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Useful And Fantastic: People They Laughed At - 16

Val Yule suggests areas where new thinking and new inventions are needed.

A List of needs:

- 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.

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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.

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.


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Please visit http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/socinvent.htm

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