The sublime and the mundane

by Russ Roberts on September 2, 2010

in Innovation

Here are two videos (one long–45 minutes, one vey short–under two minutes) that make me feel glad to be alive and inspire me. The first is the incredible documentary on the quest of Andrew Wiles to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem (HT: Alex Tabarrok). I watched it last night (third time) with two of my sons, 10 and 12 who understand virtually none of the math in the video. (Of course that goes for me, too). But the beauty of the video is that you don’t need to understand the math to find it deeply moving and funny and inspiring:The second video describes a new feature of Gmail. The video is beautifully done: it’s charming and very informative in a very short period of time. But it is inspiring because it’s an example of people working to solve a problem in such a creative way. Like the Google search engine, this apparent improvement of Gmail is “intelligent.” It uses my actions to learn about what I care about and improve how Gmail works. If it works the way it appears to work, it means that Gmail is customized to my preferences without Google having to customize Gmail. My actions do the customizing. BTW, here is my podcast with Paul Buchheit, the original developer of Gmail (and founder of Friendfeed). He has left Google, but it’s clear there are some talented people still working on the project.


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