Active Thinking Topic 07 - Inventions We Need - Real & Imaginary

Monday 7 June 2021, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle St · Adelaide (You must buy a drink or something. We are 'renting' the space for 2 hours)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding

Focus Questions

1. Finish this sentence : "I bet someone has invented ....(e.g. a way to ...) ". [Hint - filling in the imagined invention is by far the best way to use Google Search]

2. What are some inventions that the world needed in 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000 ?

3. If you fancied yourself as an inventor, how would you go about the process of invention? e.g. What to invent; what style of thinking to use; what resources to draw upon ... and so on.

4. Most people are not reflective about their daily habits, the tools they use, the long and short term purpose & efficiency of routines etc. How about yourself? How often do you stand back and wonder what a better mouse trap would look like, or whether you need a mouse trap at all ? (... or a better neck tie, a better way of preparing meals ... and so on).

5. Imagine little green men in a flying saucer kidnapped you, and after examining you the specimen, dumped you like Robinson Crusoe on a survivable but abandoned planet. What would you need to invent? Make a list of needed/not needed.

6. Suppose I invented a university system called PAYBACK. Half of your fees would be refunded if you passed a course on first attempt. 75% would be refunded if you got a high distinction. What would cause this system to fail? How could it be made to work?

7. Suppose that your team had invented a modeling tool which from any sample of DNA (even embryonic) could generate a 3D image projection of that whole person at any age. What would be the barriers to having that tool accepted and marketed for general use?

8. Mental & physical laziness (in my view :) ) is the leading cause of human disability and early degeneration. Clearly, a general solution to human laziness has never been found. What are your suggestions for inventing such a solution, and why might they be opposed?

9. If you had invented a body-powered implantable bio chip which could transmit continuous information of unlimited variety about your bodily functions, metabolism, toxins etc what would be your dream list of data to transmit? What effect (or not) would that data have on human behaviour?

10. What is an invention which is needed in these areas: a) administration in large organizations; b) vehicle maintenance; c) child care; d) social media; e) educational technology; f) toys; g) agriculture; h energy creation & use; i) health systems and management; j) marriage or alternatives; k) extracting knowledge from data; i) human-computer interfaces; m) personal management; n). o), p) ....


Extra Reading* (other suggestions welcome)

Wkipedia (2021) "Timeline of historic inventions" @

Wikipedia (2021) "Category:Lists of inventions or discoveries - This category contains lists on inventions and discoveries, whether organised by nationality, religion, subject matter, organization or individual" @ 

Mary Bellis (August 21, 2019) "Important Innovations and Inventions, Past and Present". ThoughtCo @  [a very long list, organized by alphabetic category]

Whitehat (n.d.) "The Whitehat guide to Australian Inventions - A comprehensive listing of Australian inventions and discoveries, together with dates, inventors" @  [Thor, comment - recommended]

Google (n.d.) “Invention Ideas” – as a Google search term. Google online @ 

Cadwalladr, Carole (4 October 2015)"Is the dotcom bubble about to burst (again)? In Silicon Valley, millions of dollars change hands every day as investors hunt the next big thing – the ‘unicorn’, or billion-dollar tech firm. There are now almost 150, but can they all succeed?". [Scary article. Please read] The Guardian online @

Childs, Martin (Tuesday 27 January 2015) “Ena Baxter: Cook and businesswoman whose inventiveness and energy helped make Baxters soups a global brand”. The Independent (UK), online @

Chindogu (n.d.) A website for functional but useless inventions, reflecting one aspect of Japanese humour. Chindogu website online @

Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange (2012) “Why have historically most inventors been men?” Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange website online @

Drexler, K. Eric (1986) Engines of Creation - The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. Anchor Books. Full text now online @

Erbentraut, Joseph (09/11/2015) “Doctor In Gaza Invents 3D-Printable, Cost-
Effective Stethoscope. The goal is self-sufficiency for Palestinian hospitals facing a supply shortage.” Huffington Post online @

Frey, Thomas (2008 ) “A Study of Women Inventors”. Futurist Speaker website, online @

Goldberg, Rube (2015) Rube Goldberg Gallery online @

Halfbakery (n.d) “The Halfbakery is a communal database of original, fictitious inventions, edited by its users”. [Recommended]. Halfbakery website online @

Harris, Dan (August 27th, 2012) “Innovation In China. Not Seeing It….”. China Law Blog online @

Hart, Jarrrod (February 15, 2013) “Leveraging the Inventiveness in your Mind”. The Provincial Scientist blog, online @

Hart, Jarrrod (February 15, 2013) “Requirements for Promoting a New Scientific Theory”. The Provincial Scientist blog, online @

Henderson, Sheila J. (Author), Rosemarie K. Moore (January 13, 2014) Fostering Inventiveness in Children . [Recommended] Available as a Kindle e-book (US$4.36) or in print. Online at Amazon:

Martina, Michael (Aug 21, 2012) “China's patent targets mask weak innovation: study”. Reuters newsagency online @

Thor May (2015) "Are Men More Inventive Than Women?" The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "The title of these notes is deliberately provocative. One purpose of the provocation is to incite discussion and reflection. Another purpose is to observe the kinds of responses which the question evokes. For example, it is instructive that those people I have broached the topic to have mostly not questioned the premise: that women have in fact been less inventive than men. Personally, I am genuinely curious about whether that is in fact true, what being inventive might mean, and why there might be gender differences in what, at bottom, has been our ability to innovate and hence survive as a species. What is indisputable from even a casual survey is that the number of documented inventions, ancient and modern, are overwhelmingly attributed to men.]

Bellis, Mary (2015) “How Many Women Inventors Are There?” website online @ 

Berry, Sarah (October 7, 2015) "Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert encourages the audacity to dream". Brisbane Times online @ 

Biggs, Ralph (December 12, 2014) “Ralph Baer: the man you never heard of who changed technology forever”. Brisbane Times online @ 

May, Thor (1987) “Superculture and the Ghost in the Machine”. online @ or 

May, Thor (1987) “ The Outside Track on Happiness”. Thor’s China Diary, online @

May, Thor (2000) “ The Conundrum of Men and Women: Innovators & Imitators”. The Passionate Skeptic website, online @

May, Thor (2002) “Gender Puzzle”. The Passionate Skeptic website, online @

May, Thor (2002) “Pissing on Every Lamp Post: The Paradox of Scholarship”. online @

May, Thor (2011) “Why Write a PhD?” online @ or

Henderson, S. J. (2004). Inventors: The ordinary genius next door. In R. J. Sternberg, E. L. Grigorenko, & J. L. Singer (Eds.), Creativity: From potential to realization (p. 103–125). American Psychological Association.

Moussa, Farag (1994) " Statistics on women inventors: A worldwide view”. International Federation of Inventors' Associations (IFIA) website, online @

Murphy, Tim and Tasneem Raja (Oct. 15, 2013) “Ladies Last: 8 Inventions by Women That Dudes Got Credit For”. Mother Jones website online @

Napolitano, Ann (n.d.) “ Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)”. Lives Well Lived blog, online @

Solon, Olivia (29 July 13) “Heath Robinson: the unsung hero of British eccentricity and innovation”. Salon magazine, online @ 

Stanford University (2015) “Welcome to the Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking”. [online videos. Minimum of 1 partner needed to participate. Free] Stanford School of Design, online @

UmassAmherst (2015) “New Company Perfects the Science of Inventiveness”. UmassAmherst College of Engineering, website online @

US Department of Commerce (1999) “Buttons to Biotech: U.S. Patenting By Women, 1977 to 1996, with supplemental data through 1998”. Patent Office, US Department of Commerce, report online @

Wikipedia (2015) “Hildegard of Bingen”. Wikipedia online @

Wikipedia (2015) “Rube Goldberg”. [a genius American cartoon creator of improbable machines]. Wikipedia online @ 

Zhang, Yuyue (9 August 2013) “Inventiveness and Non-obviousness: Insights into Prosecution Practice in China and the United States”. Lungin Intellectual Property Agents Ltd website @ (n.d.) "19 Inventions That Will Soon Change the World => @ 

Melissa Breyer (March 28, 2013) "10 accidental inventions that changed the world - From plastic and potato chips to matches and microwaves, these strokes of scientific serendipity have had a big impact on our lives". 

Christopher Klien (October 29 2018) "WWI Inventions, From Pilates to Zippers, That We Still Use Today - Small inventions made life easier during—and after—the war". @ 

FindMyPast (n.d.) "Ten everyday inventions you owe to World War2" @ 

Adrian Willings (31 May 2019) "28 ways military tech changed our lives" Pocket Lint @ 

BBC (2020) "László Bíró was the first to come up with a practical ballpoint" @ 

Ticky Fullerton (March 25, 2021) "James Dyson a whirlwind of ideas on Covid, WFH and Brexit". The Australian @ 

Minwoo Park (June 5, 2021) "S.Korean designer creates 'Third Eye' for 'smartphone zombies'". Reuters @  [ Strapped to your forehead, this thing senses when you neck is bent down to look at a phone while you are walking. It is also able to sense when you are withing one or two metres of bumping into someone/something and gives a warning buzz. Hands up if you need this ... ]

ScienceDaily - source for the latest research news @

Wikipedia (2018) "The MOSFET semiconductor chip - Almost every tech advancement of the past 50 years has been thanks to one single breakthrough… The MOSFET was invented by Mohamed M. Atalla and Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs in 1959, and first presented in 1960. It is the basic building block of modern electronics, and the most frequently manufactured device in history, with an estimated total of 13 sextillion (1.3×1022) MOSFETs manufactured between 1960 and 2018". @ 


Inventions We Need - Real & Imaginary (c) Thor May 2021 

return to Ddiscussion