Monday, January 26, 2015

SΩ4 - You: The Reader

After only a week, since ‘Society Ω’ became public, I’ve been blown away by the praise and support. I’m genuinely surprised that so many enjoy my writing! From the feedback I received, most found ‘Cultural Tales’ entertaining, while ‘The Pursuit of Curiosity’ and ‘Society Ω’ got many people thinking and sharing their own ideas. That’s perfect, since that's the aim of this blog! In case you’re wondering about fellow readers, here are some stats:

Page Views  - 100+ (Blogger counts my views, so exact number unclear)
Number of Readers - 20 to 30 (estimate based on feedback & page views)
Countries - US, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, & Slovenia

While pondering the next topic to write about, I asked myself: how should this blog develop? Either I could stay focused on a few topics or write about every tangent I think about! In some ways, I believe its quality versus quantity. My opinion is that a more focused blog with quality posts has a deeper influence. For now I’ll stick to this path and in the future will add other topics. My plan is to write around 4-8 posts per month.

Apart from this, I’m thinking of ways to get readers involved in the development of this blog. Would be greatly appreciated to receive honest opinions on what should be improved or changed. Maybe this is only possible if the identity of the person is kept anonymous? Will look into adding an online suggestion box to test this out.
On a similar train of thought, I was toying with the idea of letting readers vote on what the next topic should be! Here you can vote to choose the next blog topics: Blog Poll. Feel free to write ideas to be voted on for future polls.
Last, but not least, I’d like a better name for the blog. It should be something that describes the topics well and be easily found on Google. A search for the blog name should only return a few thousand hits, if possible. 

What would be incredible is getting all the readers in the same room and having a discussion! Since most of the readers are spread across the globe this isn’t possible. In the near future, I think a brainstorm via group video chat would be great. Let me know if you’d be interested in this!
In the future, I’m imagining a merge between a forum and group chat. Or perhaps create something new entirely! I think ideal would be if different platforms were made optimized for brainstorming and problem solving. Below is a concept I have for a brainstorming platform that’s a mix between a group chat centered on an ideas list that’s voted on by the present members. The central piece could alternatively be a shared whiteboard.

Looking forward to your remarks, comments, queries, and more!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SΩ3 - Cultural Tales

My first posts have been filled with some rather thought provoking material. I figured it’s time to change it up a bit. As promised, my blog will also provide insight into other cultures. To start off, I figured I’d share some playful anecdotes from my experiences thus far with other cultures! If I made any blatant errors regarding my understanding of any of the cultures mentioned, please let me know!

She Kissed Me
When I returned to Zürich in 2011, I was certain I’d fit right in. It was my city of birth, my parents were both Swiss, and I was fluent in Schwiizerdütsch (Swiss German). I quickly realized my homeland was foreign to me!
Other Swiss found it difficult to pinpoint my origin and I was once asked if I was Norwegian!? Most Swiss know various regional dialects. Mine was a bizarre mixture from Zurich, Luzern, NYC English, and some standard German.
The language aside, I had trouble adapting to the various cultural norms and the countless Swiss rules. On the plus side I had inherited the Swiss tendency to be honest, organized, and direct. Great, maybe I am Swiss after all!?
There was one norm that took a while to get used to. This first caught me off guard while I was helping my roommates move. Two of their female friends arrived to help us move. One of them was exceptionally pretty. As I greeted both with a smile the pretty one kissed me! Not just once, but three times on the cheek! That’s right, in Europe it’s fairly common to greet with kisses. In Switzerland it’s typically three, in Spain it’s two. In Swiss culture, it’s usually more common to kiss people one is familiar with. Always amusing to extend a hand and instead get three kisses!

Lunch for Dinner
A few months upon arriving to Barcelona, I decided to try a work exchange. A family in the suburbs of Barcelona was looking for an English tutor for their two children. In exchange I would have my own room and free meals. Being such a tasty offer, I decided to take the Catalan plunge.
It turned out to be a two-month cultural ride. On a daily basis I received tidbits about Catalan culture, traditions and language. For example that Barcelona is in Cataluña, which is trying to gain independence from Spain. A rather overwhelming experience to be with a family so passionate about a conflict, I have limited understanding of. I was clearly out of touch with the culture I had immersed myself in.
One day I decided to show my gratitude and cook dinner for the family. Being Swiss, I naturally decided to make Tortellini with Bolognese sauce. Yes that’s right, my forte is Italian cooking! Well I’ll save the culinary post for next time, back to the story!
At around 9:00pm dinner was ready to be eaten. I made enough to feed all five of us: a full pot of tortellini and a large brimming pan of Bolognese sauce! Like a good cook, I served everyone with a gracious serving. They ate with gusto and I got ready to serve seconds. As the family was halfway done they came to a halt. Almost in unison they said to me “This is too much!” That day I learned in Spain and Cataluña they typically have 5 meals per day. Most, including dinner are fairly small and lunch is the biggest meal. I had served them lunch for dinner!

Package of the Forgotten
My first taste of Asia was a sweet one. In the summer of 2012, I finally got the chance to visit Japan. This had always been a dream location of mine. As a child I got hooked on anime and manga. Especially fascinating were the movies created by Hayao Miyazaki. I also enjoyed sushi and was intrigued by the elegant architecture of Japanese shrines and temples. Could Japan meet my expectations?

To be continued...

SΩ2 - The Pursuit of Curiosity

Born to be Curious
My childhood was driven by curiosity. I was especially intrigued by mechanical and electronic gadgets, of all shapes and sizes. Besides that, I had a deep fondness towards nature and understanding how ‘the world’ worked. As a child I had two dream jobs: detective and inventor.
At some point I discovered to become a detective, it was required to be a police officer for many years. For some unknown reason, this was a deal breaker… I didn’t want to be a cop! Nevertheless I was content exploring the world around me. Being a decent student it became clear that university was on my horizon. Yet I was a dismayed when I couldn’t find a university that offered an “inventor degree”. Thus, I decided to embark on a journey into the world of electrical engineering.
During my university studies, every minute felt like a dream! The knowledge gained, the experiences made, and people I befriended were exceptional. Yet, we all have to wake up eventually. After a year in the industry and another pursuing a Masters program I came to the realization – my curious nature needed more.
For me an inventor has the freedom to let his/her mind wander. An engineer on the other hand focuses on a specific problem or field of expertise.  Thus, I continue to search for the inventor’s path.

The Age of Inventors
Upon further reflection, I ask myself, how have inventors changed over time? Originally, inventors helped to ensure human survival. Once humans could survive the elements, inventors focused on improving all other facets of life. Around the 19th century many inventors focused on bringing humans closer together via new forms of transportation and communication.
This was the time of my idol, Nikola Tesla. In 1887 he designed the induction motor that gave birth to alternating current (AC). AC power allowed electricity to become a global commodity. Then in 1889 he invented the first remote-controlled boat, which led to the invention of radio.  Fourteen years after, in 1903, the Wright brothers had their first test flight. In less than 20 years, at least 3 inventions came to be, 2 of which were from Tesla!

Reading Tesla’s autobiography it was clear that for the most part his curiosity was free. He spent most of his time in his lab and resulting in hundreds of patents. However, he had trouble working for corporations and supposedly died penniless. A man truly devoted to his inventions!
Humanity had taken off to the skies and was looking for new limits to surpass. At the turn of the century American commercialism spread globally like wild fire. I believe due to this, companies started tightening the filter on new products they introduced to the market. They wanted to ensure the products were profitable. Most likely this caused companies to use teams of engineers, instead of searching for the right inventor, to create products. How could the inventor’s curious minded nature survive in this profit thirsty world?

Progress with Curiosity
I believe the curiosity to invent must be reborn. Currently, the progress of technology is primarily dictated by the readiness of the market. The personal computer (PC) and mobile industry are prime examples of this. Each year PCs and mobile phones become faster, thinner, and shinier. Besides these improvements, how significant are the changes? Nevertheless, the updates are just enough that consumers flock to buy the newest PC or mobile device. Does this consumer driven system truly promote technological progress?
Yet there are some sparks of curiosity remaining… There has been a steady increase in open-source software development. Another fascinating development is the use of 3D printers, which allow individuals to easily make prototypes and other creations. Finally, the introduction of crowd funding websites has opened the doors to inventors globally. These are definitely steps in the right direction and hopefully ones that will lead to future inventions.

What would be truly inspirational is the development of a system to create an inventors co-working space. People with the curiosity to invent should be allowed to do so. Yet if employed by a company, these people are restricted by the constraints of products the company deems profitable. Perhaps a co-working space could exist that provides housing, common amenities and a base salary. The base salary would remain constant, with a bonus split among the inventors for successful inventions. The inventors would be free to invent solo or together. The inventions created, would be offered externally to interested buyers. One concern with this system, would it be enough to keep inventors motivated? Perhaps external projects could also be commissioned in house. Also, would the system still require restrictions to ensure suitable inventions? A suitable invention would be one that creates a positive progress to society.

I’m certain we all want our society to progress forward. To achieve that, there are many ways and ideas of how to do so. My opinion is to reshape the monetary system to sponsor technological progress and keep it from being the primary motivator. Let Society Ω be fueled by our natural curiosity and allow this to motivate our inventions! 

Society Ω

How do you imagine the future?

For me, I envision a future in which society works in a united fashion to fuel progress. Although this dream might be naïve, I believe some areas can be improved, in order to move towards 'Society Ω'.

There is certainly controversy over how society can be improved; my opinion is that we must improve the way problems are approached, especially global ones, like increasing energy demands. We must learn that we all have to deal with the same problems and it’s in our best interest to work together to find solutions.

Throughout history we have improved our problem solving ways. However, I believe certain barriers exist that hinder progress. Here I mention a few and why I believe they hinder progress:
  • Money is King: In many cultures, money trumps all other values.  We are taught by society that individual success is determined by wealth. This in turn causes people to be controlled by money. Two clear examples of how this has slowed progress are in medicine and technology. Profitability often determines which medicines should be developed and when technologies should be updated.
  • Disconnect from Nature: Humans seem to have forgotten that we share this world with millions of other species. We use resources and other organisms with disregard to the consequences. How we use resources tends to be destructive to our surroundings and infrastructures dependent on finite resources (i.e. fossil fuels). Our ways also tend to kill off species that are key to our own survival (i.e. bees). In the long run, I believe this can damage our infrastructures and even lead to our demise.
  • Split by Diversity: We all bleed red. So why do our differences still cause so much turmoil? It’s impossible to work together on solving problems if we can’t even respect each other. In the most extreme case, this ends up causing disputes, fights, and even wars. It can be argued that there are benefits to war, but are human causalities truly required to evoke progress? Imagine we were all clones and everyone had exactly the same thoughts. The chance of new ideas and inventions occurring in such a world are extremely slim. Our problems are diverse so it’s also beneficial that humans are diverse.
It’s important to remember that stating a problem is only a step in creating a solution. I plan to provide two services with this blog. First, I’ll share my life and travel experiences, to help enlighten others on various cultures, ethnicities and unique personal lifestyles. Secondly, I wish to voice my thoughts and ideas on solutions that can make this world a better place.

Let’s work together towards a 'Society Ω'!