storytellingA recurring topic at Death Café Corvallis is the legacy.  This may be material inheritance such as money and property, it may be creative inheritance such as a beautiful garden, it may be moral inheritance such as the impact of one’s actions in the world, and it may be communicative inheritance such as the story of your life.

Some people bequeath the story of their lives to their successors by writing memoirs or an autobiography.  Not all of us have time or skill to write a book, but we all have the resources to write our own story.  Writing your story has powerful benefits for your loved ones when you are gone and for your self while you are present.

A valuable guide to writing your story in preparation for your death is Having the Last Say by Alan Gelb.  He provides a practical workflow for developing a single story that conveys meaning from your life.  Gelb describes his process in an interview with thanatologist Gail Rubin – The Consequences of Death.

An interesting element of Gelb’s book is the set of questions that he poses throughout in order to prompt reflection and creativity. Questions such as;

When has my mind and body ever felt in perfect harmony?

If I had to relive moments in my life, which one’s would they be?

If I had to imagine a place in the world that puts me at total peace, what is that place?

Just having these questions is valuable to anyone who thinks about death. They are certainly provocative of personal creativity for addressing a topic that some findmel_blanc_gravestone_505x278 daunting – the story of your own life.

Notably, Gelb emphasizes that the project of value in writing your story is not in order to create a summary or evaluation of your life.  Quite simply you are telling a story about your experience that has significance for you.  That is enough to convey rich meaning for others.  I propose that Gelb’s idea is worth an effort for everyone. Consider the following propositions (mine):

Proposition: we cannot understand what death is unless we understand what life is. 

Corollary: in order to effectively conceptualize our own death, we must accurately conceptualize our own life.

The beauty of Gelb’s approach is that any part of our life experience that has significance for us is sufficient for that conceptualization, in part anyway.

At the least your story will provide content for your survivors as they find need to speak about you and think about you.  At best you may find personal growth through meaning making about that most rare and precious topic – you.

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Image Acknowledgements

CC Search – https://creativecommons.org/

Philippe de Champaigne, Still Life With SkullThat there is a relation between thinking about death and happiness is undeniable because some thoughts about death make almost all of us unhappy.  Thinking about the deaths of those we love – both retrospective and prospective – leaves normal people with sadness.  Experiencing the death of a loved one is an unhappy time.  Contemplating the unjust and preventable deaths in the world is enough to evoke melancholy in even the most stoic of us.  Contemplating our own immanent death is a mixed emotional situation at best (unless one strongly wishes to die, but that is a different issue).  So, what sense is there in which thinking about death could be construed as a method of increasing happiness?

Karen Wyatt draws from Tibetan and Taoist traditions in a recent article; “How Thoughts of Death Can Be A Key to Happiness.”  She considers specific techniques used in mystical practices that may both lessen the impact of our anxiety about death and even raise our spirits in conceiving of death altogether.

In effect, the six death thought techniques that Wyatt summarizes include:

    • Ritualize
    • Relax
    • Enjoy
    • Improve
    • Broaden
    • Record

The techniques are practical and easy to employ.  If one has strong negative feelings about death, then more therapeutic and perhaps guided approaches may be appropriate.  Still, we can all gain value from these practices.

I’ll add a seventh technique to Wyatt’s list;

  • Dialog

Finding open and intelligent people who will listen and discuss your ideas about death is a powerful way to address the emotional impacts of those ideas.

Death Café Corvallis is all about open dialog about death.  I find the participation in conversational liberty to be a strengthening and spirit lifting activity in its own right.  When related to to concepts of death, the impact is often pronounced.  You are invited to Death Café Corvallis gatherings and to join the Facebook Group in order to get event announcements and online dialog.

Karen M. Wyatt, M.D. is the Author of “What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying” and “The Tao of Death.”

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Image Acknowledgements

ddd4ce5d782d3ea8a359677c1a4101ad.jpg
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/354517801894454820/

death_cafe_corvalis_jon_dorbolo_88x31generalTake one of the best silent films ever made – add a custom contemporary soundtrack played live by professional symphony musicians – stage the showing of the film and the musicians in the location where it was produced on the evening of the 90th anniversary of it’s debut – and you get a once-in-a-lifetime event of rare quality.

Saturday August 13, 2016 was the 90th year since the debut of Buster Keaton’s The General in 1926.  The Hollywood Theater of Portland Oregon teamed with the Cottage Grove Historical Society for the showing which launched a tour of showings with the live soundtrack.

Aoife Rose and I toted lawn chairs to join a few hundred film enthusiasts in the Cottage Grove Bohemia park to watch and listen as the magic unfolded in the sultry summer night.  I met people from Los Angeles and New York who travelled to Cottage Grove for this event.  They certainly got their worth out of theiraageneral1a adventure.

The General is a story based on a historical event known as The Great Locomotive Chase which occurred when Union spies stole a train from the Confederate army in Georgia to ride North sabotaging bridges, telegraph wires, and infrastructure in their path.  Drama ensued as the Confederate army pursued the Union spies for 87 miles.

Buster Keaton wrote and directed The General (1926) as a retelling of that railroad battle, with himself as the main character who haplessly becomes ensnared in the struggle and must call on all his courage and loyalty to save the day.

Much of the film was shot in Cottage Grove Oregon – especially the climactic train and bridge collapse.  The town of Cottage Grove is proud of it’s film heritage with includes Stand By Me, Animal House, and Emperor of the North.

While not received well in Keaton’s day, The General has become recognized as one of the best silent films and has been heralded by film critic Roger Ebert as Keaton.-The-General.-Bridge-2one of top 10 movies ever made and ranked 18th on the American Film Institute’s 100 Best American Movies.

The charm of The General for contemporary audiences is in how effectively the silent film may be in telling a story.  Many movies with multi-million dollar budgets and astonishing visual effects don’t come close to the direct emotional impact that comes from Keaton’s masterpiece.

Even more affective was viewing The General accompanied by an original soundtrack played live by the composer and ensemble.  Mark Orton’s composition is uniquely charming from any musical standard.  The music is great and is well worth listening to a la carte.  When paired with the film action, the musical art is enthralling.

Orton emphasized the challenges in composing and performing in synch with a film.  A solo performer on piano or organ can improvise with the film to Buster_Keaton_The_General-train-e1412290735360accentuate moments.  The ensemble, by contrast, must stay in synch and so the score and performance has to be precise so as not to be discontinuous with the visuals.  To my ear and eye every moment was optimal.

You will likely have to wait until the centennial of The General in 2026 to catch the next film-live-soundtrack-outdoor showing.  I advise that it is worth doing and I plan to be there.

Until then, purchase a DVD of The General with Orton’s soundtrack from the Cottage Grove Historical Society.  When it comes to film/art, it does not get better than this.

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CA_August-11_covermTwo years may seem like a long time to contemplate a single topic, but in the case of Death Café Corvallis we have barely peeled back the epidermal layer.

It is notable that nearing our second anniversary the local media has taken notice.  Abbie Tumbleston has penned an excellent article in a local news paper –

“Corvallis Death Café Group: Locals Talk Death.”

Moreover that publication, The Corvallis Advocate has devoted an entire 16 page issue to Death, Dying, and Dealing.

Abbie attended Death Café Corvallis gatherings last Spring and conducted an interview with moi.  I never suspected this would blossom into a full-fledged investigation into topics about death open to the whole community.  Well, that happened.

Adrian Clement is a strong force in bringing Death Café Corvallis into being and keeping it

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This is not Adrian

alive.  Whenever I’ve not been able to  attend a gathering, Adrian steps in keeping our meeting schedule unbroken for nearly two years.

 

The real heros of this story are the 20+ fine folks who attend and contribute to Death Café Corvallis each week.

Let us raise our teacups in recognition of death, celebration of life and anticipation of a stimulating third year of conversational liberty.

In good spirit,

Jon

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Atul_GawandeAtul Gawande is a surgeon and writer for New Yorker magazine.  His 2014 book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters at the End, is the basis of a Frontline program, Being Mortal, that will air on PBS tonight.

 

The book and program sound fascinating and will likely make for lively Death Café Corvallis conversation.

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Herkulaneischer_Meister_002If you want to stand out in your career search and progression then it is important that employers know that you can read and write.

You should be reading books that are relevant in your career area or important generally and you should make sure that employers know that you are literate in this respect.

Your cover letter should have a “right now I am reading…” line with a title that matters to your career area and why you think it relevant.

Your resume should have a “significant books that I have read” section with titles that matter to your career area.

You should be conversant at job interviews about books that matter to your career area.

A top interview question is; “What important book have you read?” and they will expect you to tell them why you think it matters.

Do you know the 10 books that leaders in your career area consider important?

It is not hard to find that out and those who do so, and read the books, will have a distinct edge over less literate candidates.

Research the leaders on LinkedIn and look for their blogs.  They will often tell you which books they are reading and consider important.

What better strategy to promote your career than by getting inside the head-spaces of the people that you want to work for?

Be warned that claiming books that you have not read is a quick ticket to embarrassment and disappointment.

This summer is an excellent time to cultivate your professional reading habit.

Here are two books on my summer reading list.

The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks, Joshua Cooper Ramo, Little, Brown and Company. In this book Cooper proposes a framework for interpreting large-scale and seemingly chaotic changes in the world. His framework is based on network analysis which he applies to finance, economics, politics, cultural conflicts, war and terrorism. Anyone who promises a new way of looking at the world gets my attention and this summer I’ll find out whether Cooper provides a usable paradigm.  I’ll get back to you on that.

The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and other Behavioral Strategies can Improve Education, Benjamin Castleman, Johns Hopkins University Press. Some people worry that text messaging and twitter indicate that shallow thinking is generally increasing. Castleman argues that effective uses of short messages lead to more focused meaning on the part of writers and increased self-regulation on the part of readers. Maybe I can use his ideas in my teaching.

Consider the reading one of the following recent books this summer:

But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, Chuck Klosterman, Blue Rider Press.pile-of-books

Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World, Don Tapscott, Portfolio.

Pinpoint: How GPS is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds, Greg Milner, W. W. Norton & Company.

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, Douglas Rushkoff, Portfolio.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rovelli, Riverhead Books.

Sharing our Lives Online: Risks and Exposure in Social Media, David R. Brake, Palgrave Macmillan.

Using Technology, Building Democracy: Digital Campaigning and the Construction of Citizenship, Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, University Press.

Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age, Megan Prelinger, W.W. Norton.

If none of these books catch your interest, I promise that with a bit of searching you will find some that do.

By choosing to read books that are relevant to your career area and by telling others what you learned from those books, you are presenting yourself as a literate member of that profession.

To put it conversely, if you were in charge of hiring someone, would you choose someone who is conversant in the current literature of the profession or someone who reads only what they are told to read and never talks about it?

That leads to the topic of sharing what you read with others; in particular others in your chosen profession.

Book reviews on social media are a strong way to demonstrate your literate intellect.

Goodreads is a social book review platform with 25 million members and can be linked to post your reviews to Facebook.Goodreads_'g'_logo

With these online connections you can make your professional literacy public and point employers to it.

Strong reviews are concise and identify specific aspects of a book while explaining why those aspects are significant.

A social book review is not intended to explain the whole book. Think of your book reviews as arguments that are intended to give evidence for whether someone should read the book or not.

If you need to prime your writing pump in order to write a review, consider Minimalist or Distraction-Free writing tools.

ZenPen is a prototypical online Minimalist writing site because you don’t even login, just start writing. Do not confuse it for the electronic cigarette with the same name.

FocusWriter is a program for Linux, Windows, and OS X that has plenty of features in the settings though they are hidden when you write.

Write! Is a distraction-free text editor with a “focus mode.”

Hemingway Editor started as a free online app and has morphed into a paid-for desktop application that is a minimalist interface with useful analysis and formatting features built in.

One does not need a computer to write; just a pad of paper or journal and pencil.

Keep those tools with your book so twriting-hand-1443450574xaThat you can note insights as you read.

My proposal is simple: find out what books matter in your future profession, read some of those books, write about what you read and make sure to promote what you read and write to prospective employers.

A with less effort than you put into a single course project you can make your professional literacy into a key asset for finding a job in your career area and moving steadily upward in that career.

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Image Acknowledgements

Herkulaneischer_Meister_002.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_education#/media/File:Herkulaneischer_Meister_002.jpg

books-1170768_960_720.jpg
https://pixabay.com/en/photos/old%20book/

036-letter-writing-correspondence-q90-300×160.jpg
http://www.fromoldbooks.org/Jefferis-SearchlightsOnHealth/pages/036-letter-writing-correspondence/

Goodreads_’g’_logo.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Goodreads_%27g%27_logo.jpg

writing-hand-1443450574xaT.jpg
http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=writing

“It’s a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

orloj-1102369_960_720Time, of course, does not really change pace but our subjective experience of time does.

If time seems to be speeding up to you, it is because you are not getting as much done as you want to in the time that you have.

How you manage what you need to do determines whether time is your enemy or your friend.

The most powerful tool that I know of at OSU for managing your time is the academic coaching program available at the Academic Success Center in 102 Waldo Hall.

At no cost students may meet with an academic coach in order to organize tasks, priorities and schedule, then meet regularly to maintain progress.

Many time and task management systems are available on paper and online.

The Uncalendar from People Systems is a 53 week calendar book without pre-set dates so that you can start today with templates for recording objectives, tasks, priorities, resources, notes and much more.

I track my due dates and tasks on both a paper date book and online because entering twice forces me to double-check which catches errors.

Trello, my favorite online project-management application, works as a list-making tool with capabilities for check-lists, due dates, reminders, labeling, and sharing.

Cross-platform mobile apps include the richly featured MyLifeOrganized to the simpler Wanderlust and Any.do.

Important as it is to organize time and activity many people experience the frustration of consistently running up against deadlines; where does the time go?

Figuring out how you use your time is crucial to effective self-management and there are many time-use tracking applications, most of which are oriented toward business contexts but a 556656621_ba9e8c870f_zclever student could use any of these to produce an analysis of personal time and resource utilization.

Some cross-platform apps for desktop and mobile are Klok, RescueTime, ManicTime

For iOS there are Atracker, Eternity, Timely; Android users may look for Toggle, Yast and Timesheet.

Windows phone 8 supports ONTRACK, TimeSheet Tracker, and Time to Harvest.

Time trackers only work if you are consistent and honest with your time-logging, which if done for a month will give you the general patterns that allow for deliberate change; consciousness leads to control.

When you know what you need to do and how much time you have to do it, you may apply a powerful productivity technique called “Pomodoro.”

To use this technique you will need a simple timer with an alarm.

Here is how to apply Pomodoro:

1.Choose the task to be done

2. Set the timer to 25 minutes

3. Work on the task until the timer rings

4. Take a short 3 minute break

5. Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 twice more

6. Take a 15 minute stretch break

7. Start back at 1

At the end of this you have worked 2.5 hours plus 24 minutes break time, so it all took 3 hours – repeat the process or move on to another task.

ancient-1246694_960_720Several mobile and desktop applications help apply Pomodoro technique to different situations; look carefully at apps before committing to one as some are multi-featured and some are just timers.

Do Pomodoro every day and your productivity will increase.

Anxiety and the speed of subjective time are related and you can gain time by worrying less about it.

A 2015 study, “Mindfulness Meditation and the Experience of Time,” shows that practicing mindfulness leads to an overall perception of lengthening time.

As the study’s main author Sylvie Droit-Volet explains;

“Mindfulness training has two major goals. The first is to access a deep state of calm. The second is to focus attention and awareness on what is happening in one’s own body and mind as it happens, that is, in the present moment. Mindfulness therefore changes the relationship with time by focusing individuals’ attention on the present moment.” (P.89).

If you have time to worry and feel anxious, then you have time to practice mindfulness and there are numerous opportunities to do so.

Community colleges, Universities, recreation centers, and community health organizations offer workshops, classes and sessions focused on mindfulness.

Spiritually-oriented organizations such as Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Tibetan Meditation and others offer instruction.

Books and audio guides address mindfulness techniques.

The Great Courses offers The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being on video or audio along with other self-directed high-quality spiral-544400_960_720_trcourses.

Some educators have embraced mindfulness and meditation as teaching/learning strategies, generally called Contemplative Learning.

Oregon State University has a Contemplative Studies Program in which courses within the general curriculum are taught using mindfulness techniques.

You can take courses in writing, psychology, philosophy, religion, and natural resources management that use mindfulness techniques in the class.

These are not courses about mindfulness, rather they use mindfulness methods to teach academic subject matters.

In other words, you can practice mindfulness, learn a topic, and satisfy degree requirements all in one classNow that is an effective use of time.

All of the techniques mentioned above take some time to discover and do. Perhaps you feel that you simply don’t have time enough to bother.

Therein lies the puzzle, when you are running out of time it is a sign that it is time to compel yourself to walk.

“When in doubt, I find retracing my steps a wise place to begin.” J.K. Rowling, The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Image Acknowledgements

7192766626_0711b4248c_b.jpg
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbaskin/7192766626

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/bogenfreund/556656621

spiral-544400_960_720.jpg
https://pixabay.com/en/spiral-words-thoughts-mindfulness-544400/

Yawal2-Amazing MaharashtraBadi is a village with a population of about 20,000 located in the Yawai Wildlife Sanctuary in central India.

Badi is surrounded by scenic forested hills marked by shrines and temples.

In the first 3 months of 2016 80 Badi villagers committed suicide.

350 Badi villagers have taken their own lives in the last twenty years.

According to Rajendra Sisodiya, the sarpanch (elected official) of Badi;

“There are 320 families in our village and at least one person from each has killed himself or herself.”

Some of the villagers attribute the suicides to psychic attacks by malevolent demons.

Depending on how one characterizes a “demon” they may not be far wrong.Rakshasa

Pesticides long used in the region contain organophosphate which recent studies show may cause disruptions of cholinergic synapses in the brain.

Bodi is only 200 miles from Bhopal, the site of the worst industrial chemical poisoning disaster in history.

Those neural disruptions may be associated with depression and disordered thinking, and so possible related to the suicides.  A similar relationship of pesticides and suicide has been observed in China.

It is a profound notion to consider that environmental influences such as chemical may influence our minds and sense of self to the degree that people kill themselves.

Such a chemical influence is insidious in ways that 144px-Lifelinelogooverlap the concept of the “demonic.”

I wonder how many invisible influences are at work in the inner struggles of many people, including the 800,000 suicides world wide.

At least the story of Bodi is sufficient to cause all of us to reflect on why we experience inner struggle and to spark a doubt in the form “maybe it is not just me.”

I hope that India and China lay off the pesticide use even on the possibility that people are being physically and mentally poisoned.


Jon facilitates Death Café Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/deathcafecorvallis

 

Sources

80 deaths in 3 months in ‘suicide village’ Badi – Times of India. (n.d.). Retrieved May 07, 2016, from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/80-deaths-in-3-months-in-suicide-village-Badi/articleshow/52138514.cms

London, L., Flisher, A., Wesseling, C., Mergler, D., & Kromhout, H. (2005). Suicide and exposure to organophosphate insecticides: Cause or effect? Am. J. Ind. Med. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 47(4), 308-321. doi:10.1002/ajim.20147

Organophosphate poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved May 06, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organophosphate_poisoning

Zhang, J., Stewart, R., Phillips, M., Shi, Q., & Prince, M. (n.d.). Pesticide exposure and suicidal ideation in rural communities in Zhejiang province, China. Retrieved May 06, 2016, from http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/87/10/08-054122/en/

 

Image Acknowledgements

Yawal2-Amazing Maharashtra.jpg
http://www.amazingmaharashtra.com/2013/02/yawal-wildlife-sanctuary.html

Rakshasa.png
http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/07/26/meet-rakshasa-the-malware-infection-designed-to-be-undetectable-and-incurable/#6947d1193591

lorenz_butterfly_effectIt seems to me that we do in the world has effects that continue even when the individual personality perishes. In that way a part of us – the active part – lives on.

Descartes asserted that in this life we are what we think.

That is an notion worth pondering because the truth in it is profound.

It is also worth pondering that when this life is over, we are what we have done.

Consider this notion in relation to both a surprising mathematical phenomenon and the reveries of a woman who came across unexpected traces of her deceased Mom.

Edward Lorenz (MIT) discovered and named a mathematical phenomenon known as The Butterfly Effect in the 1960s.

This aspect of Chaos Theory consists in small changes for initial conditions causing large differences in subsequent related states.  Basically, small actions can lead to large unexpected outcomes.

Lorenz applied The Butterfly Effect to explanations of weather and noted;

“if the theory were correct, one flap of a sea gull’s wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever. The controversy has not yet been settled, but the most recent evidence seems to favor the sea gulls.”

For an prescient literary treatment of this issue, read Ray Bradbury’s story “A Sound of Thunder” in which a butterfly is at issue, rather than a seagull.

archinis_papia_vlinder_10_o6pat

For just a moment imagine the 10,000 seemingly inconsequential actions that we do (or don’t do) in a week.

The vast majority of these happen nearly unconsciously and don’t even register in our memory.  But they really happen and they really have impact on the world.

Just a tiny impact, agreed, but that is the whole point of The Butterfly Effect – we just do not know what large effects our seemingly insignificant causes set into motion.

Just think of it. If even one mundane behavior in a lifetime turns into a significant outcome for other people – even if we have we have absolutely no knowledge of it – that makes us so much more powerful than we ever suspect.

It is not just one such effect in a lifetime.  It is many; maybe many in a single day.

We are world makers, you and I.  World makers with the potential to be intentional about transforming this world into what it should be.

When that potential is realized it carries on longSoundOfThunder past our passing from the here-and-now.

Lorenz’s seagull may alter the course of weather forever.

You have the power to change reality forever – you already do it.

The question is: to be an accidental catastrophe in the world or a sentient agent that acts with intention?

To be the later we only need to pay attention to what we do in every moment.

To pay attention to the here-and-now (every present moment) is to direct our thought into that part of us that will continue to exist eternally.

For a touching account of small actions having unexpected effects, read “Her secret history: I discovered my mother’s digital life after her death” by Kate Brannen.

Both Brannen and Lorenz discovered the persistence of little things in different ways.

So may we all.


Jon facilitates Death Café Corvallis which is open to all and meets weekly in Corvallis Oregon.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/deathcafecorvallis

Sources
Brannen, Kate. “Her Secret History: I Discovered My Mother’s Digital Life after Her Death.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 2016. Web. 08 May 2016.

Lorenz, E.N. (1963). “The Predictability of Hydrodynamic Flow” (PDF).Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences 25 (4): 409–432.

Bradbury, Ray. “A Sound of Thunder” in The Golden Apples of the Sun. Garden City: N.Y., 1953.

Image Acknowledgements
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect#/media/File:Lorenz_attractor_yb.svg

archinis_papia_vlinder_10_o6pat.png
http://kivagottkepek.lapunk.hu/?modul=oldal&tartalom=1042554

aerial-displayHave you ever heard the rhetorical question; “What will they think of next?”

Viable answers to that question may be gleaned by perusing applications filed with the US Patent Office (USPTO).

A patent is an assignment of exclusive intellectual property rights by a government to an inventor for a specified time period, in the U.S. and Europe for 20 years.

When someone files a patent on an invention or process, others are prohibited by law from creating and selling products derived from that intellectual property.

Inventors cannot patent ideas alone, they have to demonstrate how the invention will work and that it is feasible.

The word patent stems from the Latin word “patere” meaning “to lay open.”

This etymology reflects the public nature of patents and distinguishes them from trade secrets which are kept private and guarded.

In addition to sheer curiosity you can make powerful uses of the information at uspto.gov.

Some investors make profitable uses of that information in deciding what industries to put their money into.

Writers can gain excellent topics for analysis and writing from patents because successful future products are communicated to us in the present.

For instance, students may develop presentations and papers based on patent information.

infectious-diseaseSuppose that you have a class presentation or paper to prepare and need a strong topic.

Browsing through recent proposals at the USPTO you find a patent filed in 2015 by Boeing Inc. for “Infectious Disease Detection.”

This proposed invention would use sensors to detect traces of specific pathogens; bacteria and viruses.

Why would a company that makes airplanes invest in disease detection?

Because infectious disease is spread significantly by air travel leading to pandemics which are global outbreaks of illness

To turn this idea into a paper or presentation, think through the conditions and implications of effective disease detection at the primary points of transmission.

Detecting disease allows for intervention and preventing its spread which may dramatically impact the global health situation.

Think of other situations where the spread of disease is significant, such as hospitals, daycare and University residence halls where the Norovirus runs rampant.

The analytic strategy of turning a proposed patent invention into a top-rate paper is to produce a reasoned analysis based on the problem, the proposed solution and the implications of a successful solution.  Break it down like this:

1. The problem: describe the circumstances that occur without the invention; e.g. infectious disease spreads rapidly and is hard to control leading to deaths, illness, increased health care costs and other economic impacts.

2. The proposed solution: explain the proposed invention and how it will solve or change the problem; e.g., a system of disease agent detection and intelligent alerts will recognize when a severely contagious disease is present and allow for immediate interventions to help infected people and prevent further contagion.

3. The implications of a successful solution: speculate on the social impacts that will occur if the invention works and is used effectively; e.g., by detecting and managing disease at the primary points of transmission the spread of infectious disease can be significantly contained and prevented.  The gains to human welfare in terms of health will be great and economic benefits from lower health care and otherwise lost productivity will add significantly to the general welfare.

cardboard-bicycleYou can totally make an interesting paper or presentation with a strong analysis and argument from this by filling in the details and backing up your claims with facts, such as the current costs of infectious disease to the economy.

You might also think of potential negative effects of such inventions, which is how writers like Michael Crichton make great stories (Jurrasic Park, Prey) and tons of money.

Now that you see how such analysis and future-casting works, try your mind some other fascinating recent patent filings.

Multi-Part Navigation Process by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for Navigating to a Medical Situation”: Google filed a patent for a drone with navigation and flight control processes capable of reaching an emergency with appropria1te reinforcing-photosynthesis1medications and medical equipment. Imagine in the future subscribing to a medical response service that responds immediately to your crisis based on your medical profile.

“System in Space for Reinforcing Photosynthesis and Method”: Airbus, a European airplane maker, may have a way to collect sunlight by satellites in orbit and retransmit the energy to Earth to re-enforce photosynthesis and crop growth. I wonder whether this technology can also boost solar energy collectors.

“Fact Checking Using and Aiding Probabilistic Question Answering”: IBM filed a recent patent for a use of its Watson artificial intelligence program that won the Jeopardy game show. In its role as fact-checker Watson will “decompose a statement into sets of question and answer pairs for each of which it then determines a confidence value from which is calculated a probability that the statement is true.” Imagine this at work in newsrooms and Presidential debates.

“Gamma Secretase Modulators”: Pharmaceutical giant Merck filed a patent for a compound that “targets amyloid beta, a metabolite of amyloid precursor protein which is considered to be of great importance regarding the degeneration and loss of neurons in Alzheimer’s patients.” This may lead to a treatment and even prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

It does not follow from the fact that a patent was filed that the proposed concept will really work, be practical and economically feasible.

Patents do show us the realm of the possible driven by human imagination.

Here are some titles of patents filed in the last few years to peak your interest.

“Method and Apparatus for Delivering Energy to an Electrical or Electronic Device Via a Wireless Link.”

“Devices and Methods for Transferring Data Through a Human Body.”

“Method for Personalizing an Appliance User Interface.”

“System and Method for Targeting Customers Who Invite Other Customers to a Business.”

“Apparatus and Method for Sharing User’s Emotion.”

“Recyclable Cardboard Bicycle.”

“Foreclosure Prevention and Protection.”

“Seawater Desalination System.”

“Foreign Currency Solution.”

“Aerial Display System With Marionettes Articulated and Supported by Airborne Devices.”

“Fabrication of Products On Demand.”

“Self-propelled unicycle engagable with vehicle.”

“Telescopic Contact Lens.”

“Virtual Universe Teleportation Suggestion Service.”

Find many more filed patents at: uspto.gov >Patents >Patent Search (Search for Patents) > Seven Step Strategy.uspto_logo

For patents filed since March 2001 be sure search the AppFT: Applications database.

Understand that patents are legal documents and not designed for easy reading, but you are smarter than the average duck and can hone in on the key points, especially the “abstract” or ”summary” sections.

Make sure that you access the images linked at the top and bottom of the patent text.

Learn to access these ideas directly from the USPTO and you will gain a wealth of future potentials that you may talk and write about.

 

Source Acknowledgements

USPTO
http://www.uspto.gov/

The Top 10 Patents Issued in 2015, Steve Brachman
http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2015/12/28/top-10-patents-issued-2015/id=64025/

Image Acknowledgements

aerial-display.jpg

infectious-disease.jpg

cardboard-bicycle.jpg

reinforcing-photosynthesis1.jpg

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