Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Some events are once only, a movie may be inspirational once but has a lesser effect the second time. Is there a way of making events retain their inspirationality?
Is there a name for the study of inspiration?
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Saturday, 8 November 2008
What is the time taken for a technology to spend all its potential to change society?
Initially, the effect is small as the technology is not well understood, widely known and the number of units is low.
As the technology becomes more mainstream the pace of change quickens, until such a point that the majority of the potential uses of the technology have been saturated, after which its capacity for change diminishes.
The barriers to the effect that technology can have are: the number of units (cost of raw materials, economies of scale), infrastructure, eduction, etc
Examples that can be considered are the internal combustion engine, mobile phones and email.
The internal combustion engine is probably over the hill in its capacity to change, although there are some societies where cars are less prevalent and thus there is still a capacity for change.
Email is widely used and perhaps ove the top, but there are still many IT illiterate people in the world and many possible uses of email that haven't been explored.
Mobile phones have probably peaked; mobile internet still has lots to change to enact.
Thursday, 6 November 2008
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
There are insurance implications to lift sharing, but the law could be changed to force insurance companies to cover life sharing by default.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Using pre-definied GPS coordinates this helicopter would spray an area, occasionally returning to its base station to refuel and take on more spray.
Put the baby in a small zorb on a concave roller bed (bed of ball bearings). It can crawl as much as it likes but it's not going anywhere.
Additionally, a circular screen around the roller bed, coupled with sensors monitoring motion of the balls, would allow the baby to explore a virtual world.
It may even be possible to generate a small amount of electricity from the movement of the ball bearings, which would help power the screen.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Red squirrels could be mass bred in captivity and sold to people wanting them. Whilst they wouldn't be pets as such the squirrels could be semi-dependent on humans by having specially designed feeding stations for them that their "owners" filled. This could provide the squirrels with the edge needed to regain their lost ground.
Similarly, peregrin falcons and sparrow hawks are endangered species and yet cities are full of food. A mass breeding programme could reintroduce these birds to city life bolstering their numbers and reducing the number of flying rats.
GPS -> location
Altimeter -> elevation
Compass -> direction
Gyroscope -> direction
Clock -> time, date
(alternatively, the camera could be connected by bluetooth to other devices)
Monday, 28 July 2008
I suggest a forum that uses email to create posts and reply to them. When you click on a "create post" or "reply" link you are directed (via a capatcha of course) to a unique use-once email address. You email your post or reply to that email and it appears on the forum.
Your email address would not be displayed to avoid spam. This could lead to confusing fora, so this is not the perfect solution for all fora.
The fora can be moderated by blocking email addresses of abusers.
It now occurs to me that I have been living my whole life through such strife, but unlike times gone past I do not see it face to face, only on the news. Many people throughout the world lack basic needs or, worse, are subject to oppression and torture; I live in western affluence. That I do not do all that is in my power to right these wrongs marks me down as more the guard than the fighter.
Friday, 13 June 2008
But what of the opposite of glass, something that allows air, but not light?
Such a material would have to be super-absorbent and be designed in such a way as to allow air through. The diagram below shows a cross-section of a simple shape that would achieve this (on the left) and more complex 3D shape (on the right). I envisage that a panel of such tubes would interlock to give a window (to air, but not light).
Hopefully then, I won't get woken up by those early sunrises, but can still enjor the cool morning breeze!
But what of all the old software that was written for this soon-to-be-obsolete Windows platform. Those old applications (particularly games) that we want to go back to every once in a while?
Well, why not put them online too. Without one shred of technical knowledge, I don't see why this isn't possible. The application is installed on and runs on a server computer, but is accessed and controlled through a web browser like the online applications.
A company could charge a hosting fee and have a database of all old software that people could run through their browser. Obviously files generated would be saved server-side, but could be shared between users.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
I like alliteration as much as the next man, but this is harder than it seems. Recycling, despite its reputation is not a magic bullet, reducing and reusing may be the better of the three. This is mainly because recycling tends to use a lot of energy, for example melting down cans to make new cans.
Reuse can acheived in one of two ways: by the consumer; and by the retailer/manufacturer. The reuse of carrier bags is a good example of the former, whilst collected reused milk bottles illustrates the latter.
Methods of reuse
Imagine we had a set of stand sized containers for things. We could refill these containers at shops (for things that don't go off like shampoo) or give the containers back to the shops so they could wash them and reuse them (for things like fruit juice).
Alternatively the shop could come to the people: a lorry could pull up outside a group of houses and people could go in a refill their containers. The problem with this would be timing it for all the people.
Another possibility is that when a supermarket home delivers, it takes away all the empty containers to clean and reuse.
The styling of containers is used by companies to differentiate products.
There is an energy (and environmental) cost of cleaning the containers (however I can only guess that, on a industrial scale, this should be able to acheived fairly efficiently).
Damaged containers would need to be recycled.
As much of the waste that households generate is food related, much could be saved if we all ate as restaurants, which cook on a larger scale and hence more efficiently (both in terms of the cooking and the packaging).
As our productivity also influences other peoples' happiness (by making food, clean water, shelter, energy, entertainment etc), society wants each of us to not be at our happiest (on the plus side, neither does it want us to be depressed!).
My thoughts on the subject is that the more features the better as long as they will be used by some users. The only downside of adding features is the cost and time to do so. Features should never make an item clunky as long as the user interface is well designed.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
Monday, 12 May 2008
Social bookmarking goes some of the way, as does the likes/dislikes on Facebook/MySpace, but this would cover every type of media all in one place.
And it would be an advertisers goldmine: how easy it is to target adverts when you know exactly what people like.
A social element of this site would be in recommending and reviewing media.
Friday, 9 May 2008
This is a simple example, but the concept can be applied to society as a whole: negativity is self-perpetuating.
One solution to this would be to entirely eliminate negativity from society (I know this would be difficult/impossible, but bear with me on the theory). However, some negativity is good for us: we learn from our mistakes.
So, how should society balance a healthy level of negativity with the risk of self-perpetuating negativity consuming the world?
Physical suffering -> physical strength
Scar tissue is stronger than normal skin.
Physical suffering -> physical weakness
If cut someone's achilles tendon they will never walk again.
Physical suffering -> mental strength
Even if you cut someone's achilles tendon, the forced change of lifestyle may make the person wiser.
Mental suffering -> mental strength
A person may be greive when one of their parents dies, but this experience may make them realise the value of their relationship with their remaining parent and make more of it.
Mental suffering -> mental weakness
The world is, unfortunately, littered with examples: the bullied become bullies; the marginalised become terrorists; those that once loved become bitter and twisted. Although it could be argued that some of these responses are a form of strength in that they protect the person from further damage, I consider mental strength to be the ability to make the right decisions even when they are difficult.
From the examples I have thought of, I can only conclude that this statement (at least in its literal interpretation) is wrong. Suffering can make you stronger, but it seems it can also weaken you. There is probably a threshold for every type of suffering, for every person, at every time above which they will be damaged, but below which they will be strengthened.
1. Collect intelligence - determine the command and control structures, steal new technologies (unlikely we'd have anything new to the alien)
2. Engineer a supervirus to kill a large proportion of the human population
3. Attach densely populated areas with nuclear weapons (nuclear weapons would be used sparingly to avoid contamination of the planet)
4. Deploy robots or remote controlled vehicles to kill the remaining human beings
5. Land and harvest the resources
Another potential option would be engineering a third world war, however this would probably have a lower casulty rate than a supervirus and would risk contamination of the planet with nuclear fallout.
Unlike most alien fiction, the aliens would not do any fighting, or sustain any losses (asymmetric warfare). If we're sufficiently advanced now that we can use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Iraq and Afghanistan, then it's likely that any alien's would also use (more advanced) robots.
Sunday, 4 May 2008
So, write yourself a start-up script: a reminder of who you are, what you like, what you're working towards. And direct that start-up script to more detailed documentation of your loves, hates and fears. Be like Leonard Shelby from Memento (without the complete memory loss and need for revenge) and fulfil Socrates advice: Know thyself.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
How would it work? Shops would need to submit stock data to the search engine, which would categorise it and search it for the customer. Whilst this could be difficult for smaller shops, it could be a standard exportable dataset from an electronic stock control system.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Have you ever burnt the toast? Did it set off the smoke alarm? Did you take the battery out of the smoke alarm to stop it making noise? Did you forget to put the battery back in the smoke alarm? Did you burn alive, having not been alerted to a fire by the smoke alarm that you took a battery out of?
Ok, ignore the last question, but the point is serious. Everytime I burn something, the battery comes straight out. And I forget to put it back in. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and there may have been cases of people dying because they'd taken the battery out. So why not provide a snooze feature that stops the noise for 5 minutes while you get the burnt-toast-smoke out of the kitchen window.
- Risk identification
- Risk evaluation
- Risk response
- Risk monitoring
- Risk of incompleteness of risk identification (forget/don't identify a risk)
- Risk of misevaluation of risk (think its not high risk when it is, and vice versa)
- Risk of unsuitable response
- Risk that response fails
- Risk of inadequate monitoring
Aside from the discussion of infinite regression, the issue of addressing metarisks is a serious one; the solution a simple one. I recently had the pleasure of seeing a piece of software called Stream, produced by a company called Acuity, in action. It mitigates the risk of incompleteness of risk identification by having a large database of risks; it mitigates the risk of an unsuitable response by having response suggestions; and it mitigates the risk of inadequate monitoring by storing monitoring data in the database. It may not be the first or best of its type, but it certainly seems to do a good job.
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
It is important for staff to understand the results of their work; their contribution needs to be comunicated to them by their managers. One way of doing this would be the use of posters to make the results visual. For example, for a factory making components for mobile phones, the poster would show the components they make, with an arrow to the phone, with arrows to the different outcomes of that phone's existence. These would include a person smiling while making a conversation, a person ringing the emergency services after an accident, a person taking a photo of a beautiful sunset (for camera phones obviously. Whilst this might be considered cheesy, I think it is important for people to understand that whatever work they do, it is doing something positive for someone somewhere.
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Whilst many login systems have a 'disable account after x failed logins' feature, an added security feature would be to communicate to the user (once successfully logged in) how many failed logins there had been prior to this successful login (but below the account disable threshold). This is important as it is only the user that knows how many times they have failed - if they haven't then they know that someone has tried to get into their account and they know to change their password or alert security.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
But these glasses are hardly worthy of the word 'spy'. The glasses are bulky and the camera obvious. To reduce the size of the glasses, they should be given bluetooth, allowing the camera control and storage of images to be on a mobile phone. This would also allow easy communication of images captured. All that would need to be in the glasses would be CCD, battery and bluetooth transmitter.
My solution is bread vending machine. They are two ways of implementing this:
Slow vending machine - in such a device, the bread would be stored in sealed packs of ready-shaped dough. After selection by the purchaser, the dough would be unwrapped and moved to an oven, baked and then delivered. Obviously baking takes a while so the customer would need to wait. The customer could be given a pin to access their bread once cooked, so that other customers could use the machine. Alternatively, both payment and collection could be instructed through a mobile phone (or company intranet). The customer would be texted (or emailed) to let them know the bread was ready. The slow vending machine seems most appropriate to a semi-private setting like an office.
Fast vending machine - this device would be more suitable for a public location. Bread would be pre-baked and stored in sealed containers. Once ordered, the bread is microwaved in a humid environment to give it a warm, moist, fresh taste/texture. Again such a device could be controlled by mobile phone (although the need for texting is removed by the faster cooking time).
Sandwich making machine - on the subject of bread vending machines, would it not be possible to automate the Subway sandwich making process? Ingredients would be in pre-packed containers; robot arms would add ingredients per the customers order. The great thing about this would be that your favorite sandwiches could be stored on your mobile to be texted to the machine.
If the housing was standardised then people would be able to use their old lenses when they got a new phone; on the plus side for the manufacturer, the lenses would be another optional extra to generate more revenue.
I think I've got carried away. It's only a bin after all.
Another spin-off idea: the lid of the bin should say "Can it be recycled?" or when the bin lid is opened then a voice recording says the same thing (solar powered of course). This would encourage people to recycle (or in the case of an annoying little voice - go insane).
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
The key part of the inventions process is identifying need. And the key way to do this is to pay close attention to your own and other peoples' lives. Just off the top of my head, two needs occur to me, based on two of my pet hates: changing the bin; and having to stand up (particularly in queues).
Putting out the rubbish. It's a pain. If you do it the night before the bin men come, then foxes tear it open leaving a mess. If you put it out in the morning, it adds to the mornings woes (don't get me started on mornings). My first thought on solving the problem is some kind of chute from the kitchen to an outside place where the binmen would collect it. This way, rubbish is never stored in the house and I wouldn't need to do any changing. The problem is that the nature of kitchen waste means that chute's going to get messy. Really messy. Next thought: a robot. This is a particularly high-tech solution to a low-tech problem. A humanoid robot would do the trick, so perhaps would some kind of chair-lift like rail that carries the bag outside, tying it in the process.
Another alternative would be to do away with bags: they add to the landfill after all. A bin hatch would be built into the side of the house and rubbish/recycling would be dumped straight into a set of bins (see diagram). These would be picked up and emptied by the bin lorry, perhaps with some kind of robot arm that swept the inside of the bin (and sprayed with water to clean).
With respect to my issue of standing, the absence of queues would be a nice start, together with much more public seating. In lieu of this, what I need is a seat I can carry with me. It needs to fold so I can put it in my bag. I've seen umbrella seats, but how can the length be folded? Using a combination of locking corner joints (as used on step ladders) and telescopic arms (see diagram). Obviously a seat would need to be attached at one end, an either a spike or piece of rubber on the other.
Friday, 29 February 2008
If this information was present with an onboard computer, accurate fuel consumption could be displayed. If the cost of fuel were communicated to the computer (maybe via bluetooth at the petrol pump) the actual fuel cost (possibly using a weighted average due to variations in fuel costs) of any one journey could be displayed. And if insurance/tax/maintenance costs for the prior year and milage for the prior year were input (probably manually) then an estimated cost of a particular journey could be displayed.
Only then will I truely know whether to consider getting the bus.
If you're human, you hate ironing. I must be more human than most. Short of a (desired) social revolution whereby I get to go to work in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops, how can I make ironing less painful? One thing that makes ironing worse is the fact that every time I iron (which is every day as I am not one of these people that can stomach doing a batch run) I have to go and find the ironing board and set it up, and find the iron and set it up. What I want is an ironing station already set-up for me with an ironing board that folds down from the wall, with the iron plugged in next to it. All I need to do is switch on and go. Obviously two designs would be required to suit space needs, one that folds to the wall lengthways (pictured) and one sideways (a sideways folding one needs to fold out on some kind of support so the item of clothing can hang over the far side).
Another advantage of this idea is that ironing boards are unstable and fall over (if you're as clumsy as me).
An ironing station would be an excellent feature in hotels. The iron could be locked in (e.g. a locked cover over the plug socket) to stop people stealing stuff.
Monday, 4 February 2008
I hereby admit to being the laziest person in the world: I get a pot out to cook pasta and I can't be bothered to root through the cupboard to find the lid, so I boil the water without a lid. The result: it takes longer and is worse for the environment. So how can this be cured? I know of no medication that can cure my laziness, but a pot with a built-in hinged lid would help encourage people (and me) from wasting energy. The diagram illustrates an unlidded pot, one with a single hinged lid, and one with a double hinged lid.
Monday, 28 January 2008
James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones note in their book Lean Thinking: "many customers only know how to ask for some variant of what they are already getting".
Is not the same true of many inventors? Who has produced or is producing true innovation? Who is generating ideas that are not quite yet possible, but just might be?