This Week in Innovation: 4/27–5/3

The stories, happenings, memes, and dust-ups that shaped the innovation dialogue in the past seven days.
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With about two weeks to go, the highest-grossing Kickstarter project to date—Pebble, a smartwatch startup—has raised more than $8 million. Jenna Wortham of The New York Times declared that Kickstarter is “transforming the way people build businesses.” We’re slightly wary of assertions like this (for reasons listed here… and remember when Groupon was the “savior of small businesses”?), but the site is undeniably precocious. And we are looking forward to seeing 54,000 people walking around with watches bearing an uncanny resemblance to house arrest bracelets.

So many conferences, so little time. The Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, the Wired Business Conference, and the 99 Percent Conference are a testament to the vast definition of innovation we employ today: while Tribeca awarded Justin Bieber (!?) for getting his start on YouTube, Wired interviewed Alan Mulally, James Dyson, and Eric Ries.

Is college worth it? Or, more to the point, is it worth $160,000? No, Jonah Lehrer argues in The Wall Street Journal: instead of teaching useful skills, colleges just serve as sorting mechanisms for future employers. The education system is ripe for disruption, which is why we’re curious about Harvard and MIT’s online non-profit, edX, the latest in a crop of online course offerings that make us realize the college campus might soon be relegated, sadly, to relic status.

In a New York Times article about Edward Conard’s new book, Unintended Consequences, Adam Davidson takes Conard to task for his polarizing belief that growing inequality is “a sign that our economy is working.” Rather than spurring innovation, as Conard insists, Davidson writes that inequality allows those with wealth to crush new ideas. Unintended Consequences, Davidson says, could be “the most hated book of the year.” If nothing else, check out the article for Conard’s views on art history majors. (Hint: not a major worth $160,000.)

Illustration by Michael Sendrow.

FROM the greenhouse