Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

What if . . . . . . .

Sunday,31 August, 2008

Not all relics of the industrial age are quite as ‘photogenic’ as this old tub!

By now, we are pretty familiar with the principle: ‘the polluter pays’.

Our cars must be disposed of responsibly, we have to pay to get rid of materials containing asbestos, and so on.

But could we, and should we, apply this principle to other aspects of our life?

Here’s a few ideas for starters.

  • There’s a clear link between fatty and sugar laden foods and obesity – which is set to cost our Health Service a fortune in the years to come.  Should such foods attract a special tax, both as a disincentive for consumption, and to make sure those eating these foods meet the total cost resulting from consumption?
  • Late night pubs and clubs spill people onto streets at times when shopkeepers are not around.  It costs money to provide police at this time, taking resources away from previous normal daytime duties.  And if a drunken fracas develops and a shop window gets broken in, it rests with the shopkeepers to answer a call in the early hours, arrange emergency repairs, and then install security shutters.  Should the cost of all this be met by taxing those who run licensed premises which serve areas where these problems occur?
  • People end up in hospital for all sorts of reasons – sometimes as a result of accidents caused by dangerous driving, sometimes because of violent assaults.  Expensive therapy may even be needed to help victims cope with the aftermath of criminal activity.  Should the costs be met by the perpetrator, rather than by the tax payer?
  • Disposing of household rubbish is increasingly expensive – whether for landfill or by recycling.  Most householders battle with junk mail they don’t want, as well as with unnecessarily elaborate packaging.  Shouldn’t those generating these materials, be expected to meet the cost of disposal?
  • How much money is spent on cleaning up after chewing gum?  Shouldn’t clean up costs be met by the companies who make and sell it?

What do you think?

Would this help people understand the full consequences of their actions?

Can you think of any other examples?

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Is anybody there?

Friday,15 August, 2008

As well as being wonderful, every now and again our dog looks a bit ‘vacant’.

Our dog looking a bit ‘vacant’.

Sometimes we’ve got into conversation about this and, rather than using ‘vacant’, a variety of expressions have arisen – such as the usual:

• “Not the sharpest knife in the drawer”;
and
• “One sandwich short of a picnic”.

But we’ve also had suggested to us:

• “The lights on, but nobody’s in”;
and
• “The wheel’s still turning, but the hamster’s long since gone”!

Have you got any other creative, fun suggestions?

Do share them with us . . . . . . . .

And in the meantime, how about this picture of an owner looking like his dog (or should it be a picture of a dog looking like his owner)?

Happy 90th Birthday, Nelson Mandela!

Friday,18 July, 2008

Today’s the day to wish Nelson Mandela a “Very Happy 90th Birthday!”

A recent BBC Radio4 ‘Any Questions?’ programme was asked why established democracies don’t seem to get politicians of the stature of Nelson Mandela.
A great question!

It occurred to me that Nelson Mandela was locked in prison for 30 years, and then became a President for three years. In other words, he had 10 years to think, for every one year he practiced as a politician.

We are probably lucky if our politicians are given one year to think, for every 10 that they act.

Of course I am not suggesting that we lock all our aspiring politicians in gaol!

But the shear breathtaking audacity and generosity behind the concept of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shows the power of thought – if only we can give ourselves sufficient time.

And action without sufficient thought, can be pretty dangerous – especially in the realm of world politics.

What would be YOUR answer be to the question “Why is it that established democracies don’t seem to get politicians of the stature of Nelson Mandela?”

Do share your thoughts.

What will be the next BIG challenge for technology?

Saturday,21 June, 2008

Standing on the back of a narrowboat, I got to thinking – it’s what you do when travelling at 3mph:

just how much technology has changed since the canal system was first built!

To start off with, the Industrial Revolution was all about big being best. A bigger machine was more powerful, could do more work, and could create more wealth.

(The picture shows Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills in Derbyshire, built alongside the River Derwent in 1783.)

Huge mill buildings were built to harness the power of the big machines, and the large number of people who were needed to work the machines were housed in terraces which nestled under the shadow of the mills. Ultimately, whole families – generation after generation – went to work in the factories with their big, powerful machines.

So this technology generated social stability, with large numbers of people knowing their place (physically and socially) over a considerable period of time.

But in the world of technology the real power now seems to rest with the small – smaller and smaller micro-chips make computers more and more powerful, because they can process information the quickest. And ultimately, in our knowledge-based economies, the most powerful thing of all is a good idea – which has no material substance at all!

Unlike the big factory machines, this new technology is extremely mobile – responding to the demands of the market, and increasing the need for social mobility. This has created its own strains and stresses when compared with the ‘permanence’ of the old mill towns.

Both of these technologies have allowed us to massively extend our human capabilities:
• Firstly, because big powerful machines have grown our physical strength, and
• Secondly, because computerised data storage and manipulation has massively increased our knowledge to augment our brains.

After ‘strength’ and ‘knowledge’, what might be the next challenge for our technology?

At a recent conference held in Nottingham, the Dalai Lama was reported to say that the next big challenge for humanity, after ‘strength’ and ‘knowledge’, is that of ‘compassion’.

So can technology transform our capacity to be compassionate, in the way it transformed our strength and knowledge?

Could this help society manage growth in population, and the greater social mobility inherent in globalisation?

How could technology make us more compassionate?

Is it for technology to do more of the same: by applying mechanical strength or enhanced thinking and artificial intelligence for compassionate purposes?

Or is it for technology to create wealth which can then be applied to compassionate purposes?

Surely yes, but would that be good enough?

Would compassion expressed through technology be missing something – that something which can only be experienced direct from a compassionate person?

Compassion is suddenly big news. During the last week our Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced government plans for nurses are to be rated according to the levels of care and empathy they give to patients.

No doubt there will also be additional training to improve performance; and as watching a video of one’s own working practices can be very instructive, (helping us to see ourselves as others see us) perhaps technology will help staff to change their behaviour into a more compassionate style?

So technology can help exert strength or grow knowledge for compassionate purposes, and it can even help with behavioural modification. But what of our motives – does the direct experience of someone else’s emotions, values and motivations make a real difference, which technology can never replace?

If motives really do matter, what if the breakthrough for technology would be something which, when applied (even ‘switched on?’) could make the user more compassionate than they otherwise would be?

After iTunes and iPods, could we buy an iHeart?

(And before you think this is all bonkers, it wasn’t long ago when a group visioning possible futures came up with the idea that men would have babies – and media reports suggest it’s already ‘happened’!)

Or is the concern for people’s motives just ‘touchy-feely’ nonsense, and it doesn’t matter as long as the necessary services are provided in a caring sort of way?

What do you think?