We all know that the standard method for coming up with new ideas is to stand on your head in a field during a thunderstorm. But now I have discovered a more convenient way: read science fiction.
For me, near-future science fiction is best. You find yourself reading about a version of our world which is just a bit more advanced. Basically the author has just thought up loads of great ideas for inventions and, rather than just writing random posts about them on a blog that nobody reads, has skilfully woven them into an enjoyable work of literature.
Well, he obviously had more time on his hands.
One such author is Cory Doctorow, co-editor of the directory of wonderful things, Boing Boing. Mr Doctorow is a man with his finger on the pulse of cyber-culture and tech trends, and it comes through in his science fiction books, which he generously/fatalistically distributes for free on his blog Craphound.
I recently read two of Doctorow’s books – Little Brother and Makers – back-to-back. (You can read synopses and download the free e-books here.)
Makers centres on a subculture of DIY manufacturers (hardware hackers), who make amazing creations out of old consumer electronics, open source software and imagination. One look at Make Magazine or Instructables shows this subculture is no fiction. These solder-iron wielding armies are growing as free components, tutorials and software proliferate.
Idea #23: Make Me This
MakeMeThis.org (which you are going to (help me) set up) is like eBay for custom built objects.
1. You think of something that would be cool. You want it. You think it might be possible to make it, but you certainly haven’t got a clue how, and you haven’t got the time to find out. So you post a wanted ad on MakeMeThis.org:
A refrigerated sandwich box
2. ‘Makers’ can browse the wanted ads and find something that they’d like to make. They then submit a proposal, including the price they’d charge to make the sandwich box, how long it will take them, their portfolio of past work and references.
3. I can sort through these proposals, award the job to my preferred maker, and await delivery of my refrigerated sandwich box.
If you like money, the website can make a commission off each deal, just like eBay.
I think the time is just right for an idea like this, and I mean that also from the perspective of mainstream consumers. As I’ve mentioned in other posts (e.g. Idea #5: Design your own bar), when everyone can get their hands on mass-produced shit, the value of it all goes right down and fashionistas start to look for something more personal, more unique. You can’t get more unique than your own personally-designed, custom-built refrigerated sandwich box.
Make Me This would also bring with it plenty social benefits. For a start, much of ‘homebrew’ culture is based on the idea of recycling the growing mountains of consumer waste. That sounds reasonable. It also creates a whole new raft of employment/self-fulfilment opportunities for micro-manufacturers around the world. It’ll bring more Marxist spirit to China than the place has seen in 30 years.
As with any of the ideas featured on Ideas Exist, if you’re interested in trying to make one of them work, please get in touch. Maybe I can help.