Isn’t it fun to be an irresponsible innovator who only has ideas and never does anything about them?
Here are two of mine. Tell me why they are impossible.
1.) The Capitalist WPA. a consortium of venture philanthropists forming companies staffed by the long-term unemployed. Identify a niche — a product or service that could be provided domestically at competitive rates. It would be a way of doing well by doing good. The country is groaning with idle talent and skill. Many have given up looking for work, concluding it’s hopeless. They would work for competitive pay and a stake in the ventures, such as an ESOP. (OK, Maxwell, shoot it down.)
2.) The Bio-Battery. No one even seems to notice how absurd it is that, for all the power and sophistication of our electronic gadgetry, we can’t stray more than a few hours from the nearest electrical outlet. How humiliating! We’re tethered to the power grid like a dog on a leash. Whoever invents a truly long-lived battery will be the Edison and Garibaldi of the 21st century rolled into one.
So I ask: why can’t we use our own bodies, pumping with mechanical work, seething with electricity, as a source of power? Why couldn’t our everyday movements (already harnessed by self-winding watches) spin tiny generators? What if we could simply turn a little generator with a foot pedal while we worked? (Ooh! The possibilities for new repetitive-stress injuries!) What about a chest band that converted the movements of our breathing into electricity? What if our exhalations could spin a tiny windmill? What if we could put on a lightweight EEG-like headband and harvest the electrical fields of our brains? Has any of this been tried? (My guess is that it wouldn’t produce enough electricity, but this is a challenge for inventors at both ends—the devices that demand so much juice, and step-up or movement-amplification technology at the supply end.)