Several new scientific discoveries in neuroscience have alluded to very interesting upcoming applications for the brain. Skills and knowledge will be directly implanted into your brain. Your brain will connect directly to the cloud, for easy access to all your data. Thoughts will control bionic limbs. There may be robots that think and react like we do, by copying our brain patterns. There is a lot to consider now that our technology is making it easier and easier to interfere with a brain’s natural process. How do we determine what’s ethical? Which areas of life will have to change to accommodate for our technologically enhanced brains? Competitive events? Education?
What’s the fastest way to collect scientific data? Get citizens involved! Citizen Science is a brilliant way to get communities involved with scientific experiments that directly affect us all. Anyone can write down observations or collect samples, which is a huge contribution to scientists. After all, there are a finite number of scientists with a limited amount of time and they can’t be everywhere at once. Contributing to Citizen Science is something everyone can participate in. It can be a fun project for you and your family, or for your entire K-12 classroom. Either way, Citizen Science is a great way to contribute to scientific research, engage citizens in learning about nature and science that directly affects them, and it results in smarter, stronger communities.
Citizen Science is alive and well in Seattle, with local programs like the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Audubon Society for Birds and Nature, Sound Citizen (which tests for human compounds in water), the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, and the WA Native Plant Society Noxious Weed Project. Most of these programs are free, but some come with a small fee, like the American Gut project and the uBiome — Sequencing Your Microbiome project.
Citizen Science doesn’t have to be organized by a group interested in collecting data for a specific purpose, in fact some programs encourage you to explore and learn more about science that interests you. These programs include DIY bio science labs and hackerspaces, which allow you to discover science in your own way for your own purposes.
There’s no down side to participating in any form of Citizen Science. It’s a fun learning experiment, it’s community-building, and it allows you to directly contribute to scientific discoveries without requiring a college degree. Plus, the more we know, the more we grow!
Not getting enough sleep can make you irritable, hysterical, or unable to process information. Todd Maddox, a psychology professor at the Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Texas in Austin says, “The brain regions that are impaired when you are sleep-deprived are the same ones that are impaired with aging.” We all perform better when we’ve had enough sleep. Sleep is restorative. This is because while you are sleeping a number of important processes are going on. One theory is that sleep lets the brain resets itself, “Sleep may also be important for consolidating new memories, and to allow the brain to ‘forget’ the random, unimportant impressions of the day, so there is room for more learning the next day.” Another theory is that sleep lets you solve problems. At Georgetown University, researchers found that during naps the right hemisphere of the brain was extremely active and busy transmitting information to the inactive left hemisphere of the brain. The right hemisphere is responsible for creativity and big-picture thinking, while the left is analytical and skilled at things like language and processing math, so “The new findings suggest that it’s possible naps, by enhancing the creative side of the brain, help us solve problems.”
So sleep is important. How will we regulate and leverage it in the future? We’ve seen futuristic movies like The Fifth Element, or Cloud Atlas, in which machines put a person to sleep for the appropriate amount of time and then wake them up. Will we all be sleeping in special pods? Apparently by 2030 sleep technology will be able to offer us, among other things, a variety of new services while we sleep: lessons that we learn in our sleep (like language or skill learning), control over our dreams, virtual love making, medical diagnosis, and internal (in our brain) sleep-cycle alarms. Research has been done on hotels of the future that will supposedly provide the perfect atmosphere for sleep, providing everything from fabrics that produce your favorite scent and tactile experience, to 3D skins you can upload that turn your hotel room into your home. The value of sleep is being discovered as more and more research develops, and it is clear that technology will drastically change the way we sleep in the future.
For me 2012 has been a year full of conferences and projects that have all accidentally promoted the same thing: cross-disciplinary, collaborative innovation. Today I learned about something called the Barefoot Tablet, a computer that caters to the 850 million illiterate people in the world who need visually intuitive technology to communicate and grow. This product came from a project developed by Tomorrow Labs, a cross-disciplinary team of design thinkers, makers, researchers and strategists, which helps solve the problems your community is facing.
Watch this introduction to learn a little more about Tomorrow Labs:
Tomorrow Labs is set up in such a way that their cross-disciplinary team helps you and your team go from problem to creative solution to concrete plan with actionable steps. Just by thinking of the issue from several different angles with sustainable and desirable design as the anchor. I’m happy to say that there are other organizations trying to make changes in the world by thinking outside of the box. Tomorrow Labs is just one compelling example.
Read the Tomorrow Labs blog to keep up on the latest project and design breakthroughs at the Lab. Also check out these other cross-collaborative organizations I came across this year: Hollywood Health & Society, SXSW, hitRECord, the TEN Conference, Shift Labs, and c3. What are some other cross-disciplinary groups out there doing?
As population increases, more homes need to be built. As population and consumption increase, so will our piles of garbage. So, it’s safe to say that in the future we need to build more homes and efficiently dispose of more garbage. How can we build more homes while putting less garbage into landfills? If you skeptically answered “build homes with garbage?” you are correct. The eco-brick is Susanne Heisse’s brilliant answer to alternative trash management. As founder of Pura Vida, Heisse designed the eco-brick out of a plastic bottle stuffed with inorganic trash that, when sufficiently stuffed, can be used as a building block for homes and schools. As of today eco-bricks have been used to build more than 200 schools and several homes throughout Central America. Watch this video and learn more about the super simple, super effective eco-brick.