Posting in Design
Recognizing unconventional thinkers who are bringing us better software, better cars, better movies, more sustainable resources, and even space travel
Every generation has its share of unconventional, against-the-grain thinkers and leaders who refuse to listen to the naysayers and follow their own instincts. Often, they fail, but some break through, and when they do, it results in smarter solutions for all.
Recognizing some of the unconventional thinkers of our time, Atlantic Monthly released a list of what it considers to be the world's 27 "bravest" thinkers. Here are some of their choices among business, technology and government thinkers:
Thorkil Sonne, CEO and Founder of Specialisterne: "Launched a software-testing company and staffed it with employees who have autism spectrum disorder... Sonne realized that they tend to be methodical, possess excellent memories, and show great attention to detail and tolerance for repetition—in other words, they might make excellent software testers..."
Shai Agassi, Founder of Better Place: "He’s building a nationwide network of electric car charging stations... The problem has always been how to charge electric cars... [They] can typically travel only 50 miles or so without a recharge. Agassi, a former executive at the software giant SAP... hopes to create a national electric-car infrastructure that consists of charging stations where motorists could plug in to refuel, along with switching stations where they could swap out old batteries for new ones during longer trips. Agassi has backing from Renault-Nissan, and has inked deals with governments in Israel, Denmark, Japan, Canada, and the United States to start testing roadside stations."
Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Pixar Animation Studio: "They haven't let commercial success stifle their innovation or storytelling..." Jobs' unconventional thinking is well known. At Pixar, he and Lasseter have "combined technological foresight with an infamously perfectionist ethos to produce well-loved movies from Toy Story to Wall-E.... Its movies still feature characters that grapple with real problems and undergo subtle and plausible moral development; they still eschew the violence, prurience, and stupidity that has infiltrated children’s movies over the past decade. In short, Pixar has the courage to respect the intelligence of the people watching its films."
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Publisher of the New York Times: "In the face of collapsing stock prices, he’s avoiding staff cuts and expanding online presence.... even as Sulzberger has aggressively led The Times onto the Web, he is betting that his paper’s dedication to high-quality journalism is its most valuable asset, however costly it now seems."
Walter E. Hussman Jr., Publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "He refused to give content away for free and his newspaper is thriving."
Paul Polak, Founder of International Development Enterprises and D-Rev: "His companies treat the poor as consumers and entrepreneurs." This, he believes, "is the best way to help them achieve self-sufficiency. Operating under the guideline 'Cheap is beautiful,' his companies sell affordable and useful tools—like manual-treadle pumps for irrigation, or solar-powered water purifiers—that poor people can use to make a living selling products to their peers."
Danny Day, Founder and President of Eprida: "His company offers a promising method for absorbing and burying excess carbon dioxide... When biochar [charcoal pellet waste] is buried in the right agricultural areas, it enriches the soil, increases crop yields, and keeps the carbon trapped beneath the ground. Eprida hopes to use the biochar to soak up carbon dioxide at polluting factories and then bury it in areas with poor soil quality—potentially addressing two grave problems with one elegant solution."
The Atlantic Monthly list is obviously way too short and incomplete. There are countless business leaders, government leaders, and entrepreneurs that should be on a list like this.
My own nominees would include Richard Branson, who is leading the way with commercial space travel with Virgin Galactic, as well as Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites, designer of the spacecraft Virgin Galactic will fly.
Other people I would vote to be on the list include Nicholas Negroponte, creator of the One Laptop Per Child initiative who pushed the industry for $100 computers; Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon, and its prescient offshoot Amazon Web Services, which launched the cloud computing movement; Dean Kamen, known for the Segway device, but also inventor of numerous robotic devices; and Linus Torvalds, who parlayed the concept of community-developed open source software into a global force.
Readers, what unconventional or "brave" thinkers would you add to this list? Who do you know is going against the grain, and in the process, giving us a smarter planet?
Nov 10, 2009
All of your suggested nominees are great. I would add one who just left General Motors: Dr. Larry Burns, former VP of Strategic Planning and R&D. His presentation on the future of the automobile is first rate. He is now working privately on revamping the engineering and dynamics on private transportation. His upcoming book: Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century comes out in March, 2010: http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=12044.
Branson has also put Biochar as a central tool in his Carbon War Room. All political persuasions agree, building soil carbon is GOOD. To Hard bitten Farmers, wary of carbon regulations that only increase their costs, Building soil carbon is a savory bone, to do well while doing good. Biochar provides the tool powerful enough to cover Farming's carbon foot print while lowering cost simultaneously. Another significant aspect of bichar is removal of BC aerosols by low cost ($3) Biomass cook stoves that produce char but no respiratory disease emissions. At Scale, replacing "Three Stone" stoves the health benefits would equal eradication of Malaria. http://terrapretapot.org/ and village level systems http://biocharfund.org/ The Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF).recently funded The Biochar Fund $300K for these systems citing these priorities; (1) Hunger amongst the world's poorest people, the subsistence farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa, (2) Deforestation resulting from a reliance on slash-and-burn farming, (3) Energy poverty and a lack of access to clean, renewable energy, and (4) Climate change. The Biochar Fund : Exceptional results from biochar experiment in Cameroon http://scitizen.com/screens/blogPage/viewBlog/sw_viewBlog.php?idTheme=14&idContribution=3011 http://www.carboncommentary.com/2009/10/01/761/comment-page-1#comment-2558 The broad smiles of 1500 subsistence farmers say it all ( that , and the size of the Biochar corn root balls ) http://biocharfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=75 Mark my words; Given the potential for Laurens Rademaker's programs to grow exponentialy, only a short time lies between This man's nomination for a Noble Prize. This authoritative PNAS article should cause the recent Royal Society Report to rethink their criticism of Biochar systems of Soil carbon sequestration; Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/10/09/0902568106.full.pdf+html There are dozens soil researchers on the subject now at USDA-ARS. and many studies at The up coming ASA-CSSA-SSSA joint meeting; http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2009am/webprogram/Session5675.html The Clean Energy Partnerships Act of 2009 The bill is designed to ensure that any US domestic cap-and-trade bill provides maximum incentives and opportunities for the US agricultural and forestry sectors to provide high-quality offsets and GHG emissions reductions for credit or financial incentives. Carbon offsets play a critical role in keeping the costs of a cap-and-trade program low for society as well as for capped sectors and entities, while providing valuable emissions reductions and income generation opportunities for the agricultural sector. The bill specifically identifies biochar production and use as eligible for offset credits, and identifies biochar as a high priority for USDA R&D, with funding authorized by the bill. To read the full text of the bill, go to: http://www.biochar-international.org/sites/default/files/END09F94.pdf. Senator Baucus is co-sponsoring a bill along with Senator Tester (D-MT) called WE CHAR. Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvesting and Restoration Act! It focuses on promoting biochar technology to address invasive species and forest biomass. It includes grants and loans for biochar market research and development, biochar characterization and environmental analyses. It directs USDI and USDA to provide loan guarantees for biochar technologies and on-the-ground production with an emphasis on biomass from public lands. And the USGS is to do biomas availability assessments. WashingtonWatch.com - S. 1713, The Water Efficiency via Carbon Harvesting and Restoration (WECHAR) Act of 2009 Individual and groups can show support for WECHAR by signing online at: www.biocharmatters.org http://www.biocharmatters.org/ Congressional Research Service report (by analyst Kelsi Bracmort) is the best short summary I have seen so far - both technical and policy oriented. http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R40186_20090203.pdf . United Nations Environment Programme, Climate Change Science Compendium 2009 http://www.unep.org/compendium2009/ http://www.unep.org/compendium2009/PDF/Ch5_compendium2009.pdf Endorsements; Bill Clinton said Biochar; Mantria Industries inducted in Clinton Global Intuitive http://www.mantria.com/eg_presidential_video.shtml Al Gore got the CO2 absorption thing wrong, ( at NABC Vilsack did same), but his focus on Soil Carbon is right on; http://www.newsweek.com/id/220552/page/3 Research: The future of biochar - Project Rainbow Bee Eater http://www.sciencealert.com.au/features/20090211-20142.html Japan Biochar Association ; http://www.geocities.jp/yasizato/pioneer.htm Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it. Cheers, Erich