Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
It’s been decades since we’ve watched a re-run of The Jetsons. But we still dream of the machine that produces whole meals for Elroy at the push of a button.
So when we saw the trailers for the new George Clooney flick Tomorrowland with flying buses and high-tech gadgets, our minds immediately started racing toward future inventions that could solve serious global challenges.
We’d like to concoct a teleportation device for overseas travel, so that everyone can meet and understand their global neighbours without the greenhouse gas emissions that come with conventional flight. (Admittedly, we’re also fixated on a hockey puck that automatically returns to your stick after you shoot it.)
Canadians have a history of world-changing discoveries, from the telephone to insulin. The current crop of young Canuck inventors includes Mohammed Ashour, 28, from Montreal, who created a system for farmers in drought-stricken areas to breed nutrient-rich insects for food and income. Ann Makosinski, 17, from Victoria invented a headlamp powered by body heat for people in villages who don’t have reliable electricity. And just this month, Nicole Ticea, 16, of Vancouver snagged second-prize at the Intel World Science Fair for devising a low-cost test for HIV that can be used in poor, rural communities overseas.
We recently met Mae Jemison, the first black woman aboard the space shuttle and now the leader of a project to make interstellar travel possible in the next century. She says invention can solve most of our world’s problems, but only if we all dream big.
This week’s question: What technology would you invent to solve a local or global problem?
Mohammed Ashour, founder of Aspire Food Group, Montreal
“A technology that can capture and transport massive quantities of water to dry deserts, converting them into water-efficient farms. Or an apparatus where you could insert insects as a raw ingredient on one side, and you get simulated chicken or beef on the other.”
Mihaela Ulieru, president of the IMPACT Institute for the Digital Economy, Ottawa
“The ‘universal fabricator’ would allow everyone to generate personalized products, from medicines to food, using the next generation of nanotechnology. Our future laptops will crunch matter instead of data, fabricating everything without pollution or depletion of our natural resources, ending famine and poverty.”
David Sinton, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, University of Toronto
“My dream technology is a ‘reverse engine’ that would take in solar power and carbon dioxide and produce oil. Using artificial photosynthesis, we would take our largest global energy supply (the sun) to meet our largest global energy demand (oil) as efficiently as the conventional engine.”
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