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Idea #27: Herbal Recognition app

I’ve been reading the Moneyless Man‘s book recently. Author Mark Boyle was just a normal Irishman going to work in a suit until he realised that money is the root of all the world’s problems. So he did what any sane person would do: he gave it up.

Mark Boyle - The Moneyless Man

No, sorry mate I've got no money

The book is Mr Boyle’s account of the first year he spent without money. It’s interesting reading, but be sure to observe the sentiment of this book and don’t buy it. I got mine from the library (although I just had to pay a massive overdue fine, so I didn’t really feel the benefit) but you could also swap something you’ve already read for it at ReadItSwapIt.com, or look out for a copy ‘in the wild’ via BookCrossing.com. (Actually, the money goes to a good cause so don’t worry too much about buying it. Get it here.)

There’s more to the moneyless life than free books though. One of the big reasons Mr Boyle wanted to go without money was the massive waste, environmental degradation, human health problems and animal cruelty that are part and parcel of industrial food production. Yes, that. If you aren’t too keen on it either, all you have to do to relieve yourself of the guilt is stop buying food.

BUT THEN HOW DO YOU EAT?

It may come as a surprise to everyone, but food, unlike money, actually does grow on trees. It’s truly amazing. Some even comes in its own packaging, bananas, for example, and walnuts. So foraging is a great way to get free food, and once you start you can lose the gym membership too – all the walking and tree-climbing will do just fine.

But I know you won’t do it. I might not do it either, although I wish I would. The reason I won’t do it (yet) is because I’m scared of eating death cap mushrooms, or similar death-inducing produce. In my view, that’s a reasonable fear. On advice from the Moneyless Man, I bought Richard Mabey’s classic guide to foraging, Food For Free. But the problem remains: what if I just mistakenly eat a death cap mushroom?

Death cap mushrooms

Death cap mushrooms - spot the difference

Idea #27: Herbal recognition app

The fact is that while I have no clue which wild fungi and herbs are which, there are people who do have this knowledge. What I suggest is that they programme their knowledge into an iPhone app. I don’t have an iPhone, but I promise to get one when this app comes to fruition.

The Herbal Recognition app will be incredibly simple to use. When you come across a bit of plant that you’d like to eat, but you’re not sure if it’ll be the death of you, simply take a photo of it with your iPhone. The app will use state-of-the-art image recognition software, such as that found in Google Goggles to analyse the shape, colour and defining features of the suspect foliage. It may also use your location and the time of year in its calculation. Then it will give you a yay or nay on the question of whether to consume said flora, along with a percentage certainty that it is not going to kill you.

Herbal recognition app

Premium subscribers to the app can also opt for a video chat with a live expert, who’ll give the plant a thorough assessment, thus further reducing the chance of death. If you die, and you didn’t go premium, then it’s just your own fault.

For me, the Herbal Recognition app presents a perfect synergy of ancient folkloric knowledge and splinter-edge technology. Who says the woods are no place for an iPhone?

The Moneyless Man doesn’t just write books about his own harebrained schemes, he’s genuinely trying to promote more community-centred, sustainable living through the Freeconomy Community he created. Get involved and find some people to help you make the Herbal Recognition app!

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