Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

10 Crazy Ideas – one is likely to be BIG!

June 12, 2011

I have ten crazy ideas. One of these will be a big life-changing or work-changing idea – maybe just for me, but perhaps for many, many people. Here they are:

  1. A spam filter for my phone. If your number is “Unavailable” or “Telemarketer” or “Insufficient Data”, my phone will never ring, and we won’t talk! Optionally, if your company is unknown to me, we won’t talk, either. And optionally, if you are on my “black list”, we won’t talk – ever – we do the black list today, but that’s the extent of a spam filter for the phone.
  2. Streaming media that follows me wherever I go. When I leave the kitchen where CNN is on the TV and step into the breakfast room, CNN will automatically stream to the family room TV when I get there. When I leave my house and get into my car, CNN will stream to my car through my car speakers. When I get to my home office upstairs, CNN will stream to my desktop there. CNN – or whatever I am watching or listening to – will stream to the media system of my choice wherever I go – the best media system wherever I am. Automatically. Without missing a beat.
  3. A universal media license for my own content. If I own a DVD, I should be able to stream it from any source for a data fee if there is one without paying another license fee. Apple is doing this to some degree with iTunes that will stream your music library to any iTunes-compatible device you own without uploading your media to Apple. Sweet. They beat me to this one… We’ll see how this works.
  4. Free education. I am certain that information creation and discovery will happen at an ever increasing pace in the future – hold on to your seat, because this will be a wild ride. How do you manage this? Keep current in your career? Learn new ideas that shape your life and the lives of those around you? Ideas that could be key to a long and happy life? You consume education, that’s how. The pace of change will become so fast that comfortable survival will demand continuous education of everyone. If education costs money, a great many who’s priorities or finances don’t support a learning mission will be left behind. Unless education is free for the taking, that is, and then anyone who wants to learns things of importance – for their entire lives. On our present course, though, a smaller and smaller portion of the population will be able to afford an ongoing education for their entire lives.
  5. A shower and an aerobic exercise machine like a StairMaster on commercial airplanes that cross an ocean. Charge extra for that? Sure, why not. I’d pay.
  6. Virtual movie actors that members of the audience become. What? If you are one of the first in line for a movie, you choose a character in the movie to direct – to become – to act. In a sense, you become one of the characters. You make decisions about the actions of that character within certain bounds, and so do a number of other people in the audience for other characters. Every running of the movie would be a unique experience.
  7. An instant, real-time language translator. Not really so crazy. People are working on this – maybe my good friends at Google… When I phone my good friend in Japan and talk (in English), he should hear MY voice speaking Japanese. And I should hear HIS voice speaking English. Effortlessly.
  8. Local environmental control in the home. Huh? When I am in bed at night, why control the temperature of the rest of the house to the same temperature like we do today? When I am in my home-office, why control the temperature of the bedroom to the same temp? There is so much opportunity to make improvements in energy usage patterns in the home… Someday, we’ll catch on to this. Environmental control should follow people. We do this with lights in some homes today, but anything more extensive demands new construction techniques to isolate spaces. control airflow, and facilitate control from more locations than just one or two thermostats.
  9. A new focus on mental health. Treat the homeless and criminals for their mental illnesses that presently destroy their lives (and the lives of others around them) and diminish their future value in society. Everyone has potential – everyone has unmet potential. Between 15% and 25% of the population suffers from untreated mental illness that impacts their lives, limits what they do with their lives, and often adds a burden to society where these people live. That’s a lot of lost productivity, expense, and a lot of misery we simply allow to persist by being passive with regard to these ill people.
  10. Flush cancer cells from the body. One day, nanomachines will scour the body entangling themselves in cancer cells they have an affinity for and eliminating these cells from the body. Everyone is walking around with cancer cells in their body. Rather than killing these cells and many more in the body to fight cancer after a few of these cells become active and tumor-producing, just “round ’em up and head ’em out!”
  11. A bonus, since several ideas aren’t so crazy or so far “out there”. A motion-based battery charger that you wear to charge a cellphone or an iPod while you walk. How far to fully charge a cellphone? A couple of miles? I could get rid of my “wall warts” and never need to plug in again… Do that for my iPad, too. If I can carry it, it should recharge when I move about.

Well, there are eleven  crazy ideas. Time for smart people to “git crackin'” on some of these. And for a few dedicated people to promote these ideas – oh, that would be me… Write back with a crazy idea of your own!

Rescuing the Economy – Proposal #3

December 26, 2010

My friend PN remarked, “Brian, what do astronomers get paid to do? I mean, what is the value of astronomy?” PN takes his Celeston with him when he leaves the light pollution of the “big city”. I remember wondering in the moment why he didn’t see the value of astronomy. He did in fact, but he was making a point that astronomy, and many fields of science had no immediate payoff, and therefore little allure for public funders and philanthropists. Look at the gloomy future for NASA to see that this concern is real.

I am afraid that many fields of science may lose significant funding and attention in the future, whether I like it or not – probably including astronomy. But not all fields of science are threatened like astronomy might be. Science that contributes to medical advances will flourish in the future. I think that with significant investment in lieu of the relatively more modest investment today, certain fields of science can be propelled so far forward so fast that they will radically reshape national economies such as our own and potentially improve the lives of everyone on the planet in a matter of a couple of years. But it’s a long shot.

I have been blogging on rescuing the US economy:

  • My Proposal #1 that predicts future medical consumption will be what saves the future US economy;
  • My Proposal #2 for more Federal investment in engineering projects by the SBIR;
  • A “China Playbook” of Seven Eco-Pillars that all require redefinition for the future.

The repair and modernization of the US economy is a difficult road for Congress to navigate. When was the last time your community added a stoplight before the tragic car wreck? Well, stand by for us all to trip and fall on the global stage tragically before Congress will act correctly.

So, what is the “long shot” that might overcome the tragic “trip and fall”? There must be a long shot with a high risk of failure, but potentially enormous returns. Scientific discovery changes the way we see the world, the problems in the world, and the solutions to those problems. My friend wasn’t looking at it from quite that perspective, but I was beginning to. My proposal – my long shot:

Invest $250 Billion in scientific research for a cure for cancer – all cancers – in five years.

My previous post that proposed a sharp increase in SBIR investment in engineering solutions to practical problems noted a structural error in public policy that has spurred a misapplication of talent in this country: Scientists in the US are “stooping” to a mission of invention and innovation in lieu of discovery. They do this today because invention and innovation or applied science receives significant funding from multiple sources, and because discovery or pure science receives far less funding, and because their Ph.D. credential beats out the credentials of most engineers who might do better invention and innovation. Where the previous proposal made a case for funding more invention and innovation by engineers instead of scientists, this post expands on the value of scientific discovery and the need to fund it and the essential role for scientists to pursue it.

Discovery is the “long shot”. Remember Rumsfeld’s muttering about “things you know you know”? Well, Discovery is all about the things you don’t know. There is undeniable value in things you don’t know. But this value is undeterminable, and therefore its cost is unjustifiable when things get tough. Scientists do discovery best – this is their big potential value contribution in our economy, and public policy today no longer encourages it very well. A little bit of Discovery spurs a disproportionately larger wave of invention and innovation – always.

The mission to the moon was a mission of discovery – it gave birth to the computer chip – and to a host of other commercializable inventions and innovations that have contributed remarkably to our economy.

The decoding of the human genome was a mission of discovery – it gave birth to the hard disk drive – and to a host of other commercializable inventions and innovations that have contributed remarkably to our economy. The hard disk drive? Yes – the problem was, “How do you store the human genome once you know it?” The answer was the hard disk drive – with microminiature magnetic molecules that store a one or zero – or “fairy dust” as coined by an IBM physicist…  And now, many of us have our offices littered by used disk drives mechanisms and boxes full of portable hard drives.

What is the next big discovery?  See this previous post on The Next Big Thing – but these things are really inventions and innovations, and not discoveries. So, what is the next big discovery that will drive large portions of our future economy? My own guess is a pico-machine that defeats or destroys cancer cells – or any other specific cell they are built for – by seeking them out in the body, attaching to them and rendering them harmless. Maybe this pico-machine is really a virus or a gene, but the point is that for all intents and purposes it is a molecule-sized machine that has a physical structure and a physical mechanism and a programmable behavior to accomplish its task.

These pico-machines will be the brain-children of scientists, and not engineers. Who will fund this pure science? Who will fund a $250 Billion cure for all cancers and potentially many other diseases – and other unimaginable applications? Congress? On the present course, I doubt it… It’s the “long shot”, and who in Congress is brave enough to invest large amounts of public funds today when times are tough in something their constituents might call science fiction?

Today, the US government tends to toss token amounts of money at quantifiable, low-risk problems. This is a sure bet strung out over as long a period of time as possible. I think that this strategy today yields relatively small returns. I have heard more than one scientific researcher remark in frustration, “I invest so many hours preparing so many proposals for such small amounts of money for such limited scopes of work…”

My proposal – one more time:

Invest $250 Billion in scientific research for a cure for cancer – all cancers – in five years.

And then, how about curing Alzheimer’s Disease… Or regrowing the retina of the eye to cure macular degeneration and blindness, or regenerating a failed pancreas to cure diabetes, or – well, there is a long list of discoveries waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

In case you aren’t looking at the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, $250 Billion amounts to about two years of the cost of those wars… I would rather bet some of my tax dollars on the “long shot”, wouldn’t you?