Image credit: Bella De Paulo

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”

–Alan Turing

Two friends, artists Gregory and Angie Tan Burns, requested I write about “Inspiration” in this time of profound financial inequality spurred on by distressing levels of capital mis-allocation.

To write about inspiration, you have to first filter out all the noise from traditional media sources, 'gurus' and the internet-o-sphere that are screaming to tell us what we all should be inspired by. So, let me describe that which is not inspiring to me:  Google glasses, Facebook ‘innovations’, SnapChat, Candy Crush, drone deliveries etc. These “look-at-me” games and toys feed, like a sugar rush, our short-term emotions in a way that is self-indulgent at best and self-destructive at worst. It all might be fun, but it sure ain’t what I'd call inspiring.

What is inspiring is life altering; even if it’s not my life that is being altered. What is inspiring is the vision of a simpler, saner future, one that I may not live to see but that our children can call their own. What is inspiring is freedom from mind traps driven by the fear of “scarcity” and instead anything that reveals hope for many more.

While the US media, the biggest megaphone, is utterly distracted chronicling the escapades of bubbly new wealth from Silicon Valley to Singapore, life-changing innovation appears to be happening elsewhere - you're just not hearing about it. Below are truly inspiring innovations, inventions or discoveries and one tribute to a humble philanthropist.

Australian laser blasts Dementia and Alzheimers – A non-pharmacological approach to a disease that is going to devastate the largest generation of seniors the world has ever seen. Apparently Australian researchers in Queensland of all places have discovered that non-invasive ultra sound laser jolts break up the toxic plaques that lead to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. Not only might these lasers alleviate the neurological deterioration of diseases like Dementia and Alzheimers but they appear to also restore memory.

Solar water desalinization for the poor – Desalinization, the process of purifying salty water for human consumption, has, until now, been an extremely costly exercise. Italian designer Gabriele Diamanti has created a simple low cost solution that allows households to desalinize water through simple solar power. Inspiring in its humanity, this invention allows the poorest households in the world to access clean drinking water using no electricity and creating no waste.

LSU cancer research – Chemotherapy is said to have, depending on what you read, a 2-20% success rate. So conventional cancer therapy for the last 30 years, has an  80-98% failure rate. Enter an LSU researcher that has found a cocktail of natural ingredients and herbs that kills breast cancer cells 80% of the time. When I heard one of the herbs was turmeric, I knew an ethnic Indian PhD – Dr. Madwha Raj – was behind the research. It is likely you haven’t heard about this because it is non-pharmacological and was not discovered at a 'branded' research university (many of which have questionable funding).

Everlane – An online retailer promising “radical transparency”. They tell you exactly where their clothing is made and the mark up that you are being charged. It could all turn out to be a big bust, but for someone who hates shopping I’m inspired by their transparency.   I only wish the finance, food and medical industries were forced to adopt a radical transparency approach.

‘Sea Bin’ Ocean Clean Up – Designed by two Australian surfers deeply connected to their environment this automated ‘ocean bin’ is deployed at marinas and roams the surface of the water cleaning up plastic and other garbage in the marinas. They are now raising funds to build out the technology to use in open oceans.

A Tribute:  I love a person who puts their money where their mouth is.  In memory of Douglas Tompkins who had to die for anyone to recall or write about his “selfie-less” efforts in nature conservation.

While Silicon Valley’s unicorns (you know they don’t exist right?) continue to dazzle with money-losing best of breed distractions or money-making marketing fandango, life-improving and life-sustaining innovation is coming from non-conventional heroes and in unexpected places. The greatest innovation and inspiration will continue to happen - as every great student of advertising, business and engineering knows - in the quietest spaces and on some of the smallest budgets.  They happen when people can live authentically and work and study in environments that are natural, collaborative and experimental.

So for anyone who wants to do anything original or inspirational in 2016: Get Off the Facebook Competitive Photo Contest Carousel. Lean Out as far as you can from asphyxiating corporate or educational demands because fear, stress and anxiety literally make us stupid. Lean Into your greatest passions and your most authentic relationships.  And Get Back to Nature.

Happy New Year!

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