The Inventor's Mentor
Saving the Planet
The holiday season is upon us, and the world is going to hell in a hand basket. And who is to blame? Inventors, of course, who else? They invented the internal combustion engines to help us with our travel. They also invented automatic weapons to defend us against our enemies. As is usually the case, there are unintended consequences.
The burning of fossil fuel is increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and exacerbating global warming. Weather is becoming more violent, threatening the world with the sixth mass extinction in geological history, comparable to that which 65 million years ago, killed the dinosaurs. The Internet is facilitating the spread of destructive ideologies. Religious fanatics and mentally impaired individuals on the loose and armed with modern weapons are making our environment more deadly.
However, the problems we are facing are not insurmountable. Selflessness, that is the willingness not to overly consume planetary resources, and unbiased acceptance of scientific knowledge about our world are good starting points. Let’s all spend some time contemplating what we might invent to help your fellow man or improve the world. President Obama has identified three top priority fields that need improvements: Energy, Health and Education. In addition to these I have listed a few other topics below that could be focus on. Some of them require hi-tech solutions; other can be solved by simple low-tech approaches.
1) Energy. Invent new methods of
generating energy or devices that improve mechanical efficiency and
conservation without spewing out global warming gases such as CO2.
The impending change to electrically powered cars offers the opportunity to
invent new automotive accessories to fit this new market.
2) Health. Find new treatments for
HIV/AIDS, cancer, malaria, and back pain. Discover new antibiotics to fight
antibiotic resistant bacteria. Find new methods to deliver a better quality and
less expensive health care.
3) Education. Teaching methods have hardly
changed in the past 2000 years. Learn about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) which are about
to burst the education bubble.
4) Transportation. Our dependence on our
gas guzzling cars has damaged our environment. We need to break our addiction
to oil. Inventors can make this change possible.
5) Fresh Water. Increased agriculture and
farming is consuming more fresh water than ever. Increased water consumption
together with global warming may convert our planet into a vast desert. There
is a need for water conservation techniques, in the home, in the yard, on the
farm, in industry. There is also a need for producing fresh water by efficient
and inexpensive desalination techniques.
6) Foods. While a large number of human beings
are starving, another large number are obese. Find ways to feed the increasing
human population on the planet, without overexploiting the land and the sea,
and without polluting the biosphere with pesticides.
7) Natural Resources. Our industry depends
on non-renewable natural resources such as Copper, (used in electrical
circuits), Indium (used in liquid crystal displays), and Platinum (used in
catalytic converters). The challenge for inventors is to find green and
renewable alternatives to these scarce natural resources.
8) Quality of Life. Improve the life of
the disabled including the blind, the deaf, the lame and the old. For the indigent, often the simplest
actions such as tying a shoelace or handling a spoon and a fork are impossibly
difficult. Put yourself in their situations and feel what they feel. Then come
up with a solution to their problem.
9) The Environment. The growing human
population is putting larger and larger demands on our environment. The
depleted biosphere in turn is losing its capacity to support life, including
human life. Green solutions in harmony with nature need to be found.
10) Political Freedom. Recent world events have shown the power of the Internet’s social networking tools such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter, to effect political changes and help disseminate democratic ideals. What can you do as an inventor to enhance the Internet in the service of democracy?
Happy Holidays to all!