The Two Body Problem

I was at today’s City Club lunch listening to a panel on “Revolutionary Innovation.” One of the speakers was Dr. Yoky Matsuoka, an Associate Professor at the University of Washington who is literally pioneering the field of neurobotics (which is the combination of the two disciplines you think it is). She’s a true star in the scientific community, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and someone who moved here after a career at MIT and Harvard. So the moderator asked her what it was about Seattle that attracted her to come out here. Her answer? The region helped her solve the “two body problem.”

Of course, the two body problem is the issue I discussed here: that smart people are married to other smart people, so they want to move to a place where both of them can get good jobs. Dr. Matsuoka is a researcher at UW; her husband now works at Microsoft.

One of the other panelists put a fine point on it. When asked what our region needed to stay a leader in innovation and economic development, most of the speakers said things like good higher education, access to capital and an entrepreneurial culture. Christina Lomasney, President and CEO of Modumetal, said, “We need big companies, because they provide the tentpoles for everything else around them.” It reminds me again of my favorite poster, which I’ve linked to before.

Of course, that’s a picture of the small companies that have spun out of large companies. The really fun poster would be like a family tree, with the spouses of folks that have been hired by UW, Microsoft and Boeing (etc.) and the companies they’ve created!


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