school system from scratch, would we build it the same way we had it before the storm? No.  Let’s start a more entrepreneurial school system where the schools are open later, they spend more of the year where they compete for students, and you’ve had double-digit test score gains, every year for the past three years.

So, these are the types of things that keep me coming back to New Orleans, but also make me glad that so many young tech and web entrepreneurs have moved to the city to create this vibrant start-up community there.

Turbo: That’s great.  My ears perked up in your keynote when you talked about how you’re working on this new book about the information revolution.  Any themes you’re starting to see in your research that you can share with us in advance of its publication?

Walter Isaacson: One major theme, which is the theme of the Steve Jobs book and everything else I’ve written, which is innovation comes where there’s an intersection between the arts and the sciences. When there’s an intersection between poetry and microprocessors. Where a great feel for beauty and design is connected with a great feel for technology and engineering. That’s what Steve Jobs is all about, that’s what Ben Franklin was all about, that’s what Einstein was about.

So it starts with Ada Byron Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, who becomes a great mathematician, because her mother doesn’t want her to grow up to be like her dad. And, she also has within her the poetry of her genetic code, of her heritage. And so she works in the 1830s with Charles Babbage, who creates the first prototype of a computer, and she helps describe and envision how computers can become universal machines, and not just mathematical calculators.

And then it leaps forward from that chapter to Alan Turing, who also has a great feel for beauty, but helps invent the first computers at Bletchley Park when they’re breaking the German Enigma codes in England. And then to places like IBM, which is doing the Mark I computer at Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania where they’re doing the Eniac, and the University of Iowa where John Atanassof is creating in the basement of the physics building an early version of the computer.

The computer and the Internet are the two most important inventions of the modern era. And yet most people don’t know how poetic, ingenious, and creative the people who invented those things were. In fact, most people don’t even know exactly who invented them.

And so this is a tale of inventiveness that will take us from Ada Lovelace all the way to, I hope, people who are doing social networks, mobile computing, and artificial intelligence today. It starts with Ada Byron Lovelace concluding that machines will never think, they will never originate their own creative ideas, and that’s certainly something that Alan Turing explores, but now it’s something that with Watson at IBM, and with the notion of artificial intelligence, is still something we look at and wonder will it ever happen?

(Blogger’s Note: I wanted to extend, as always, a special thank you to the consummate professionals with Drury Design Dynamics, a family business whose primary focus is nothing less than excellence. In particular, I’d like to thank Chris Drury and Mark Felix — they always keep me on my toes and are integral to making these Q&As happen at IBM customer events.) 

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