In an amusing and refreshing article on Gizmodo, Steven Johnson comments on a self-esteem problem in the industrialized western world. In the past few decades, we have become reliant on complex machines and distant energy sources, and we have thus lost our independence and essential survival skills.
In response to this phenomenon, Johnson has designed a variety of human-powered appliances for use around the home. These inventions include a Vanity-Cycle (power your shaver by pedaling while you shave!), a Pedaling Toilet (function unclear) and my favorite, a Manual Garbage Disposal (one hand pulls on a flywheel pull-rope while the other stuffs garbage down the drain).
Yes, these inventions are admittedly far-fetched, inefficient and often require more co-ordination than a typical human being can handle. But I love the idea of putting power back into people’s hands, both literally and figuratively. Give people tools, and they just might come up with yet other ways to use them! (See Life Hacker’s Open a Bottle of Wine With Your Shoe.)
This type of creativity enables us to see opportunities in the most unpromising situations, to find the flashes of color in a black-and-white world.