Useful And Fantastic: People They Laughed At – 18
Val Yule concludes her series of articles which emphasise the need to encourage new thinking and give every new idea a chance to prove itself.
Below is a list of inventions that are needed. Thinking of them simply brings on more ideas about what needs to be invented. Would people laugh if someone tried to invented the. Would people laugh at the attempts? Would they still laugh even when they, and they worked?
A starter list, both feasible and currently not feasible. The reader can lengthen it as a practice in having ideas. When our Great-Uncle George could not sleep at night, he used to count his relations, and by the time he got to 80 or so, he would be asleep. Insomniacs could do the same with thinking up lists of ideas that are needed.
• Alphanumeric design improved to prevents confusions of letters and numbers such as pdbq and the sort of mistakes on labels that result in luggage going to Abu Dabu instead of Bondi Junction.
• Appliances that are durable, mendable, multi-use, with updatable modules, could be a great a Australian contribution to the world's need to conserve resources.
• Car modules that can shunt on, to expand cars when needed. It is ridiculous that someone just going down the street drives tons of metal more suitable for traversing the Great Desert with a tribe on board. Cars today could be more easily mendable, modifiable, last well for 15-years and then be completely reusable for something else, and they should stop if being driven by an idiot.
• Carbon dioxide - a cheap way to turn it into carbon and oxygen without doing something worse to the planet.
• Clothes - Australian Fashions that are different, beautiful, multicultural, durable. You don’t get tired of them because each year the new fashion is about accessories to make them look different - as the Koreans used to do for their national dress.
Fashions for the elderly and infirm - comfortable, good-looking and long-lasting.
Space Clothing reducing the need for Space Heating. Decide your own temperature for 5 cm around you.
Conservation Clothes designed so only parts needing washing need be washed.
• More Computer Games where knowledge and thinking, not violence, win the games for example, in a Youth to Age Computer Game you grow older and ? wiser as you play.
• Conflict Simulators to use instead of resorting to wars, strikes or marital uproar • Conservation. Full use of sewage as a major resource, instead of a pollution problem.
• Culture. More fun, beauty, diversity, for everyone to join in, and less wasteful.
• Electricity conservation. Buttons that can replace permanent stand-by lights on electric equipment by showing standby readiness if pressed, and so preventing the accumulating cost of all these lights in every household.
• Electronic tagging for people’s strayable belongings, such as glasses and puppydogs, has already begun.
• Food-chain bypassing, to manufacture food directly from desert rocks, without having to go through the millenniums-long process of lichens and such slowly disintegrating the rocks until finally plants can grow on the topsoil so that food can be harvested so that dinners can be made.
• Home Garden mulcher that is geared to provide exercise, using no electricity, & saving council collections for landfill.
• Home weedseed steriliser that can safely, quickly & cheaply turn weeds into compost for your own garden.
• Homes - Better designs for homes to save energy, to keep warm or cool instead of getting cold or hot, to have lots of space for salvage/storage, able to be modified and renovated, and protected against local risks such as bushfires, floods, droughts, tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes and developers.
• Lawnmowers, manual, that are more efficient for exercise and small lawns.
• Light-sensors adapted for whole cities, roads, shops at night, that it only turns on as it senses human, animal or machine activity. At present on the internet you can see ‘The World at Night from Space’ and it is full of the bright lights of the cities - at tremendous cost of power and mostly fossil-fuel.
• Old age insurance feasible for poor countries, so that people do not have to have too many children to try to be secure in their old age.
• Packaging that is vermin-proof but can easily be made into food. Prototypes are already available.
• Paper, Erasable - can be wiped down with a scanner to reprint or rewrite again, is now close to practicality, although it was not when this list was first made.
• Paper Recycling that can easily be done on the spot in homes and offices.
• Pests. Commercial uses for pests, such as Paterson's Curse, fire-ants and cane-toads.
• Remote Control Gun Exploder that explodes or disables any other loaded weapon
• Souvenirs of Oz that are more fun, diverse, beautiful, cheaper, easily transportable.
• Personal space-heating to avoid current wasteful all-space heating . Everyone can control the temperature of their immediate personal space for 5 cm around them. Possibly by Space Clothing, qv.
• Peace Toys to replace guns, killing and militarism
• Pocket typewriter that you can operate by touch in your pocket anywhere, even in the dark or if you cannot see. A further advance on electronic notebooks
• Pokies that do something useful when operated by people addicted to the noises, visuals & jingling, with its operant conditioning.
• Public Transport. Better linking of main routes with flexible transporters.
Waiting areas & shelters that are comfortable not just cleanable/ vandal-proof.
• Water - a cheap way to desalinate sea-water and do something useful with the residue.
• Window heat-savers, transparent, that can be pulled down or attached in winter-time, with Window-heat-shields that can be pulled down or attached in summertime.
The man who invented the disposable bottle cap said ‘the Thing to do is invents something which people have to have, but which they can use, throw away, then buy another one.’ and according to Hooper, a travelling salesman, King Camp Gillette picked up this idea and invented his safety razor at the age of forty. (It’s never too late to start.) Now however, will have discover how to make money without selling disposables that use up our resources and clutter the earth with our throwaways.
Inventors and innovators need:
• Standing lists of inventions that are needed, to exercise creative minds.
• Status rewards for inventors, to encourage others, especially the young
• Co-operative progress unhampered by commercial confidentiality and Intellectual Property
• No more knee-jerk rejection, ridicule and indifference to new ideas and innovators.
Even a zany idea can have the germ of something great. Most of Thomas Edison’s inventions and ideas were not successful - it was just that he has so many ideas that the successful ones numbered hundreds.
• Include wild future fantasy and imagination. For example
- A way to catch and utilise all the valuable ingredients of smoke that currently contribute to pollution and greenhouse gases
- Filters for emissions in burners of energy fuels, that can enable what is filtered out for to be useful for something else.
- A better way than Burnoffs to maintain old growth forests. Fire depletes the soil despite apparent temporary regeneration from what falls, because of all the nutrients that pour upwards in the smoke, and pollute - a big contributor to greenhouse gases and pollution generally - a great waste. At this moment of writing, a great fire is raging in a beautiful National Park, set off by rangers’ deliberate burning-off in hot weather, which got away from them.
- Re-useable adaptable renovatable casings for the various types of white-goods and electronic stuff so that they do not fill up landfill.
And Truth-Print, that prints or converts print to show the truth in black, fiction in blue and purple for what cannot be determined as either true or false. What a boon for readers, if not for the press.
Think up some more inventions that are needed. There have been radical new ideas that were not laughed at, such as mobile phones and the ball point pen. There have been radical new ideas that have not been laughed at, and turned out to be ridiculous after all. There are tremendous games to play.
There is a long list of products that are needed and that are not being produced or if produced, cannot reach their markets. There is a long list of inventions that are needed, yet there is poor support of research and innovators who could supply these needs. Great ideas for inventions that are needed are often thought up by people who do not have the resources to develop them themselves. If anyone makes a fortune through developing any of these ideas for inventions, please remember the originator.
Often the same invention has many originators, and this is more and more so today. In the early 1980s I designed an electronic ‘pocket typewriter’ with an ergonomic keyboard, but experts in the business who manufactured calculators and similar equipment knocked it back although the technology was there to make it, they reckoned that people could not handle the small buttons. Now we have electronic note-books and mobile phones everywhere, with small buttons. Ed Oberg was a prize winner in an Australian Social Inventions competition for an idea about Punter-Power, a way to use the gambling instinct to back innovatory enterprise. Later the idea was discussed on ABC Science Show, thought up by someone else.
These are only minor examples. In the commercial world thousands of patents are fought about, and there are races to be first which may be a good use of competition, but involved much duplication of effort at extra expense. When so many people are working in secrecy from each other at potential blessings on the world, a good ‘social invention’ would be a way to extend the notion of ‘creative commons’ copyrights so that the world could be a community of inventors as well as a community of scholars. Sharing each others’ ideas and work in order to get there quicker - - including sharing their failures - how could this be made more commercially viable as a way to operate? There are plenty of other topics to write thrillers about instead of mayhem and piracy about secret plans and formulae. The press, business magazines and scientific journals could have regular features on solving relevant problems, that goes into issues that are beyond the immediate coalface but on which all further mining will depend. With lively discussion fostered, and a corner on the cover to say where this is. It could be a permanent link on their Web site.
Co-operation becomes increasingly important in technology and science when so much expertise is required. It is also still true that often enough it is the person from outside who has not become accustomed to working in a certain rut, who can see over the edge to a different approach that is ‘not in line with current thinking’. Then the experts who do not mock can take it up and develop it. There can be more accessible action-research and literature reviews that pull together findings on neglected topics- for example, on, say, parents singing lullabies - and that look carefully at the ‘sales appeal’ programs and products in educational-biznis that guide teachers at every programmed step, like putting on magic slippers.
Social inventing is also still more open to the amateur. Cooperation is also important in areas where financial rewards are not so much at stake, such as social inventions that make life together more comfortable for us all - from improvements in how to govern and be governed, to better ideas about exercising. Let us try to change the culture of the playground - for it was not just Waterloo that was won on the playing fields of Eton, the future of imagination can be lost in school playgrounds too. Here the child who is different, the idea that is original, can be persecuted, isolated, alienated, or enjoyed and encouraged.
One of the things to learn in school is to give other people's ideas a fair chance. Another is how to fail, and fail - and, perhaps, finally win.
Some people laughed at today may turn out to be great, and some may just be silly. How can you tell? It would be better to test new ideas out in pilot studies, rather than go all out for a great grand expensive untested all out ideas, or throw out other possible breakthroughs without seeing if they would work. People who have hundreds of silly ideas, may still come up with one winner. People with lots of good ideas are almost certain to have some silly ideas as well. Even a zany idea can spark off a better one.
Here are 24 of the areas of life that still need new ideas and development of old ideas - and there are more
1.Communication and messages
2.Communities living together
3.Conservation for Planet Earth
5.Education in and out of schools
6.Funding what needs funding
7.Gimmicks and Gadgets
8.Government and taxes
9.Health, birth, living and dying
11.Horse-shoe Nails (small ideas that solve large problems)
12.Identifying problems 13. Industries
15. Leisure and Pleasure - Fun
16. Old Age and Young Age
18. Quality of Life
20. Schemes to save the world
21. Social problems
24. Utopias and Visions for the future
Here’s an idea for writing in schools - Creative non-fiction.
Imagination as the ability to consider what may be possible - in the real world, not only in fantasy.
Today there are many centres to encourage innovation, but they can still be limited by the need to think ‘in line with current thinking’. Charles Bliss called for juries to help assess pioneers of ideas. That idea has yet to be taken seriously, except for when there is potential money-making. Then, unfortunately, ideas can face another sort of strangulation - the privacy and the legal tangles imposed by copyrights, trademarks and patents. There need to be ways out of this
If the amount of time and money and struggle spent trying to get a hearing for innovative ideas had been put into actually giving them a hearing - what a richer world we might be living in now - rich in every way from more quirkiness to more prosperity.
Some people who are laughed at today may turn out to be great. Some of them may just be silly. How can you tell?
Most ideas may not be winners, whether they are laughed at or not. Of all new ideas, one idea in a hundred may be a winner. However, people who have many silly ideas may still come up with a good one that should not be thrown out - perhaps only as a little germ within a grander scheme which is futile. Anyone who has many good ideas is certain to have some silly ideas as well. Perhaps only one in a hundred of the ideas of a genius may actually be genius.
Perhaps everyone should understand why there can be such temptation to laugh at other people’s innovations and the people who come up with ideas - snobbery, they cant get their minds around it, novophobia (fear of the new, but they may still fall for big silly schemes or where everyone else is rushing), and wariness about inventors who may often have to be a bit eccentric, ex-centric - in order to think up ideas that are not at the centre of where everyone else is thinking..
As Australia seeks to be a ‘clever country’, we need to understand better the social ways of life and the psychological habits that promote ingenuity and enterprise. What makes individuals and groups of people keen on solving problems. Equally, understand and change the conditions that build barriers and intolerance and make for a trail of squashed ‘if onlys’.
‘If only’, ‘only when’ are dreams about getting out of ruts and bogs. It also helps to think ‘Not only but also’ and ‘It still could be’.
8. Reading onward
Some books to browse
The People who made Australia Great - Collins. 1988
The Australian Dictionary of National Biography
The Dictionary of National Biography
The Book of Heroic Failures . I was given this book for Christmas once.
More Heroic Failures. I was given this book for Christmas a few years later.
Dale, Rodney & Gray, Joan. 1979. Edwardian Inventions - an extraordinary extravaganza of eccentric ingenuity. London: W H Allen, London
The Encyclopedia of Ideas
Who did What? The Mitchell Beazley Illustrated Biographical Dictionary
The Oxford Junia Encyclopedia. Great Lives. 1953
Baldwin, Suzy (ed.) 1988. Unsung Heroes and Heroines of Australia. Melbourne: Greenhouse Publications 1988
Hart, Michael. 1989, 2000. The 100 –– A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. Kuala Lumpur: Golden Books Centre
van Loon, Hendrik. 1943. Van Loon's Lives. New York: Simon & Schuster
Crystal, David (ed.)1988. The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopaedia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.