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Giovanni Corazza on Thinking Out of the Box

Giovanni Corazza

Marconi Society Board Member and University of Bologna Professor Giovanni Corazza recently asked a TEDxROMA audience, “”How do we assess the value of a new idea? If it’s really new, nobody has ever seen it before. It is as if we had landed on a new planet, totally unexplored territory.” As Vint Cerf, Marconi Vice-Chairman and himself a recent TEDxROMA speaker, said in an email to Corazza, the talk was “truly inspiring.” Corazza spoke on Creative Thinking – How to Get Out of the Box and Generate Ideas.  He advised,  “Look for alternatives and not the correct answer. When you think creatively, there is no correct and many possible alternatives.” He goes on to point out the difficulty of understanding the value of something new. He said people often ask themselves, “Who am I to be the generator of that new idea? Probably, this has been thought about before. If this is correct, somebody else would have done it before me. These are natural mechanisms with which we kill our own ideas. We have to resist that. … Serendipity happens all the time. We just need to have the eyes to see that.”

Corazza warns, “If the environment punishes mistakes, you will never be tempted to go out of the box.”

Vint Cerf’s TEDxROMA talk was about Bit Rot and the problems of reading today’s digital data in the future. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in Bands of Brothers was able to reconstruct many discussions in Lincoln’s Civil War cabinet. She scoured archives to find hundreds of letters of the time. Vint asks how historians 150 years from today read our letters and tweets or watch our videos? They probably won’t be an easy way to interpret 8′ floppies or VHS tapes. With a delightful sense of humor, Vint suggests developing “Digital Vellum.” Rather than a physical medium, Vint proposes developing a logical way to encode both the data (the bits) and the software required to understand it. This isn’t a simple problem and he’s still looking for some of the answers.