People laughed when ThyssenKrupp, a company synonymous with elevators, announced it was developing one that goes every which way. Who’d ever heard of such a thing? Everyone knows elevators go just two directions: Up and down. Some took to calling it the Wonkavator, after Willy Wonka’s wacky lift that goes sideways, slantways, and longways.
A YouTube collection of grainy video clips highlights the progress Gravity founder Richard Browning has made toward his outlandish dream over the past year. Each seems more terrifying than the last, with multiple jet engines attached to his limbs in various configurations, as he hovers a few feet from the ground.
The press material attached to the announcement heralds the oil trader turned entrepreneur as a real life Iron Man, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re watching some sort of backyard mad scientist, a few moments away from the world’s most dangerous Jack Ass stunt. Browning acknowledges how downright alarming the footage of the Daedelus rig appears, but shakes off any notion that he’s actually in danger at any point during the three-and-a-half minute package.
Unfortunately, we will never know how many women inventors were there before the 20th century. Women were not able to own property – not just in the U.S., but also around the world – until after the turn of the 20th century. That not only applied to home ownership but also to owning intellectual property and patents.
The last decade was a boom time for patent trolls. Their names and lawsuits made the news; This American Life dedicated two hour-long episodes to them. The number of defendants in patent troll lawsuits increased sixfold from 2003 through last year. But now the tides seem to be turning for them: After growing very rapidly since 2009, the number of lawsuits filed by “non-practicing entities” will be significantly lower this year compared to 2013. Although the level of litigation will still be at a historic high, is this indicative that they are finally being reigned in?
“Cognitive ecstasy” is one reason humans persevere in science, art, and invention.
Humans are curious because discovery is pleasurable. In Jason Silva’s latest video. he says humans don’t care about spectacle—what we care about is ecstatic understanding: “In other words, cognitive ecstasy defined as an exhilarating neurostorm of intense intellectual pleasure.” (Video)
LittleBits has just announced something called the BitLab, a contest merged with a crowd sourced technology system that allows inventors to create new LittleBits blocks, upload them, and have them made and sold by the company. The system also includes a hardware development kit that allows anyone access to LittleBits’ custom magnetic snap-together leads. (Videos)
Science fiction can be used to help scientists think about the uses and ethics of their inventions.
The Smithsonian Magazine May issue has an essay on the relationship between science, science fiction, and the future by Boing Boing buddy Eileen Gunn. She writes, “What’s science fiction good for? Major writers — Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Samuel R. Delany, Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow and others — talk about why science fiction likes to think about the future and how science fiction can be used to help scientists think about the uses and ethics of their inventions. The rest of the issue covers science and ethical issues of the near future.”
In 2013, the tech world gave us plenty talk about. We can build smarter robots. We can 3D-print pretty much anything. Tablet wars are still going strong, Snapchat is still a thing, and now we can binge-watch our favorite TV shows in more ways than ever before. (Videos)
Futurist Thomas Frey: What images come to mind when you think about the future? Do you think about near-term futures with 3D printers, driverless cars, and robotics, or do you think about more distant futures of space travel, human cloning, and teleportation devices?
Just because you worked hard and your perseverance led you to create something that changed the world, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get fame, fortune, or the slightest bit of recognition out of it. Some inventors get so little credit that we completely forget about them. Here are six of them.
The first-to-invent patent system will be replaced with what is often called a first-inventor-to-file system for patent applications.
President Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law in September 2011. Under one of the most important provisions of the AIA, the longstanding first-to-invent patent system will be replaced with what is often called a first-inventor-to-file system for patent applications with an effective filing date of March 16, 2013 or later. In the run-up to next March, there is likely to be significant attention in the press – and plenty of misinformation – regarding how first-inventor-to-file works and how it will impact entrepreneurs.
Futurist Thomas Frey: When Charles Corry walked onto the stage of the Shark Tank-like Piranha Pit at Saturday’s DaVinci Inventor Showcase, his iExpander product was still $6,000 away from making the goal of $125,000 on Kickstarter. As of this morning, he has not only passed his goal, now exceeding $140,000, but still has 6 more days to go.