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Archive for September, 2019

Joshua Seth understands the importance of creativity.  As a best-selling author, accomplished public speaker, world famous illusionist, and the voice of nearly one hundred different animated characters he has made a career out of acting and thinking creatively.  A skill that is suddenly in high demand thanks to the new Era of Creativity that we suddenly find ourselves in.

As Scott Belsky writes on Medium, “While productivity is about squeezing all the value out of existing resources, creativity and creative thinking are about discovering new resources: creative problem-solving that turns an obstacle into an advantage, inspiration that leads to a new product, creative reinvention that changes the course of your career.  The transition to the Era of Creativity will undoubtedly be difficult for some people, as all economic shifts are. But in the end, it’s a positive change for humankind. Being more productive can be satisfying, but ultimately it just makes you a more efficient cog in a faster machine. Being more creative, on the other hand, brings very different forms of fulfillment: joy, self-discovery, creative expression, new ways of doing old things, connection to others. In economic terms, GDP in this era will measure more than just raw economic output. It will measure happiness.”

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang would seem to agree with that view with his recent calls for a new way of measuring GDP.  One that adds a human element to the equation.

As The Hill recently reported, “Yang cited what he called human-centered capitalism as an important metric for measuring the economy.

‘I’d like to talk about my wife, who is home with our two children, one of whom is autistic,’ he said. ‘GDP would include her work at zero when we know it’s the opposite of the truth. So we need to start measuring things that actually indicate how we’re doing — things like health, mental health and freedom from substance abuse, childhood success rates, clean air and clean water, and other social indicators.’”

So if all this is true, if we’ve really entered into a new Era of Creativity, one in which GDP gets updated to measure our happiness, one in which creative jobs spring up to replace those lost to AI and automation, how will we adjust to our new reality? How will we survive?  By thinking more creatively of course.  And that’s where Joshua Seth comes in.  His newly created creativity card game could become a key resource for individuals and corporations alike, an invaluable resource for unlocking the creativity that lies inside every single one of us.

As Joshua recently told me, “We tend to think that creativity comes from a spark of inspiration but in reality for it to be sustainable you need a process.”

In theory, his card game is that process.  But there’s more to being creative than just playing a game that harnesses your creative juices and helps you collaborate with others.  You also need to be present in the moment.  As he puts it, “the key to creativity is finding focus and being present in the moment.  Do it with your whole heart and being.  Not perfectly.  Just better than the last time.”

Which is probably good life advice in general.  Just stay focused, live in the moment, and let your creative juices flow.  The rest will take care of its self.  One idea at a time.

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Is a creativity card game the Greatest Idea Ever?

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A couple of years ago I went backpacking for the first time, trekking through the Grand Canyon to the Havasupai Indian Reservation, a lush waterfall infused oasis in the middle of the desert that features some of the most tranquil, crystal clear water you will ever see in your entire life.  It was heaven on Earth.  There was just one problem: the bathrooms near the campsites were virtually unusable.  If the smell didn’t get you, the thousands of horse flies buzzing around you would.

Most people just grin and bear it.  Chalk it up to being part of the experience.  Roughing it in Mother Nature is part of the appeal they’ll say.  But, really, what other choice did they have?  When nature calls, you answer.  I, on the other hand, a true City Slicker in every sense of the word, take drastic action when the situation calls for it.  Which in this case meant hiking two miles to the nearest village just to use a flush toilet.  A decision that nearly cost me my life when I was too exhausted to hike out of the canyon the following day.  And I’m one of the lucky ones!  I live in the modernized Western world.  I have access to clean toilets and sanitary conditions most of the time.  The only times I wouldn’t would be when I go camping, a situation that I put myself in voluntarily.

Others aren’t so lucky.  For half of the world’s population there are no good options.  No hiking to nearby villages either.  There only options are to go to the bathroom in deplorable, unsanitary pit latrines or in some random spot in nature with no privacy.  Either way there isn’t any way for them to dispose of their waste.  Nearby streams become natural dumping grounds.  Little kids play in mud that is just crawling with bacteria.  Diarrhea claims thousands of lives.  Families are torn apart.  It’s a significant problem.  Albeit one that we’re not paying any attention to.  Here in the Western world we’re under the false impression that we’ve already cured sanitation issues.  But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The world needs sanitation innovation and it needs it yesterday.  Thankfully, techno philanthropist Bill Gates is on the case and he is determined to reinvent the toilet.

To that end he launched a competition, inviting inventors, engineers, and students from the top universities in the world to design a new type of toilet.  One that could operate off the grid, without an external power source, and generate zero waste in the process.  A self-sustaining solution that would improve sanitation, reduce the spread of disease, and improve the living conditions for millions of people.  And despite the daunting tasks associated with such an undertaking it appears as though he’s actually achieved what he set out to do.

As he describes on his website Gates Notes:

“Our foundation has invested a lot of money to develop a pipeline of next-generation sanitation solutions. In 2011, we launched the Reinvent the Toilet challenge. Many of the solutions created for that challenge are now ready to license. A remarkable cohort of engineers, scientists, companies, and universities around the world has done the hard work of getting a safe, off-grid sanitation market ready for take-off…

Each of these toilets seeks to solve the same problem, but they’ve all taken a different approach to get there.  Several run on solar power, so they can operate off-grid.

Others generate their own power, like the Cranfield nanomembrane toilet. Opening or closing its lid moves a screw that separates liquids from solids. A gasifier converts the solids into ash and heat that is used to operate the toilet.

[Meanwhile] a big theme for next-gen toilets is the ability to turn waste into something useful. The Ecosan extracts clean water, which is safe to use for hand-washing. The water created by Duke University’s neighborhood treatment system can be used to flush toilets or supplement fertilizer. The University of South Florida’s New Generator even collects methane gas for cooking or heating.”

These are all innovative solutions and each could find a home somewhere in the developing world.  Suddenly, something (the toilet) that hasn’t change for over a hundred years has been reinvented several times over.  All thanks to Gates’ refusal to turn a blind eye to the suffering of thousands.  The founder of Microsoft Gates could have rested on his laurels.  Could have retired early and lived a lavish lifestyle.  Instead he started to look for a new challenge.  A way to make the biggest impact possible.  To get the biggest bang for his buck.  That’s not a very inspirational thing to do, as his interviewer points out on the Netflix Special Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill, but inspiration isn’t Gates’ objective.  Saving lives is.  Which is why in addition to reinventing the toilet he is also out to eradicate polio and malaria.  At this rate I wouldn’t bet against him.

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Is a reinvented toilet the Greatest Idea Ever?

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People living a hundred years ago never could have predicted the invention of the microwave and the rise of the TV dinner.  Nor could people living twenty years ago have predicted the Impossible Burger and other lab grown meats that are currently hitting supermarket shelves.  When it comes to predicting the future of food there’s only thing that we can be certain of: it’s going to be vastly different than it is now and we’re probably going to think it’s weird.

Which brings me to hyper-personalized food.  Meals that are specifically catered towards each individual person’s biochemistry and their corresponding nutritional needs.  An approach that is even weirder than growing food in a laboratory.

As Futurism puts it, “You’ll need more than a reservation to dine at Sushi Singularity — you’ll also need to be willing to share samples of your bodily fluids.

The futuristic restaurant, which is set to open in Tokyo in 2020, collects samples of reservation-holders’ saliva, feces, and urine two weeks prior to their visits. Then it analyzes the samples to determine each diner’s unique nutritional requirements, tailoring their meal to meet those needs.”

To make this an even more futuristic sounding idea the tailored meals are also going to be 3D printed.  Because of course they are.  Personally, I’m not sure that I would want to eat in an establishment that I know is also housing thousands of samples of saliva, feces, and urine.  That doesn’t exactly sound all that sanitary.  But then again eating raw fish in the first place doesn’t all that sanitary to me either.  So what do I know?

But for people who take their health seriously, who count calories and watch everything they eat, I can certainly understand the appeal in wanting to eat a highly personalized nutritional meal. Even if that meal is 3D printed sushi.

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Is personalized sushi the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,562 – Noise Radar

As a curmudgeon who hates all sounds and loud noises I’m naturally a big fan of any idea that promotes silence whether that’s noise-canceling headphones, smart ear buds or inventions that sound proof your apartment.  So it should come as no surprise that I love the idea of Noise Radar, currently being introduced in a Parisian suburb in France as a means of curbing the noise generated by obnoxious motorcyclists.

According to Reuters, “The new device, developed by Bruitparif engineers, has four microphones that measure decibel levels every tenth of a second and can triangulate where a sound originates.

It displays a picture of an acoustic wake as a trace of colored dots behind a moving source of loud noise, such as a souped-up motorcycle.

‘With this tool, it is not possible to dispute who made the noise,’ said [Mayor Didier] Gonzales.”

Especially not when you cross reference the data with camera footage.  But we’ll have to wait and see how effective the system truly is as the technology has been installed in several locations but is still waiting on regulatory approval before it can be turned on.

Hopefully, that approval comes sooner rather than later so that the good citizens of Paris can rest assured that they’ll never again be woken up in the middle of the night by an unwelcomed mechanical roar.

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Is Noise Radar the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,561 – Week In Review

A quick look at everything that tickled my fancy this past week:

Soft Tactile Logic

We assume that having a high level of intelligence is predicated by having a central nervous system but that may not necessarily be the case.

As Science Daily reports, “Inspired by octopuses, researchers have developed a structure that senses, computes and responds without any centralized processing — creating a device that is not quite a robot and not quite a computer, but has characteristics of both. The new technology holds promise for use in a variety of applications, from soft robotics to prosthetic devices.

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DNA Storage

As we continue to create terabytes of information on a daily basis we’re going to need to come up with new methods of being able to store and retrieve that information.  To that end Israeli researchers have reached an incredible breakthrough involving DNA.

According to the Jerusalem Post, “the group demonstrated storage of information in a density of more than 10 petabytes, or ten million gigabytes, in a single gram, while significantly improving the writing process. This, theoretically, allows for storing all the information stored on YouTube in a single teaspoon.

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Universal Blood

It soon may be possible to convert Type A blood into the universally accepted Type O thanks to a newly discovered microbe that resides in our gut.

According to Futurism:

“In a study published on Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers from the University of British Columbia detail their discovery of microbes in the human gut that produce two enzymes that efficiently strip type A blood of its antigens, transforming it into type O.

The team plans to conduct further studies to ensure the process removes all the blood antigens. If it does, all that converted type A blood would nearly double the amount of universal donor blood available — and we’d have the human gut to thank.”

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New Organ

Speaking of the human body it turns out that we have an additional organ lurking underneath our skin that we were unaware of.  An organ that may be responsible for why we feel pain.

National Geographic explains, “Dubbed the nociceptive glio-neural complex, this structure is not quite like the typical picture of a complex organ like the heart or the spleen. Instead, it’s a simple organ made up of a network of cells called glial cells, which are already known to surround and support the body’s nerve cells. In this case, the glial cells form a mesh-like structure between the skin’s outer and inner layers, with filament-like protrusions that extend into the skin’s outer layer.”

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Long after humans have gone extinct 3D printers will still be roaming the Earth, completing their tasks, ala the plot of Wall-E.  That’s because three Danish companies plan to create 3D printers that can crawl, swim, and even fly as part of their Break the Grid initiative.

As Futurism explains, “The six-legged crawling 3D printer would skitter across roads, filling cracks in asphalt, while the swimming 3D printer would mix glue with sand from the ocean floor to build coast-protecting artificial reefs. The flying 3D printer, meanwhile, would add thermal insulation to older high-rises.”

These mobile 3D printers would constantly move around the Earth in search of odd jobs, doing important work in hard to reach spots.  The pothole filling printer would be especially valuable in cities with crumbling infrastructure, while the coral reef building printer would be instrumental in the fight against Climate Change.

That’s why it’s easy to imagine an entire fleet of mobile 3D printers going about their business in the near future, surrounded by smaller “worker bee” drones and maybe further down the road a swarm of autonomous nanobots that pick up the remaining slack.  In the past this scenario would have been pure science fiction.  But now thanks to the Break the Grid initiative the groundwork has been laid for an autonomous future.  One in which 3D printing may have finally found a home.

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Is the Break the Grid initiative the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Signing up for a free trial is great as you are able to try out a new product or service, or view content that you’re interested in, all without having to pay a cent for it.  Until you check your credit card that is and discover charges for services that you never wanted in the first place, all due to the fact that you forgot to cancel your free trial in time.

Thankfully, there’s a solution in place.  A new app known as Free Trial Surfing that lets you sign up for a free trial without any risk at all.  That’s because you’ll be signing up with a fake credit card that masks your true identity.

As Tech Radar explains, “It uses a virtual credit card number and invented name to let you get a taste for an app’s quality, and then automatically cancels the account before the main billing period kicks in.

Developed by British app creator Josh Browder, the service is working alongside an undisclosed bank, with the virtual cards registered to Browder’s company. As a result, the app is able to forward emails from a service provider to a user without exposing the user’s own email – handy if you do eventually want to use the service in question as a paid subscriber.”

In theory, this app sounds almost too good to be true.  Surely, the companies providing these free trials may eventually want to fight back against this blatant subversion by eliminating the free trials all together.  So it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.  But until that happens there’s nothing to prevent people from taking advantage of free trials, just like they always have, albeit with zero risk this time around thanks to Josh Browder and Free Trial Surfing.

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Is the Free Trial Surfing app the Greatest Idea Ever?

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