i keep talking to people about innovation. i have a ton of thoughts that have been knocking around my head for a while in the areas of change, newness, innovation, imagination, pioneering, mission and changing the world! so i will try and find some space for some blog posts. life is sadly too busy to blog enough but i must blog! i was prompted by this today because i was having a conversation with some good friends about theological education and innovation and whether they do or don't go together easily. i'll come back to that in another post. several of the posts will be about books i have read.
i have pondered several times in the last few years why i spend more money when i am in an art bookshop than a theology one - see a tale of two bookshops where i suggest that it's because they seem concerned with changing the world and not just art. i have found myself almost repeating that exact same experience only with a different set of books - all of which i hope i will say something about in these posts...
i love people who come up with ideas that solve problems. i especially love it when to solve a particular problem you actually have to reimagine the world in order to solve the problem because the paradigm itself is part of the problem. it's akin to the future present imagination that i have blogged about before.
we do things differently is a book of stories of outsiders rebooting our world by mark stevenson. i nearly didn't buy the book because it has a terrible cover but i am glad i got beyond that. it is an incredible book that filled me with hope. let me mention two stories from it to give you the flavour. one that i mentioned at the new parish conference is of peter dearman who has invented an engine that emits zero carbon. he initially began by messing around with his lawnmower and antifreeze. as an engineer he figured that what drives a piston is temperature change and you could drive a piston by moving the temperature from sub zero to zero if you used liquid nitrogen (along with isothermal expansion). i won't bore you with the details but he has invented an engine that is not oil dependant, and has a bi-product of refrigeration which in hot climates with a lot of food wastage is brilliant. you can read about the dearman engine here.
i also loved the story of the indian scientist samir brahmachari. finding new medicines is and has been a really interesting and potentially life saving area. turberculosis is a disease of the poor so drug companies simply haven't come up with new new medicines to treat the increasingly drug resistant types. further the way drug companies go about it is a multi billion dollar expense to find a new drug which involves thousands of failures. samir's approach was to find a new process by tackling the genome annotation for tb - over four million letters. for one person to do the work would take 300 years. so he effectively created a wikipedia for science students in india to work on particular aspects of the task. through this process they found 350 people who were good and to cut a long story short the results were amazing - the most comprehensively annotated tuberculosis genome in history completed in four months and published online free!!! through this he then found people to create a computer model of tuberculosis bacterium that he could experiment on virtually. once they built that (which was complex) they open sourced it. and through participation 11 weaknesses to explore in the code were identified and the latest was that a cheap drug which already exists for diabetes can be used for tb. i don't claim to follow the details of the science but i found this story compelling. it's compelling because samir who is clearly a genius has to break through the old ways of doing things and imagine very differently to come up with a solution. you would think that the drugs world would be all over it but unsurprisingly he meets incredible difficulty - he is maligned in journals, poo pooed by experts and of course his whole approach is a threat to the economics of the system. it's hard to argue with him though when he says -
'we don't believe in the western concept of knowledge being proprietary. i'm not in this for wealth but because i would like to see reduction in death'
wow - i am on board!
the book is full of stories of such people who have to reimagine the way the world is organised in order to come up with a solution to the problem - the stories relate to energy, education, drugs, agriculture, engineering, the environment, food production, cities...
thank god for the gift of such seers/innovators - i love that they exist and it fills me with hope. of course i am reading a parallel with pioneers in my own context.
the amount of difficulty they all have is extraordinary - whether it's farming or oil or drugs industries they do not like a threat to the existing system even if it's clear that system needs to change because there are vested interests (and money!) and frankly a lack of desire to even listen to or see the new solutions. (so it's not just the church that is resistant to change as it happens - it's normal for pioneers all over to experience this kind of resistance sadly and i think we should all wise up about that).
connecting people together becomes really important for support, for encouragement, for hope. this is why i was stressing the importance of getting yourself connected in my last post on the value of networks.
two web sites that are connecting people producing the kinds of futuring solutions in this book are really worth looking up -