Where does the money in a £20 note actually exist? It’s the sort of thing you don’t often think about. Unless, of course you’re an expert like David Birch, whose day job is heading a consultancy specializing in secure electronic transactions, and who’s also just published a book called “Identity is the New Money.”

He used that question during his Talk@Mendeley to get the audience thinking about what we understand money to be, and put forward the idea that:

“Technologically, money is a primitive form of memory”

talks at mendeley  “Back to the Future of Money” David Birch Talks@Mendeley

As the title of the talk suggests, David actually goes back to the past in order to understand the future of money, and what it holds in store for all of us as transactions technology advances.

Paradoxically, he says, we can best understand the Bitcoin phenomenon by studying the stone currency system in the Pacific Island of Yap, where ownership of the valuable, but extremely large and cumbersome carved stones is transferred without the need to physically move them. The entire system is based on accepting the value of the stones and remembering who they belong to at any given time, even if the stone in question happens to be at the bottom of the sea.

The way money works these days is actually quite recent, David explained.

“The birth of modern money dates back only to around August 1971, when Richard Nixon ended the convertibity of the US Dollar, so actually, money as we know it right now is only about 40 years old. It’s not a law of nature.”

Social Anthropologists such as Jack Weatherford agree that the electronic money world looks much more like the Neolithic economy before the invention of money than the market as we have known it for the past few hundred years.

“In a world where everybody is connected to everybody else, what do you actually need the money for? If this was a Neolithic clan, you’d have sets of obligations to each other that you would remember. Money is a marker that allows you to scale that process. But. If you can remember everything, then you might not actually need money at all.”

And that is where technology comes in, making that memory-based system scalable: Old universal currency systems are broken, Birch argues, and they reduce people to having to engage in what he calls “security theatre”.

He illustrated this by recounting a recent experience of trying to buy a cup of coffee using his credit card at a Las Vegas branch of Starbucks, and being asked to present some form of picture ID. In the end he produced an expired security pass which the person serving him accepted in spite of having no real way of knowing whether it was, in fact, genuine.

“There’s no actual security taking place here, but as long as I know my lines and she knows her lines, then everyone is happy. That’s where we are with transactions in general right now. But if I had had my Starbucks app, I could have paid for my coffee using that without any trouble.”

talks at mendeley  “Back to the Future of Money” David Birch Talks@Mendeley

The idea is that in an age dominated by mobile phones and apps, we don’t need one universal sort of currency that works everywhere. We can instead more easily and securely use “Starbucks Money” or any other kind of situation-specific money, with the same sort of convenience, as technology mediates your transactions for you in increasingly efficient ways.

In this brave new world, crowdsourced resources and systems based on your reputation – such as a LinkedIn profile – are much more appropriate forms of verifying identity than top-down imposed mechanisms:

“I wager money that it’s harder for any of you to forge a LinkedIn profile than it would be to forge a Western Australian Driving License that would get past someone”

disclaimer: Neither David Birch nor Mendeley is advising or in any way encouraging people to try either of these options at home.

Bitcoin does not, therefore, represent the actual future of transactions and money, but this cusp we’ve arrived at where it is not only possible, but safer and more convenient to create lots of different types of money that work within different communities. In this scenario, Bitcoin is the piece of technology that will enable this and allow that to happen. The Flux Capacitor of money if you will.

talks at mendeley  “Back to the Future of Money” David Birch Talks@Mendeley

You can watch all the talks and Q&As on the Mendeley YouTube Channel Playlist, and to keep in the loop about the next Talks@Mendeley be sure to follow us on Twitter

 

 

guest blog  Crowdfunding to develop healthcare matching technology

A technology platform is helping to match paraplegic patients and those with neurological disabilities with the best healthcare providers available. They now want to use crowdfunding to develop this service even further, and their Indiegogo campaign has already reached over half of their initial $60,000 goal. Here’s their story, which began over 10 years ago…

By Jessica Harthcock, Founder and CEO of Utilize Health

I was 17 when I was paralyzed practicing gymnastics with the goal of bettering my skills for the springboard diving team. From the beginning, my prognosis was very grim; doctors said I would never regain function. This was certainly not what I thought my life would look like at age 17. My family and I wanted options – we wanted a treatment or therapy we could TRY. So for the next several years, my family and I traveled in search of highly specialized rehabilitation treatments. We went everywhere – Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt, facilities in Chicago, Miami and Louisville. I tried anything and everything I could get my hands (or legs) on. I tried Lokomat therapy, e-stem, underwater treadmill training, vestibular therapy, hippo therapy (and the list goes on). After several years of hard work, I learned to walk again. Today, I still don’t have sensation below T3, but I walk by sight (and with the help of my service dog, Ozzie). It’s been a journey, one that’s never really over.

guest blog  Crowdfunding to develop healthcare matching technology

This experience has taught me a lot about myself, but also about the gaps in the healthcare system. It was extremely difficult to learn about all of the existing and new treatments. Googling only gets one so far. Once I found a treatment or therapy I wanted to try, no one could tell me where to go to get it. Locating a facility with a particular therapy sometimes took months. After experiencing difficulties in finding resources and therapies, I knew there had to be an easier way, so I vowed to create a tool that could help other patients find the resources they needed without wasting time, energy and financial resources. Thus, Utilize Health was born.

Utilize Health is a platform that matches patients with neurological disabilities to the therapies and facilities they need to maximize their potential for recovery. Think OpenTable or Hotels.com, but for patients and facilities/therapies.

My husband and I started the company in May 2013. We were accepted into a top-ranked business accelerator program called Jumpstart Foundry. Through the program, we developed the idea into a sustainable business.

guest blog  Crowdfunding to develop healthcare matching technology

In December of 2013, Utilize Health was very fortunate to unexpectedly receive national press from USA Today. Patients, families, facilities and equipment manufacturers all started reaching out to see if they could use our service. But there was a BIG problem… the website didn’t exist yet. We were in the process of raising funds to build the web application.

I lost sleep… a lot of sleep. What do we do? People need this and they need it NOW. Patients don’t want to wait. Every email, phone call, and social media request seemed more urgent than the next.

The Utilize Health team rallied. We created a plan. We started to manually match patients to therapies and facilities across the country. Manual matching is completed by essentially looking at spreadsheets and other paper databases. Manual matching is time consuming. It takes anywhere from 7-10 days, sometimes longer.

In April, the Utilize Health team had successfully matched more than 100 patients to therapies and facilities across the country. Patients and their loved ones were thrilled with the resources Utilize Health was able to provide them.

Unfortunately, there are still patients and their families on the waitlist waiting to be matched. More patients sign up daily. With a wait list a mile long, we need to automate the matching process. This is when we decided to ask the public for help through crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding has given us an opportunity to gain support within the community. In less than 48 hours, we raised more than $20,000. We were completely blown away by people’s generosity.

All the funds pledged will do directly towards the development and creation of the web application to automate the matching process. Perks and prizes are offered such as Utilize Health swag and patient advocate subscriptions. Our campaign is live until August 22nd. Click on the link below to check out the campaign.

We are so thankful to everyone who has contributed thus far. We truly hope to make an impact for those individuals who have neurological conditions. As we say at Utilize Health, No One Walks Alone.

If you’re interested in the subject, why not join the Mendeley Crowdfunding group, or let us know in the comments below if you have any experiences to share with the community!

 

 

 

 

talks at mendeley  Talks@Mendeley – Is Identity the New Money?

Our next Talks@Mendeley is this is fast approaching, on Friday the 18th July at 6:00pm.

The speaker this time around is David Birch, whose TED talk  “A New Way to Stop Identity Theft” had been watched over 100,000 times. He expands on some of the talk’s themes in his latest book “Identity is the New Money”. David is an identity and transactions consultant and Director of Consult Hyperion and chairman of the annual Digital Money Forum and Digital Identity Forum in London.  His Mendeley talk will also explore the ways in which technology and the proliferation of digital currencies is changing how we think about our identities, and about transactions in general. Are we marching towards a future where cash will become redundant?

The talk will be streamed live and the videos will also be added to Talks@Mendeley playlist on our YouTube channel, where you can also watch the videos from the last talk, “Nobody Knows a Damn Thing” by Luke Dormehl.

Do send in your questions via Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below!

 

news  Mendeley moves into the cloud: It’s nice up here!

Photo by Tom Atkinson @R3Digital

Last week we took what might seem like a small step, but was in fact a very giant leap by moving mendeley.com into the cloud. Now you might be thinking “Mendeley is already cloud-based, what are you talking about?” It’s true that our users can access their papers, annotations and all other data on any device, so we’re very much a cloud platform. In the past, however, Mendeley’s own servers were not cloud-based, which meant that the process of maintaining, updating and developing the product was sometimes not as optimal as it could be.

It’s a problem that many start-ups face, specially as they scale up, since it’s expensive and time-consuming to overhaul your systems without causing significant disruption to your users*. That, however, is one of the advantages of having the support and resources from Elsevier, who are investing on the Mendeley structure to make sure that we’re sustainable, scalable, and able to integrate with and develop tools and functionalities to meet researcher’s needs.

Having our data in the cloud means more reliability, speed and the ability to really make the whole development process more agile. That certainly means a happier Mendeley team, and we know it will help bring a better, faster-improving product for our community.

There was a real space-launch atmosphere as various Mendeley teams came together to work out the complex logistics of moving over 100 Terabytes of user data safely into the cloud, but it all went smoothly, thanks to the brave efforts of Robin Stephenson, James Rasell, Chris Barr, Callum Anderson, Kubilay Kara, James Gibbons and Merrick Barton (Jan was just basking in the atmosphere while feeling smug following the Germany-Brasil game).

news  Mendeley moves into the cloud: It’s nice up here!

We hope you like the improvements that this change will bring, we’re certainly excited about the future up here in the cloud!

* We did have a small amount of down time on Wednesday as the move happened, and apologies go to anybody who was inconvenienced.

guest blog  Mendeley Supports Entrepreneurship Studies Network

Mendeley Advisor Dr Richard Tunstall is a Lecturer in Enterprise at the University of Leeds. He recently used Mendeley’s community features to support an innovative multi-disciplinary workshop, and here’s how he got on:

guest blog  Mendeley Supports Entrepreneurship Studies Network

I organised a two-day residential workshop focussing on social and cultural aspects of entrepreneurship; a relatively novel focus for social science research, which is building momentum as a multi-disciplinary community.

This event brought together a unique mix of researchers, who wouldn’t normally meet together at established academic conferences. 80 attendees took part and the event led to the creation of a new Entrepreneurship Studies Network, which was supported by Mendeley’s community before the workshop even began.

I set up a new group on Mendeley where we provided advance key readings from journals which all participants were asked to read before they attended, in order to set the agenda. As keynote speakers agreed to take part, we invited them to add in a short-list of their own recommended reading on the subject. Finally, we opened the group up to contributions from everyone after the event, inviting them to continue posting papers they’ve written and recommended on the subject.

Using Mendeley has supported us in forming a new international community of researchers ranging from renowned professors to early-stage PhD students. People joined us from all over the world, including the USA, UK, Europe, Australia and Canada, and some have also gone on to create their own private collaboration groups to work on new projects together. The discussion area also provides an opportunity to share ideas and promote opportunities to meet at new conferences. The group remains open to everyone, so if you’re interested, why not join us?

guest blog  Mendeley Supports Entrepreneurship Studies Network

 

 

Considering that Mendeley is a software taking full advantage of the internet and cloud storage, it is impossible to underscore the importance of the SysAdmin — short for System Administration — team at Mendeley. The team is responsible for ensuring our computer systems, databases, and networks are working reliably and efficiently.

But they are far from being a “have you tried turning it off and on again” I.T. response team — the SysAdmin team is constantly working on developing and maximizing our systems, working closely with engineers and API developers, and ensuring the integrity of our data and systems.

However, it also behooves me to write nice things about them, as they are also responsible for making sure each employee at Mendeley has the correct computing tools needed to do their job — and can’t you see me with a brand-new tablet? :-p

Robin Stephenson

Vice President of Engineering

mendelife community relations  Meet the SysAdmin Team!Back in Elsevier after many years with intermediate experience in a variety of roles, including various other publishers, banking and transport information. Started as a Perl developer on Sun workstations; now more interested in operating Scala running in Hadoop on AWS.

1. How do you describe your role/what you do on the SysAdmin Team?
Maintain longer-term goals of the engineering team; making it work, and helping them work. Immanentising the eschaton by adopting good ideas and expunging terrible ones.

2. What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

An informal atmosphere, and the ability to take decisions.

3. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Cycling, learning, spending time with my family.

 

Kubilay Tsil Kara

Database Administrator

mendelife community relations  Meet the SysAdmin Team!Kubilay studied in University of Westminster, earning a Masters of Science in Database Systems, with experience in database design, data modelling and data integration between systems and applications.

1. How do you describe your role/what you do on the Syadmin Team?
Responsible for the day to day database administration, database performance tuning and data integration activities in the company.

2. What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?
I like working in Mendeley because it uses cutting edge technology and platforms to provide its services, always trying new things and exploring methods to do things better. People working in Mendeley are very knowledgeable and innovative and there is always opportunity and time to try new things.

3. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Travelling, Cars, Fishing, ​Cinema and Chess

 

James Rasell

Systems Administrator

mendelife community relations  Meet the SysAdmin Team!James graduated in 2005 from Kingston University with a BSc Hons in Earth and Planetary Science and worked within the oil and hosting industries before moving to Mendeley 18 months ago.

1. How do you describe your role/what you do on the SysAdmin Team?

As a sysadmin my tasks vary from fixing printers to managing, planning, testing and conducting large scale migrations and upgrades. One of my key skills within the team is Hadoop for which I obtained my CCAH last year.

2. What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

I get to work with awesome and intelligent people as well as having the chances to constantly develop my knowledge.

3. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Drawing, playing bass, running, tennis, music, art, tattoos, beer, wine, travelling….(the list goes on)

 

Steffen Rick

Systems Administrator

mendelife community relations  Meet the SysAdmin Team!The newest member of Mendeley, Steffen Rick has been in this profession a long time. He started working right away and “I can remember the heydays of the internet, I joined pretty much at that time.” Steffen also remembers the internet bubble bursting, but is happy that both it, and he, have recovered.

Steffen has traveled to many countries and worked several places. He said he feels lucky when he answered the phone when the agency called and asked “Do you want to work for Mendeley?”

1. How do you describe your role/what you do on the SysAdmin Team?

I’m basically hired as Sysadmin, working on keeping things running, hoping I can contribute to improving it too.

2. What is your favourite part about working for Mendeley?

The proper display of attitude, software code is actually being written at this place.

3. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

All the things others enjoy too. Drinking beer, going to concerts, various forms of sport, working on becoming a FreeBSD committer.

Congratulations and thank you to Nour Daoud!

mendeley advisors guest blog community relations advisor of the month  “Education is the most powerful weapon: Congratulations June Advisor of the Month!Nour is a recent graduate from the Illinois Institute of Technology and part of IIE’s Syrian Research Consortium, which Mendeley supports. She studied Computer Science and Communication for four years in Syria, before transferring to IIT and studying Electrical Engineering. Nour interned at Goldman Sachs in summer 2013, and will begin full-time work at the firm in June 2014.

“During my two years at IIT, I had an awesome research experience in Germany through the RISE program. My project was in telecommunications. Not only did I learn so much during my project, but I also had a great time and met a lot of great minds and fun people,” said Nour.

“I would love for other people to have similar research experiences, especially people coming from areas of conflict where it can be tough to get to resources. I hope to set a good example for anyone with a similar background as me and inspire them to work hard to achieve good results in their life through research and education in general,” she added.

We are honored to support the IIE program and to recognize Nour for her achievements as a student and as a Mendeley Advisor. Learn more about Nour and her journey in this guest blog post (cross-post from “Syrian Students for a better future.”)


 

“Education is the most powerful weapon:*” My Journey to Illinois Institute of Technology

mendeley advisors guest blog community relations advisor of the month  “Education is the most powerful weapon: Congratulations June Advisor of the Month!

On September 1, 2012, I said goodbye to my family to take my flight to the US. It was my first flight ever. I was transferring to Illinois Institute of Technology from my beloved mother country, Syria. I wasn’t sure what the future had for me. I was so determined to continue my education that it never occurred to me to worry about the course work in the US. I just knew that my only option was to succeed. I was only worried about getting lost in Abu Dhabi and missing my connecting flight, considering my non-existing sense of direction. I had a bring-it-on attitude towards life and was ready for whatever was coming.

Almost 19 months later, so much has happened! I interviewed and earned an an internship at Goldman Sachs for Summer 2013; applied for and received a RISE (Research in Science and Engineering) fellowship in Germany; developed friendships with students from throughout Chicago and from all over the world – many of whom I know will be life-long friends and colleagues.

I have lived the international experience, and last but not least, I GRADUATED!

I cannot begin to describe how happy I am to be among one of the first four Syrians to graduate under the IIT-Jusoor scholarship with high academic achievements. I have definitely changed a lot during the last two years broadening and deepening my perspective of the world in all of its diversity, and complexity. I still have a great deal to learn and explore about myself and my place in this world – as well as my contributions and service – but it definitely feels awesome to have that BSc degree while doing that

None of this would have been possible without the help of Illinois Tech and Jusoor. The way they cooperated is beyond inspiring. We will be forever thankful for IIT’s effort to help students from countries of conflict, and Jusoor’s effort to help Syrians of all ages to continue their education and build their dreams wherever they find themselves in the world.

I cannot begin to describe how thankful I am for my beloved country, Syria; I am grateful for the outstanding teachers that taught me and for fifteen years of free quality education that shaped who I am today.

What’s going on in my country breaks my heart – every moment of everyday. I know that I cannot stop the conflict, but I’m going to join it with my own weapon: Education! Along with a fundamental belief in the contributions of research and applied service to one’s community.

With so many Syrians losing their chance at education, it’s our responsibility as Syrians to help each other as much as we can. Let’s bring the smiles back to our Syria and guarantee a better future, one educated Syrian at a time.

– Nour Daoud

* “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela


 

As part of our partnership with the Syrian Research Consortium, Mendeley created a group called Research in Conflict, where researchers, and those supporting research in areas of conflict, can share their thoughts and experiences on the subject.

The lone cowboy researcher motif has ridden off into the sunset. With research becoming more and more collaborative and multi-disciplinary, the support networking surrounding researchers is ever-expanding in size and importance. Librarians and institutional support can be especially key; researchers need to have access to the best tools to help them be even more efficient and effective.

Learn how Mendeley can help researchers, librarians, and institutions drive research success with our webinar series, launching this week. This series of four free webinars explores the premium features for users and advanced analytics for librarians being used by institutions across the world.

Want to know what’s happening next for Mendeley? The series kicks-off with Jan Reichelt, Mendeley co-founder and President of Mendeley, who will share the Mendeley roadmap for the next few years.

Schedule and registration information:

Thursday 26 June 2014 17:00-17:50 hrs. CEST

mendeley use case events 2 elsevier  Expanding impact: The Mendeley Webinar Series

“One year after joining Elsevier – The even better Mendeley!”

Join Jan Reichelt, Mendeley co-founder and President of Mendeley, discusses becoming part of Elsevier, his vision for the future, and how Mendeley continues to “change the way we do research.” Jan will also review the upcoming Mendeley roadmap for rest of 2014 as well as what new innovations to expect from the Mendeley and Elsevier team in 2015. [Register for this webinar]

 

 

Tuesday 1 July 2014 16:00-16:50 hrs. CEST

mendeley use case events 2 elsevier  Expanding impact: The Mendeley Webinar Series“Vision of Technical University of Denmark’s use of Mendeley to drive research and scientific collaboration”

Technical University of Denmark, or DTU, is one of the foremost technical universities in Europe and continues to excel with increasing number of publications and extensive global industry partnerships each year. To build on its vision of research and technical excellence DTU rolled out Mendeley to all of the university and participation grew by 250% in less than 6 months. In this session, presenter Jens Damm Fledelius, Head of Projects at DTU, will talk about the vision of the university library, the progress of the Mendeley project, early signs of success, and the future steps forward. [Register for this webinar]

 

 

 

Thursday 17 July 2014 11:00-11:50 hrs. CEST

“The library’s role in supporting research impact at Hong Kong Baptist University and Eurofound”

mendeley use case events 2 elsevier  Expanding impact: The Mendeley Webinar Series mendeley use case events 2 elsevier  Expanding impact: The Mendeley Webinar SeriesLearn about how Mendeley supports research results and collaboration from two different institutions. Hong Kong Baptist University, a publicly-funded institution focused on providing the best whole person education for its students and European Foundation, will share about their teaching and research focus and why reference management tools are an essential part of the education process from librarians Christopher Chan and Chloe Lei.

mendeley use case events 2 elsevier  Expanding impact: The Mendeley Webinar SeriesThe European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite European Union Agency, whose role is to provide knowledge in the area of social and work-related policies will discuss how Mendeley is crucial to sharing and dissemination of new scientific trends and information. Jan Vandamme of the Eurofound Information Centre, will give insights to how these institutions came to learn about Mendeley, their evaluation process, building a business case for internal support, planning of user deployment, the results so far, and their plans for the future. [Register for this webinar]

 

 

 

Thursday 17 July 2014 11:00-11:50 hrs. CEST

Mendeley @ Stanford University

mendeley use case events 2 elsevier  Expanding impact: The Mendeley Webinar SeriesHear about how the library team at Stanford University selected Mendeley, an evolutionary reference management tool connected to one of largest academic social networks, to deploy to researchers and faculty. In one year, more than a thousand researchers have joined the Mendeley group @ Stanford to support both research collaboration and individual research projects. Librarian Helen Josephine teams up with Jessica Rylan, PhD Student, and Gennifer Smith, Master’s Student, to give an overview of how the library took on the initiative and how the students and researchers have embraced the new researcher’s tool to support their work. [Register for this webinar]

If you attend, let us know what you think of the webinar in the comments below!

events 2  Submit your paper for Mining Scientific Publications Workshop!

The 3rd International Workshop on Mining Scientific Publications will take place from the 8th to the 12th September in London, and is a cross-disciplinary workshop for researchers, industry practitioners, digital library developers, and open access enthusiasts. Kris Jack, Chief Data Scientist here at Mendeley is co-organizing the event along with CORE, the Open UniversityAthena Research and Innovation Center, and the European Library/Europeana .

The aim is to bring together people from different backgrounds to explore the possibilities around data mining tools, and how they can be used to save researcher’s time by finding and processing huge amounts of information quickly and easily.

We’re asking for submissions before the 13th July 2014 from those interested in analysing and mining databases of scientific publications, developing systems to enable such analysis, or designing new technologies to improve research and the free availability of research data. Researchers should submit their papers online, for inclusion in the programme. Both long papers (up to eight pages in the ACM style) and short papers (not exceeding four pages) are welcome, as are practical demonstrations and presentation of systems and methods (demonstration submissions should consist of a two-page description of the system, method or tool).

“We’re looking to attract researchers from across academia and industry to work through the amazing possibilities and challenges around mining scientific content. The collaborations that come from these initiatives always yield really interesting results, so I’m looking forward to see what submissions we get through this year” says Kris

The workshop will be structured around three main themes:

  1. The whole ecosystem of infrastructures, including repositories, aggregators, text-and data-mining facilities, impact monitoring tools, datasets, services and APIs that enable analysis of large volumes of scientific publications.
  2. Semantic enrichment of scientific publications by means of text-mining, crowdsourcing or other methods.
  3. Analysis of large databases of scientific publications to identify research trends, high impact, cross-fertilisation between disciplines, research excellence etc.

This year, we also put together a CORE publications dataset containing a large array of publications from various research areas. This includes full-text as well as enriched versions of metadata, with the aim of providing workshop participants with a framework for developing and testing methods and tools around the workshop topics. You can access this data through the CORE portal.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them below or tweet @WOSP2014

talks at mendeley  “Nobody Knows a Damn Thing”                               Luke Dormehl Talks@Mendeley

Our first Talks@Mendeley got off to a great start with a thought-provoking presentation and discussion with author, journalist and filmmaker Luke Dormehl.

After showing off his own Mendeley Profile, Luke spoke to the Mendeley team and guests about how, as a journalist writing for publications such as The Guardian, Fast Company and Wired he was keenly aware of the pervasiveness of technology:

“If you look at any period in history, the imagery and metaphors are drawn from popular science, and today there is no science more popular than computer science. My interest in technology comes from popular culture. If you want to understand popular culture you really need to engage with technology and the questions it poses, which are really key to understanding how the world works and our relationship it, as well as our relationships with each other, and issues with our own identity.”

As a filmmaker himself, he explained how he came across the famous quote from screenwriter William Goldman (who produced screenplays for All the President’s Men, The Princess Bride, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, amongst many others) which stated that when it came to the entertainment industry, “Nobody knows a damn thing”.  Luke then set out to discover whether this was indeed true, or whether technology could actually help us to, for example, accurately predict what films would succeed at the box office.

talks at mendeley  “Nobody Knows a Damn Thing”                               Luke Dormehl Talks@Mendeley

In his book, The Formula, Dormehl talks about how a company called Epagogix claims to be able to do just that by analysing scripts using over 30 million unique scoring combinations. Interestingly, it not only churns out a number, but is also able to make creative suggestions based on the data, adjusting scripts to make them more successful and profitable.

“This represents a vision of a future where machine logic can be embedded in the creative process”

But these processes are certainly not straightforward, even in fields such as academic publishing or law, which would seem, to an outsider, to be less subjective and therefore more suitable for automation.

He then outlined an interesting recent experiment, which illustrated how even turning a fairly binary traffic law into an algorithm that issued speeding tickets to infringers accordingly, could be a lot more challenging than you would think. Given the same datasets, two groups of scientists produced algorithms that issued vastly different numbers of tickets, which highlights the many potential difficulties facing the Google Driverless Car project, for example.

Luke concluded his talk by showing how nothing is sacred as far as algorithms go, not even love. He explained how it was even possible to create a virtual girlfriend though a relationship simulator called Kari.

talks at mendeley  “Nobody Knows a Damn Thing”                               Luke Dormehl Talks@Mendeley

Like with any research project worth its salt, writing The Formula left him with more questions than answers, and as you can imagine, the crowd listening to the talk followed up with quite a few insightful points of their own in the Q&A session that followed.

Do watch both videos on the Mendeley YouTube Channel and let us know what you think! We’re also busy arranging another talk on the 18th July, so be sure to watch this space and follow Talks@Mendeley on Twitter for more details!