Big Ideas: Little Packages

The following is courtesy of National Geographic, another one of my top sources. Though widely perceived to be strictly anthropological in it’s content (and for the most part it is), “Nat Geo” covers a wide-range of topics, delving into science, history, the arts, and even political science. I highly recommend it for those of you with broader tastes in addition to a love of photographic splendor.

Though I should have been in bed hours ago, I could not resist sharing this little gem, rich I just read earlier today. It’s a list of simple but dynamic innovations that could save entire communities across the world, particularly in least-developed nations. The link for it is here, and all but one of the inventions shown come with their own website for those interested in learning more. Most are either awaiting release or have already been introduced in limited number to their target demographics. All of them thankfully appear to have passed their trials.

As the introduction succinctly notes:

Can good design save the world? It just might, one novel idea at a time. Sparked by programs like the Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability course at Stanford University’s Institute of Design, designers are creating products to meet the needs of communities in developing countries. It turns out that even the most pressing problems, from health care to potable water, can have affordable—and beautifully designed—solutions.

Indeed, that’s best part: most of these concepts are particularly complex or profound, yet they accomplish as much as we would expect from an expensive new technology. It’s all a matter of applying clever, practical designs – or re-conceptualizing existing ones – to address very particular needs.

For example, one elegant invention is a mere water container that is shaped in such a way as to make it easier to transport (it can be rolled along the ground rather than be carried). This is great for the millions of women and children who must traverse miles of often treacherous land to find water, only to be burdened with a heavier load on the way back.

Another of my personal favorites consist of nothing more than filling one clay pot with sand, than wedging another clay pot within it, keeping them separated by a barrier of wet substrate. As it dries, the evaporated water keeps food preserved for weeks, rather than the usual few days. Simple, cheap, and easy to make just about anywhere. Most fascinating is the fact that this is based on a rather ancient technique. It’s amazing to think that some of the modern world’s problems have already been addressed by our predecessors thousands of years ago!

As regular readers know, I’m a “devout” humanist – I believe in the worth and positive nature of the human species, and am more-or-less optimistic about our capacity to do good for one another and the world. Though I find myself increasingly susceptible to bouts of pessimism and outright misanthropy, witnessing our the exercise of higher faculties – our capacity to ponder, explore, discover, and invent – gives me a surge of renewed hope and enthusiasm.

I can’t wait for these sleek and simple inventions to reach the masses and improve the lives of millions. Funding and coordination is always a difficult process for these sorts of things: all sorts of technologies currently exist that could better the lot of humanity, yet they rarely make it passed their own trials – and even when they do, mass-producing and distributing them is a whole other story. This no doubt explains the growing emphasis on simplicity and affordability that more and more inventors are opting for.

Therein lies the beauty of innovation. It’s not just a matter of creativity or advanced engineering. It’s solving a problem in whatever way possible, and insuring that it’s as easy as any other known thus far. If this short list of ideas are vastly beneficial as they stand, imagine what more could be accomplished if we invest more resources into science and research? It’s something policymakers, investors, and the general public should ponder.

2 comments on “Big Ideas: Little Packages

  1. Pingback: Inventions For Kids - Cool Ideas and Help For Parents

  2. Pingback: Simple Inventions : Some Things About That

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