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#1,537 – Neom

Saudi Arabia is said to be planning a large-scale futuristic city in the desert that will be the size of Massachusetts and feature all kinds of quirky technological wonders.  According to Business Insider, “The city will be known as Neom, a portmanteau of the Greek word neos, meaning ‘new,’ and mustaqbal, the Arabic word for ‘future.’”  It will be a place for the “dreamers of the world” and will be about all things “future-oriented and visionary”.  Sounds like my kind of place! 

But what exactly are we talking about?  Futuristic cities aren’t a new idea.  There are several “smart cities” wired from head to toe that already exist.  Data driven places that exhibit the very best that the Internet of Things has to offer.  But Neom will be much more than just your average run of the mill futuristic city.  Instead, it will take what it means to be futuristic to a whole new level as it is likely to include a lot of wild ideas and concepts, some of which will sound like science fiction, others like they came from a child’s overactive imagination.  

Some of these will be technologically possible in the near future while others are purely theoretical for now.  But either way, Neom is likely to deliver on its promise as being the place to be for those interested in living on the cutting-edge of society.  Among the technologies currently being considered are flying taxis, driverless cars, an artificial moon to illuminate the night sky, cloud seeding technology to control the weather, and holographic teachers to create a world-class education system. But of course no futuristic city would be complete without a Jurassic Park-like island populated by robotic dinosaurs!!

As the Verge puts it, “Taken together, the plans remind of you what a dedicated nine-year-old can achieve in Minecraft. Yes, the scale and ambition are impressive, but it’s not like you could do this in real life, right?” 

But doing this in real life is exactly what Saudi Arabia is planning on doing even if the funding isn’t clear and the logistics murky.  So much so, that they even want to push the envelope as far as humanly possible as they look to populate the futuristic city with genetically enhanced people that will have increased strength and IQ.  Enhanced people that will get waited on hand and foot by robotic maids that do all of their chores for them. 

As crazy as all this sounds, as unlikely as it all may be, I’m still all in on this idea.  With an area the size of Massachusetts there is a lot that you can accomplish.  Especially if Neom lives up to its billing as a future focused place that would attract the world’s dreamers.  A place like that could do a lot to inspire the rest of the world to work harder, to dream bigger, to reach for the stars like never before.  Which is exactly the kind of place that we need in a world that is likely to face a lot of tough technological challenges in the decades to come as we face down Climate Change and everything that comes along with it.

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Is Neom, a futuristic city with robotic dinosaurs and an artificial moon, the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’m not a coffee drinker but even I can appreciate the greatness of this next idea: a way to create everyone’s favorite morning pick me up without using any beans!

According to The Spoon, “Seattle-based startup Atomo claims to bring you all the goodness of a cup of coffee — without the bean. Atomo’s so-called ‘molecular coffee’ is made by reverse engineering the flavor and aroma compounds in coffee beans to make a substance that, when brewed, tastes and caffeinates like java. It’s made with natural ingredients and can be brewed one-to-one for coffee in French presses, refillable K-cups, pour-overs, etc.”

In light of our forthcoming climate catastrophe this idea has particular appeal considering that we may not always be able to grow coffee beans naturally.  Or maybe this is the kind of approach that could pave the way for astronauts to enjoy coffee when they won’t have the ability to grow their own beans.

But best of all, perhaps we could even use this reverse engineering approach to create molecular versions of other foods and beverages as well.  Ensuring that we’ll always have our favorites on call, whenever we need them.

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Is Atomo Molecular Coffee the Greatest Idea Ever?

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How we came to eat the things that we do in the way that we do has likely been the byproduct of thousands of years of trial and error.  Before we figured out that you could pair milk with cereal someone had to try cereal mixed with apple or orange juice.  Yuck!  Or just imagine walking down the beach trying everything you could find, seaweed, clams, jellyfish, etc. to figure out what was edible and what wasn’t.  I’m a picky eater as it is.  Being an ancient taste tester would not have been for me.  Thankfully, we won’t have to worry about that anymore.  Going forward new food combinations will be concocted, not by human chefs, but by an advanced artificial intelligence, IBM’s Watson.

After winning Jeopardy, Watson turned its attention to healthcare, working with hospitals to diagnose rare diseases, thanks to its astonishing ability to read one million books per second.  At the time I wondered what Watson would turn to next for an encore and now we know.  Watson in a partnership with McCormick & Company will turn its attention to creating food recipes.  Rare, never before created recipes that no human could have ever come up with due to their complexity and chefs natural predisposition to certain favored ways of doing things.

As Futurism puts it, “Each human developer comes with biases. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; they may simply have favorite or go-to ingredientslike particular spices, that are over-represented in their formulas. But because IBM’s AI, largely comprised of a massive neural network, is trained on decades of McCormick data, the system is able to consider alternatives outside of a particular expert’s wheelhouse.

The algorithm also absorbed contextual data from decades of market research — the neural net processed data on people’s preferences based on factors like their culture, location, and moods.”

The end result is a system that is capable of considering food combinations that have never been tried before giving hope that we could be on the verge of revolutionizing the food industry.  Imagine for instance if something as amazing as pizza was only just now getting discovered.  How much would a discovery of that magnitude change the world?  Which begs the question: what new foods will be discovered next?!

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Is a new food algorithm the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,465 – Vinyly

The expression thinking outside the box just took on a whole new meaning thanks to a new burial idea: turning your ashes into a vinyl record!

As Open Culture puts it, “Even in death we are only limited by our imagination in how we want to go out. There are now ways to turn our corpse into a tree, or have our ashes shot into space, or pressing our ashes into diamonds–I believe Superman is involved in that last one. And now for the music lover, a company called And Vinyly will press your ashes into a playable vinyl record.

You like that punny company name? There’s more: the business lets the dear departed to ‘Live on from beyond the groove.’ Hear that groan? That’s the deceased literally spinning in their grave…on a turntable.”

Personally, I love this idea, of any idea, that lets us live on forever in the medium of our choosing. Our legacies extending as we become an active part of our loved ones’ lives, rather than just a distant memory lying six feet under.  Which begs the question: if you could come back as an inanimate object what would you want to come back as? My choice?  A book.  A biography about my life no less.  My entire life coming full circle.

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Is Vinyly the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,464 – DoorStash

We’ve all had food delivered to us.  Pizza.  Chinese food.  Perhaps even something like Taco Bell thanks to the modern convenience of food delivery services like GrubHub and Uber Eats.  But what happens when we want to have our food delivered somewhere else?  What recourse do we have?  The sad answer is that nothing happens.  Our leftovers just get discarded.  Tossed aside.  Wasted.

I’d like to change that by doing something that a lot of restaurants do and that’s donating leftovers to charity to feed the homeless.  It’s an issue that we’re all well aware of, that we’d all like to do something about, but the problem is that there just isn’t any infrastructure in place to create a reverse supply chain.  But I think that there is.  The infrastructure already existing in the form of the food delivery services themselves.

Instead of delivering fresh food drivers would just pick up leftovers.  Delivering them to homeless shelters and food banks.  A reverse delivery service of sorts, with the pickups and deliveries getting handled through the app just like when you’re ordering a 2 am delivery from Jack in the Box.  Costs covered by the consumers who could then use the donations as a tax write-off.

Instead of DoorDash this would be DoorStash and it would have the potential to fix our logistical problem, finally figuring out what to do with all that wasted leftover food once and for all.

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Is DoorStash the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,428 – Living Art Parade

Art wasn’t meant to be static.  It was meant to be interpreted, re-imagined in new ways, brought to life.  Murals, stain glass windows, canvases and tapestries adorning entire museum walls are great.  Performance art even better.  Which is why I love the Japanese.

For the last twenty two years Japan has been hosting an annual Art History Parade for Halloween, where people dress up as famous paintings and then walk around the city carrying a picture frame around them to complete the look, making it seem as though the portraits have come to life.

According to Hyperallergic human paintings this past year included:

“A self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa,’ Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ and Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring.'”

If you want to view a portion of the parade you can check it out below:

Is a Living Art Parade the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I’ve always suspected that the future of architecture and design will be unimaginably different from today’s techniques.  Figuring that it was only a matter of time before we 3D printed entire buildings or used breakthroughs in materials science to develop entirely new ways of constructing homes and businesses.  And as time has gone on we’ve seen several examples of how this evolution in construction may play out.  There’s been super wood, thirsty concrete, and even the implementation of living houses made of biological materials thanks to DARPA.  But this latest innovation takes the cake.

As Futurism reports, “Forget scarves and mittens. Soon, we might be able to knit entire buildings.  A team from the Swiss university ETH Zurich has developed a technique that allows them to knit textiles that can then form the scaffolds for large concrete structures. As a proof of concept, they created a 13-foot-tall architectural structure that’s now on display in Mexico City.”

As the technique improves and technology advances it will be interesting to see just how far we can take this architectural approach.  Is there a limit to how tall the structures get?  Could we use it produce buildings with complex designs ranging from flying buttresses to elegant domes?  Or would it only work for mass producing cookie cutter structures of a limited size?  Perhaps making it ideal for mass-producing low-income housing projects.

I’m not sure.  But either way it may be time to stop making fun of those ugly sweaters that your grandmother knitted for you for Christmas.  For the time may have finally come to give knitting its proper due.  Crochet it isn’t so.

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Is knitting buildings the Greatest Idea Ever?

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