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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

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: >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


The Top 10 Patents Issued in 2015, Steve Brachman

Image Acknowledgements






4098316462_2846b60687So what do you know? Is there any measure to determine how much you know? If you needed to know something new would you know how to learn it?

Your answers to these questions matter more than any set of information that you memorized in school.

The reason is that the sum of knowledge is growing at an ever increasing rate.

The growing rate of knowledge was described by philosopher/inventor/genius Buckminster Fuller, whom you should learn about.

In his 1982 book “Critical Path” Fuller presented an analysis of collective knowledge based on scientific and technical milestones through history.

He assigned values to the earliest known innovations, tools of the Stone Age going back 3 million years, up to the year 1 CE and designated that value a “knowledge unit.”

Using that measure he found that it took about 1,500 years from 1 CE for that knowledge unit to double to 2 knowledge units.

It doubled again 250 years later to 4 knowledge units and again in 150 years, around the year 1900, to 8 knowledge units.

Other thinkers have used Fuller’s analysis to extrapolate that by the year 2000 collective human knowledge was doubling every year.curve1

Some observers project that with coming changes in our information networks, such as the internet of things (IOT), total knowledge doubling will occur on a daily or even hourly basis.

Using this system it follows that the pace at which human knowledge is accumulated is accelerating; not only is the amount of total knowledge increasing but also its rate of growth.

Is there a natural or functional limit to knowledge acceleration? We do not know.

In some respects self-knowledge is one of our areas of greatest ignorance.

Just months ago our species learned something new about ourselves – that each individual’s brain memory power is greater by an order of magnitude; a GFPneuronfactor of 10, than previously believed.

In 2015 Thomas Bartol and associates of the Salk Institute reported that the anatomic structures of the trillions of synapses in the brain support a carrying capacity measured in petabytes – millions of gigabytes.

This finding is important because in addition to the amount of available storage it reveals sophisticated synaptic processes that use probability to create and retrieve memory.

The fact that knowledge is increasing rapidly does not imply that our intelligence is unable to handle it.

Creating strategies for managing complex information is what intelligent organisms like us do.

The acceleration of human knowledge does imply that the primary skill of a future knowledge worker will be research, analysis and synthesis of the not-yet-known.

You will succeed at your job by finding relevant streams of data, turning it into meaningful information from which you will produce usable knowledge.

At present that set of intellectual skills is the realm of the expert who is typically hired as a consultant.

In the near future those forms of expertise will be the foundations of all knowledge work because every career will consist of navigating a steep learning curve in the face of the accelerating velocity of knowledge.

The knowledge that drives your field will have changed significantly by the time you start the job won via your degree.

Your core strength in that job will be your capability to learn.

You can hone that capability now in your work at OSU, but to do so you must color outside of the lines of specialization.

Here are three practical ways that you may ramp up your learning prowess.

First, treat all of your learning as valuable.  The process of learning anything strengthens your capabilities for learning something new.  It is short sighted to negate a learning experience just because you do not see value in the information. You are not a giant flash drive for storing information. You are a learning organism that can grow and adapt to changing conditions.

Second, broaden your range of learning. Mastering subjects in depth is powerful and so is challenging your mind with subjects outside of your specialty.  As the sum of human knowledge grows its complexity increases. Diversifying your learning experiences inculcates stronger strategies for managing complexity.

Third, plan to keep on learning. A degree is not a finishing line, it is a portal to new learning in new contexts. Set your sights on a continual path of life-long learning beyond any program or position and you will increasingly thrive in a world of complexity that many people find overwhelming.

Some time soon you will wake up each day to a job that is already obsolete, but you will not be obsolete because of your skill at navigating the raising rate of cognitive change.

Human knowledge is growing at a scale that is hard to measure and so are you.



1. Disinformation Alert!: As quickly as knowledge grows, disinformation spreads faster, even on the topic of knowledge.

A claim widely reported on the web is that IBM predicted that knowledge

doubling will increase to occur on an hourly basis. The re-telling’s of this this vary and are frequently referenced back to a web article by David Russell Schilling, Knowledge doubling every 12 months, soon to be 12 hours in which he writes;

“ According to IBM, the build out of  the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.”

Schilling links “IBM” in the sentence to a 2006 article from IBM; The toxic terabyte How data-dumping threatens business efficiency. On page 2 of that article is this sentence;

“It is projected that just four years from now, the world’s information base will be doubling in size every 11 hours.”

The IBM article says no more about this matter than that single sentence and does not reference any source for the projection. We have to treat that claim as anecdotal and not authoritative as it has been subsequently played out on the web.

Moreover, that article and claim are about the growth of digital data which is entirely separate from the knowledge acceleration concept based in Fuller’s analysis. Schilling misinterpreted the IBM document. Nothing in that document supports the claim that is presented in the title of his article.

Schilling is a credible writer and typically provides sources for his articles. Sadly, his erroneous article title has been takes as a demonstrated truth by not-credible media personalities such as Glenn Beck who opined on his talk show;

“IBM has just come out and said all of human knowledge soon will double every – think of this – all human knowledge will double every twelve hours.”

Beck was adlibbing live from Schilling’s story on an iPad and adding his own embellishments ad hoc.

The assumption of authority and facticity of this hourly doubling claim increases with each retelling. Of course, we know that IBM said nothing of the sort.

Anyone may quickly check the sources and find for themselves the basic misinterpretation. That popular pundits such as Beck and his production staff do not do such basic fact checking underscores the key point of my posted article above, that the intelligent uses of information and knowledge are based in research, analysis, and synthesis.

Basic Intelligence Skill: Before replicating a claim, be sure that you have check the sources for yourself.

Beck, G. (2014). Will human knowledge soon have the power to double every 12 hours?

IBM Global Technology Services. (2006). “The toxic terabyte How data-dumping threatens business efficiency.”

Schilling, D.R. (2013). “Knowledge doubling every 12 months, soon to be 12 hours.”  Industry Tap into News. April 19.

Image Acknowledgements





immersive_environments…augmented_reality…virtual worlds…robots…full_VR…games…social_media…community…genius

The Immersive Learning Research Network (ILRN) conference 2014 at Oregon’s State University (Corvallis, OR) in person, webcast, and Second Life – November 20, 21, 22, 2014.   Sponsored by The ILRNTechnology Across the Curriculum (TAC), Oregon State University, and the Applied Research in immersive Environments for Learning Special Interest Group (ARiEL SIG) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Attendance (free)

Conference Schedule

Live Web Cast

Second Life – Beaver Island

Everyone is encouraged to join ILRN for free before January 1, 2015 when membership application fees may apply. See for information on joining the Network.

The theme for the ILRN Corvallis, Oregon 2014 Meetup is “Immersed in the Future, Together: Scholarship, Experience, and Community”. The iLRN Oregon Meetup Committee will give preference to those proposals of Immersive Learning presentations that feature:

  • Attempts to substantively bridge multiple kinds of expertise to generate a sense of “immersion” (e.g. psychology, pedagogy, architecture, computer science, etc)
  • Sharing resources and visions for Immersive Learning researchers and practitioners to use in developing a common future
  • Sharing technical expertise on creation of Immersive Learning experiences that is not readily available for free elsewhere
  • Featuring design or evidence based reasoning for learning within the design of an immersive experience
  • Explicitly develops capacity within immersive learning experiences to form community OR focuses on the community that forms as a result of efforts to create immersive learning experiences
  • Providing Open Educational Resources or open source possibilities for developing Immersive Learning to everyone – to encourage community and sharing
  • Articulating conceptual frameworks or definitions for specific kinds of Immersive Learning expertise that may be of possible benefit or use by others

Please join us


Jon Louis Dorbolo, Ph.D.
Associate Director
Technology Across the Curriculum (TAC)
317 Waldo Hall
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
Voice: 541.737.3811
Fax: 541.737.7967
SMS: 541.915.0260
Skype: jondorbolo
Chiron Mirror
slurl: Beaver Island


OSU is where IT is AT (Academic Technology)

TAC’s got your back!

Read Ask Dr Tech in Monday’s Barometer

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