A lot can happen in a year

A lot can happen in a year


I started this website as a project to explore thinking. Because writing is thinking. It started slowly but began to grow. I committed to writing every week for a year. At the end of the year, I sealed the project's fate by publicly announcing that I would write reflections on what I learned over the year. I didn't expect to take another year. But a lot can happen in a year.

Lesson #1: Build a system. My writing project's primary focus and raison d'être was to spend time thinking, exploring, and synthesizing. If I had simply said, "I am going to carve out time to think," the busyness of life surely would have prevented it. But instead, I built a system that enabled me to do this (serendipitous note-capture, easy publishing platform, custom tools to create imagery, etc.).

Lesson #2: Experiment. Approach your work like a scientist, knowing that not all experiments work. Same is true for experiments in thinking. For example, we started a small podcast project called Heureka! Stories. I recruited a small team of undergraduates to help build episodes. While we completed several good episodes, several remain on the cutting room floor (distractions like grades, finals, and eventually student graduation). Season 1 fizzled to a close instead of ending with a resounding Heureka! But every project has diminishing returns, and so while I hate leaving projects unfinished (something I'm working on), I know that my attention is better focused elsewhere.

Lesson #3. Increase your chance of luck. I started this experiment not knowing where it'd lead. During the middle of the project, I was offered an opportunity to direct a new Center for Computational Thinking. While writing about computation and thinking was not part of the official job description to lead a center for computational thinking, spending time each week writing better positioned me to understand emerging technologies, their use, and their implications on society.

Lesson #4: Build, mix, and re-mix. Part of the ethos of the Center is to try to take advantage of what you are already doing. For many educators, this means capturing educational artifacts of material you are already delivering rather than creating something new. This allows using and reusing those materials to find new ways to build from and share them. Mixing and re-mixing content is the stuff creativity is made from, and this is only possible after creating something first.

Lesson #5: Focus. While experimentation and exploration are crucial, focus is what gets the work done. For the past year, I've been steadily building one project. When I started on it almost five years ago (!), I said, "In ten years, I don't want ten projects...I want one project that is ten times as awesome!" I will share more on this project soon. But the closing lesson is that it is incredible what one can accomplish with consistent, focused effort.

Over the year, we explored new developments in science and technology, delving into how emerging technologies and innovative scientific methods are revolutionizing our understanding and behavior in various domains. We covered the interplay between technology and media, examining how advancements, particularly in Web3 and AI, are redefining creativity and expression. Finally, the theme of efficiency and improvement in professional and personal practices underscored the importance of optimizing workflows and processes. This trio of themes interweaves a narrative about harnessing technology not just as a tool but as a transformative element in fostering creativity and efficiency in science and beyond.

I didn't know where this project would go when it started, but reflections from this past year have crystalized that Heureka Labs is a project that explores how technology and its application can amplify creativity, particularly in science. Compared to one year ago, we have ChatGPT, impressive generative art and music models, text-to-speech voice synthesizers, and more. Indeed, a lot has happened in a year, and Heureka Labs shares ideas in this exciting space.