Thoughts filed in: Innovations

Robotic garbage sorting

The modern world is producing, purchasing, and disposing of consumer products at an ever-increasing rate. This is hardly news to anyone. Two other facts are also well-known, to anyone who's stopped and thought about them for even five minutes of their life. First, that our planet Earth only has a finite reservoir of raw materials, which is constantly diminishing (thanks to us). And second, that we first-world consumers are throwing the vast majority of our used-up or unwanted products straight into the rubbish bin, with the result that as much as 90% of household waste ends up in landfill. When you think about all that, it's no wonder they call it "waste" .There's really no other word to describe the process of taking billions of tonnes of manufactured goods — a significant portion of which could potentially be re-used — and tossing them into a giant hole in the ground (or into a giant patch in the ocean). I'm sorry, but it's sheer madness! And with each passing day, we are in ever more urgent need of a better solution than the current "global disposal régime". Could robots one day help us sort our way out of this mess?

The bicycle-powered home

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The exercise bike has been around for decades now, and its popularity is testament to the great ideas that it embodies. Want to watch TV in your living room, but feeling guilty about being inside and growing fat all day? Use an exercise bike, and you can burn up calories while enjoying your favourite on-screen entertainment. Feel like some exercise, but unable to step out your front door due to miserable weather, your sick grandma who needs taking care of, or the growing threat of fundamentalist terrorism in your neighbourhood streets? Use an exercise bike, and you can have the wind in your hair without facing the gale outside. Now, how about adding one more great idea to this collection. Want to contribute to clean energy, but still enjoy all those watt-guzzling appliances in your home? Use an electricity-generating exercise bike, and you can become a part of saving the world, by bridging the gap between your quadriceps and the TV. It may seem like a crazy idea, only within the reach of long-haired pizza-eating DIY enthusiasts; but in fact, pedal power is a perfectly logical idea: one that's available commercially for home use by anyone, as well as one that's been adopted for large and well-publicised community events.

Consciously directed healing

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The human body is a self-sustaining and self-repairing entity. When you cut your hand, when you blister your foot, or when you burn your tongue, you know — and you take it for granted — that somehow, miraculously, your body will heal itself. All it needs is time. However, there are many injuries that are simply too severe for the body to repair by itself: in these cases, help may be needed in the form of lotions, medicines, or even surgery. Why is this so? With all its vast resources, what is it that the human body finds so difficult and so time-consuming in healing a few simple cuts and bruises? Surely — with a little bit of help, and a lot more conscious concentration — we should be capable of repairing so much more, all by ourselves.

Developing home + developed income = paradise

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Modern economics is infinitely bizarre. We all know it. I'm not here to prove it; I'm just here to provide one more example of it — and the example is as follows. You're an educated, middle-class professional: you've lived in a developed country your whole life; and now you've moved to a developing country. Your work is 99% carried out online, and your clients live all over the world. So you move to this less-affluent country, and you continue to work for your customers in the First World. Suddenly, your home is a dirt-cheap developing nation, and your income is in the way of formidable developed-nation currency. The result? Well, I'm no economist — so correct me if I'm wrong — but it would seem that the result must be a paradise existence, where you can live like a king and still spend next to nothing! Could this be the next big thing in employment, that we should expect to see happening over the next few years?

Let the cameras do the snapping

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For all of the most memorable moments in life — such as exotic vacations, milestone birthday parties, and brushes with fame — we like to have photographs. For some people, photography is an art and a life-long passion: there is great pride to be had in capturing significant occasions on film or in pixels. But for others (such as myself), taking photos can quickly become little more than a bothersome chore, and one that detracts from the very experiences that you're trying to savour and to have a memento of. For those of us in the latter category, wouldn't it be great if our cameras just took all the pictures for us, leaving us free to do other things? Judging by recent developments, this may not be as far off as you think.

A plain-text program design standard

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I've been working on a project at University, in which my team had to produce a large number of software design documents, which now have to be translated into working code. Wouldn't it be great if I could write just one design specification, and if from that, numerous diagrams and skeleton code could all be auto-generated? What the world needs is a plain-text program design standard.

Movies for the masses

Film has been around for over 100 years now. I just saw a documentary about Cecil B DeMille, one of the world's first filmmakers, and the founder of Hollywood. Watching clips of movies made over 80 years ago gave me an idea about the future of old films.

In search of an all-weather bike

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I ride my bicycle whenever I can, but quite often cycling is simply not an option, due to adverse weather. It would be awesome if you could get an 'all-weather' bike, with a canopy to protect you from the rain. Join me in my search for a weatherproof bike.