Chapter 18


In my experience, the best examples of machines acting socially come from the least expected places. It reinforces a deeply held belief that I have about the origins of a real disruptive change. It’s not always true. There are plenty of examples otherwise. But my bias is that the real new, new things rarely come from big companies. They come from determined individuals or small groups passionately pursuing a new idea in the cleared-out mythical Silicon Valley garage.

Occasionally, large companies get it right and form small entrepreneurial offshoots that are given the intellectual and financial freedom to pursue their vision. The original IBM Personal Computer, model 5150—the famous IBM PC—is a great case in point. Based in Boca Raton, Florida, the design team broke all the rules and developed an IBM product in one year, not the usual four. The rest is history.

Another way large companies try to act smaller and more nimble is to provide tools to independent groups in the hopes of benefitting from their innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. This scenario is a good example of exactly that.

Weather forecasting is a tricky business. It’s also an expensive business. Today, forecasters rely on a combination of advanced geostationary satellites, a nationwide system of NEXRAD weather radars, and specialized Doppler radars installed at 41 of the major U.S. airports. In addition, they use weather balloons, airplanes, and dedicated weather data collection sites ...

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