One of the first questions that comes up when I first tell people about the Copia Institute is: “how is this different than ‘x’?” with “x” being any number of organizations, from activist groups to trade groups to DC lobbying organizations. And the answer is that we’re not any of those things. In fact, while we know many people in such places, and will likely have opportunities to work with them in certain cases, we’re focused on doing something very different: letting innovation lead the way, rather than policymakers. That’s not to say we’re not interested in policy questions, we’re just looking for ways to innovate solutions to them rather than waiting for policymakers in distant cities to come up with some new regulation.

This was the original launch post on Techdirt for the Copia Institute, on the first day of our 2015 Inaugural Summit.

A month ago, I gave a little preview of the news that we, the team behind Techdirt, were launching a new think tank and network of innovators called the Copia Institute. That launch is happening today, with our event in San Jose, and I wanted to just provide a short post on why we’re doing this, and why it’s so important.

The word “copia” is Latin for abundance — and over nearly two decades of following, researching and writing about the innovation industries, over and over again, we see that it’s the story of abundance. Of an abundance of information, certainly, but also of the role that abundance plays in everything that we do. Businesses, business models and government policies that were all built for a world of scarcity run into trouble when suddenly plopped into a world of abundance. And we see it happening every day. There are the obvious ones that we talk about all the time around here: music, movies, news and software. But it goes way beyond that. A switch from a world of scarcity to one of abundance is going to impact nearly every other industry as well: manufacturing, finance, healthcare, energy and education among others.

The basis of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century was the reliance on physical machinery to dramatically increase the productivity of industries ranging from textiles to transportation. The development of autonomous machines that can learn, recognize patterns and make complex decisions marks the next phase of automation. Cognitive computing applies software solutions to tasks that could not ordinarily be accomplished without human intervention. Applications range from driverless cars, face recognition algorithms, and natural language processing to data mining and algorithmic high-frequency trading. The global market for smart machines is already a multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to grow by double digits over the next few years. The automation of knowledge-based work will have broad effects on society, increasing economic productivity and providing a cornucopia of wealth.

This case study examines the impact of advanced cognitive computing on society, science, policy, ethics and more.

Just as the Gutenberg printing press paved the way for information and ideas to be spread by allowing mass communication, the advent of 3D printing brings the ability for anyone to share design concepts and create physical goods on demand, anywhere. However, intellectual property policies have hindered the 3D printing industry, and increasingly restrictive policies could harm this innovation in unintended ways.

This case study examines the reach and impact of 3D printing, and its implications in the world of copyright, patent and trademark policy.

We live in a genomic age. The amount of important medical and biotech research happening today involving genes is staggering.  And much of it goes back to the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). The seeds of PCR development can be traced back to the 1970s, and the practical PCR machinery that fueled a biotechnology revolution started running in the 1980s. This innovation was quickly recognized with a Nobel prize in 1993, only about 10 years after its invention and approved patent application. PCR has accelerated the pace of innovation in biotech, and its contribution to society is immense.

This case study examines the impact of PCR and its wide availability to scientists.