Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

13 APRIL, 2011

David Friedman’s Portraits of Inventors

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What Instagram has to do with ice fishing and specialty chairs for canoodling.

For the past few years, New-York-based photographer David Friedman has been taking portraits of inventors — those ordinary people who came up with ordinary-seeming things that transform lives, often our lives, in extraordinary ways. Rather than lofty and fluff-padded, like many such efforts tend to be, these profiles blend humility with creative restlessness, demystifying invention and reframing it not as the idle blessing of some arbitrary muse but as the product of combinatorial creativity and one’s everyday life experience.

STEVEN SASSON: THE DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re an Instagram obsessive like we are, you’re grateful for the advances in digital imaging on a daily basis. But they didn’t just “happen.” In 1975, American electrical engineer Steven Sasson began exploring ideas that eventually led to his invention of the digital camera, the patent for which was officially issued in 1978, paving the way for the imaging revolution. This portrait was taken shortly before President Obama awarded Sasson the National Medal of Technology.

The options the average person has today for imaging [are] unlimited. You walk around with you cell phone or digital camera today, and the pictures are excellent, they’re reliably produced, you can share them instantly. I like to say to inventors, ‘Be aware that your invention is in an environment when the rest of the world is inventing along with you, and so by the time the idea matures, it’ll be in a totally different world. I think that was the case with the digital camera.”

via Swiss Miss

TAMI GALT: FOLDING WAGON

Looking for an easy way to cary her groceries back from the farmers market that didn’t make her look like a wire-cart-dragging old lady, Tami Galt came up with teh Fold It & Go portable wagon, quitting her 9-to-5 job to work on the seemingly kooky creation.

One day, my boss was yelling at one of my coworkers and I’m like, ‘I gotta do something else, this isn’t working.’ So I just looked through my book of ideas, I looked at which one I liked the best, and said, ‘That’s what I’m working on!'”

JERRY FORD: WHEELCHAIR BRAKE SYSTEM

When crop farmer Jerry Ford‘s son was working at a nursing home and noted the need for a braking system that would prevent wheelchair accidents, Ford decided to invent one.

The cost of the falls is huge, and the technology is there to prevent them. Seat belts in cars actually prevent you from getting more seriously injured in an accident, where my automatic brake system prevents the accident from ever happening.”

TOM ROERING: AMPHIBIOUS VEHICLE

Ice fisherman Tom Roering‘s lightweight drivable amphibious vehicle for land, water and ice that doubles as an ice-fishing shelter and can also be adapted as an ice rescue vehicle.

Ice is never predictable, so each year there is loss of property as well as loss of life.”

BRENT FARLEY: MULTIPLE

Brent Farley‘s first patent was a “chair for aiding the [conjugal] relationships for the confirmed” — that is, a chair for having sex on. Farley went on to become one the most prolific of Friedman’s inventors, his creations ranging from the numbingly utilitarian (“self-hanging hammer” anyone?) to the gobsmackingly kooky (“wing walker,” we’re looking at you).

I look for the slightest problem that I can see, and ask myself, ‘Could there really be, maybe, a little bit better way to actually do that?”

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01 APRIL, 2011

5 Questions x 8 Interesting People x SXSW 2011

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This year, we went to SXSW and decided to ask 8 of the most interesting people we know — including The New York Times’ David Carr, Behance founder Scott Belsky, and Fast Company’s Alissa Walker — 5 questions about technology, innovation and the information economy. We photographed them with their answers and used projeqt, the wonderful storytelling platform we introduced a few months ago, to share their answers.

The questions:

Go ahead and explore this visual micro-portrait of today’s tech landscape. And we’d love to hear what you — yes, you — would’ve said, so drop us a comment below if you’d like to share your 5 answers.

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18 MARCH, 2011

Scott Belsky on How to Avoid Idea Plateaus

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“Ideas are cheap and abundant,” proclaimed legendary management consultant and self-described social ecologist Peter Drucker, “what is of value is the effective placement of those ideas into situations that develop into action.”

Hand raise: Who here has had a big idea, the kind that keeps you up at night excitedly plotting its release into the world, only to have it plateau and lose steam before coming to fruition? We thought so. And how do we handle that? We come up with a new idea, a shot of creative dopamine to the brain, only to have it suffer the same fate. In his excellent talk from last year’s 99% Conference — one of our favorite cross-disciplinary event seriesScott Belsky breaks down how this trap works and how to avoid falling into it.

The project plateau is littered with the carcases of dead ideas that have never happened. What do we do? We just generate a new idea. We do it again and again and again. What we continue to do is we escape this project plateau with a new idea, and instantaneously we return to this high of excitement, this willingness to execute. And this is why there are more half-written novels in the world than there are novels.” ~ Scott Belsky

If you haven’t yet read Scott’s book, Making Ideas Happen, we strongly encourage you to do so. Barely a year old, it’s already one of the most important books on creative entrepreneurship ever published. Drawing on years of research and hundreds of interviews, Besky goes after the holy grail of ideation with a club and a smile. From what people who bring ideas to life have in common to understanding the chemistry of collaboration to how to avoid short-circuiting your reward systems, it’s the kind of guide that will make you just the right amount of uncomfortable and, in the process, better and smarter about your work, your productivity and your creative endeavors.

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15 MARCH, 2011

PICKED: Cry Baby, The Pedal That Rocks The World

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Since its invention in 1966, the wah-wah pedal has been instrumental in humanizing the sound of the guitar by altering the tone and frequency of its signal to mimic the human voice. Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World is a fascinating hour-long documentary that tells the story of the wah-wah pedal and its impact on contemporary music through the accounts of musicians, engineers and historians. From its technical evolution to its role in enabling greater creative expression in music, the film features interviews with icons like Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Buddy Guy, Art Thompson, Eddie Kramer, Dweezil Zappa, and Jim Dunlop.

It goes to the heart of what human communication is all about when it comes to transferring that communication to an instrument.”

In celebration of the film, Dunlop is giving away the crown jewel of Wahs: One of the world’s only hand-assembled Swarovski-encrusted Cry Baby, signed by the man behind Cry Baby: Jim Dunlop himself.

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