Tuesday, 27 May 2008


Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

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.

Ultimate solution

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).

Productivity and happiness

It seems to me that the relationship between happiness is as follows: when totally and utterly depressed we have not the ability to work (with the exception of some geniuses); when completely entirely happy and content we have not the will to work. The relationship probably looks something like the following:

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!).

Feature bloat

Feature bloat (or software bloat) is a term used to describe how software (and other forms of engineering) become clunky once features are added. It is most often used in a disparaging sense.

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.

One cause of stress

One type of stress is a feeling that in the future we will not cope. The antidote to this is self-confidence that we will cope. This can be acheived by remembering past times where we have coped, and visualising the challenge ahead and coping with it.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Inner peace on a mountain top

The stereotypical monk seeks inner peace atop a mountain or in the calm serenty of a monastery. Is it not more of a test to find inner peace in a busy city centre?

Monday, 12 May 2008

Likes, dislikes and to do

I watched a fair few movies in my time. And read a few books, listened to a few bands, played a few games and surfed a few websites. What I'd really like, all in one place (read: a website), would be a database of those things I'd tried, those that I'd liked, those that I disliked and those I'd liked so much I want to experience them again.

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.

Spring loaded syringe guard

I don't like needles. I'm not adverse to pain, but the thought of something that can penetrate my skin so easily gives me the heebie-jeebies. On a serious note, needles contaminated with bloodbourne diseases are a killer. It occurs to me that a spring-loaded guard could protect people from contaminated needles. The guard is pulled back to use the needle and then springs back into place once it has been used. A catch system could make it that once it has sprung back, it is locked in place. The diagram below illustrates (although not a catch as this was too hard to draw!).

The sad fact about life

It seems to me that, as a general principle: things get worse faster than things get better.

[perhaps this has something to do with entropy and order being good...]

Friday, 9 May 2008

World idea body

I think the world would benefit from an ideas body acting in a similar way to a patent office. The remit of this body would be wider than patents and ideas would be submitted in less detail. A secure time-stamped system and a single repository would save-guard peoples' mental outputs, which would enable them to get recognition, which would encourage them to have and communicate ideas (many ordinary people have many ideas which remain unfulfilled). The result is that the world becomes and idea-rich (or idea-richer) place to live.

Strength/energy and the people around us

If I was walking along, having a good day, and someone knocked into me in the street I might get annoyed, but would probably soon forget and forgive (they probably didn't mean it). In the same situation if I were stressed, I'd probably get angry and maybe even shout at them. If I shout at them, then they become stressed and are more likely to shout at someone that bumps into them.

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?

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger

I think the original quote was "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" from Friedrich Nietzsche, although I haven't bothered to check this. This quote reminds me of Spartan ideology in which the youth were made to suffer in order to make them good soliders. I've tried to think of a few examples to help from an opinion on the validity of this statement:

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.

When they come

If I were an alien and I was planning to invade Earth, here's what I'd do:

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.

What other people think

People think its good to get drunk, to stay out late, to take drugs and to slack. I've been aware of this for a long time, but now I come to think of it, I haven't refuted it. What would I rather were driving forces of popular culture? Creativity, contructiveness, intellectualism and spirituality. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, 4 May 2008

A wider stock exchange

I think it would be beneficial to have all companies quoted on an internet only stock exchange. It would help small companies obtain finance; it would enable the investor to benefit from the higher growth rates experienced by small companies (but of course suffering higher risk in the process); it would put all companies on a more level playing field avoiding the jump from being unquoted to being quoted.

Originality over self-expression

Should an artist strive from originality over self-expression? Or in doing so are they defeating the object of art?

The end of education

In a scene from the Matrix, Jujitsu is downloaded into Neo's brain. Whilst we a years away from that ever happening, when (or if) it does it will spark the biggest revolution in human history. For the first time all humans will be equal, every person could be a doctor, a lawyer or a scientist. There would no longer be any elite or any experts. Society as we know it would cease to exist. Who would do menial jobs when they had enough knowledge to be at the cutting edge of quantum physics? And who would get the key roles of leadership and research when everyone is equal?

Guide to self

Do you ever forget who you are? When we wake in the morning, we don't continue exactly as we were before we went to sleep; we're like a computer that was shut down and is rebooted. Yet unlike computers, the stored information we boot from is less reliable - we forget things - we forget who we are.

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.