Report 103

A weekly newsletter on creativity, ideas, innovation and invention

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Tuesday, 27 January 2004 Issue 1

Hello and welcome to the very first issue of Report 103, a weekly newsletter on creativity, ideas, innovation and invention, with a slight focus on business related issues (but you writers, artists and other non-business types need not worry, I will also look at general issues related to creativity, ideas, innovation and invention).

Since this publication is brand new, I will experiment in early issues in order to find the best format. While I am doing this, I would value your feedback regarding this publication – in particular comments about what you like, what you don't like and how I can make Report 103 better serve you. Comments about creativity, ideas, innovation, invention and issues raised in Report 103 are also welcome. But, if you like talking about creativity and all that, I recommend you also join ValpoCella – our discussion forum on applied creativity and innovation in business. More information at

Contributions, including press releases, are also welcome, although there is no guarantee that anything will be used. I run a tight dictatorship here!

Finally, for a little cranial exercise, can you figure out why this publication is named Report 103? The key to the answer is in this introduction.

Jeffrey Baumgartner Editor


Great new creativity tool: sleep

There is a long tradition of great ideas striking scientists and artists following a good night's sleep. Now, Ullrich Wagner and a team of researchers at the University of L?beck in Germany have demonstrated experimental proof of the link between sleep and creativity.

Dr. Wagner gave each volunteer in a study group a mathematical number series problem to solve. He also gave each volunteer an equation to calculate the next numbers in the series. What he didn't tell them was that there was a shortcut that could be derived from looking at the series. Using the shortcut allowed volunteers to finish the series significantly faster than doing the calculations.

The volunteers given eight hours to solve the problems. Half of them were allowed to sleep. Half were kept awake. Of those who slept, almost 60% discovered the shortcut. Of those who were kept awake, only about 25% figured it out. The study further demonstrated that volunteers need memories to work with on order to awake with creative inspiration – so don't expect to be magically creative every morning! Nevertheless, this study suggests that if you are stumped by a tricky problem, the age old advice to “sleep on it” is indeed, sound advice. Whether or not your boss will agree is another matter.

The study is in this week's edition of Nature ( – subscription or payment required to access). There is also a nice summary in the Guardian newspaper's on-line edition at,11381,1128492,00.html.

Creativity machines

A chap in St. Louis has been making a creative thinking computer using disturbed neural networks. Stephen Thaler's thinking machines have written songs, devised new words, invented software and much more. Perhaps the day when we are served by human like androids is not that far off after all. Thaler's company also has a really cool name: Imagination Engines.

For more about the creativity software, go to ine/E981DA33F2CF718986256E250061FFF6?OpenDocument&Headline=Computer+Cr eativity (unfortunately, you will probably need to cut and paste this wickedly long URL into your browser in pieces). Imagination Engines' web site is at

Most Creative US Cities

Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, and founder of The Creativity Group, a Pittsburgh-based organization that consults with cities on development and planning, has ranked US cities for creativity. The top 50 cities are listed on and you can check how your city (if it is in America) ranks on Unfortunately, the web site does not make it obvious how the results are compiled.


Refrigerated coffins

AIDS is killing far too many people in South Africa. Painful as this is, it has inspired one inventor to create a refrigerated coffin to economically preserve corpses. This is important in a county like South Africa where a corpse is not buried until the extended family has come to pay their last wishes. Moreover, a refrigerated coffin is apparently less expensive than having the body preserved in a funeral home. More at,3523,1527512-6078- 0,00.html.

Bungee jumping for squirrels

The prize for the most irreverent invention of recent months must go to the Squngee. The squngee is basically a bungee cord with a hook for attaching an ear of corn and a bell for notifying you that it is being used. You attach an ear of corn to the squngee's hook and hungry squirrels, the web site assures us, jump at the corn. Once the squirrel grabs the corn, she finds herself bouncing about on the bungee cable, presumably having a jolly good time. The inventor assures us the the squngee is not cruel to animals – indeed, he claims the squirrels keep coming back for more. So, if your squirrels are under-exercised, why not give it a try? Company web site


Food for thought is a regular column where someone, such as me, presents a radical idea. The concept is to inspire thought rather than to sell you on the ideas presented. If you would like to write a food for thought column, please tell me about it via e-mail at

Utopia or nightmare?

Stephen Thaler's thinking machines (see above) remind me of my conviction that humans and machines will become ever more integrated over the upcoming decades. We can see this in two ways:

1.Thought controlled computers are now being developed. These are computers which are connected to the brain and can perform simple tasks by thought alone. Currently, the main aim of these computers is to help quadriplegics have more control over their lives. I have also heard rumours that the Pentagon is experimenting with thought controlled devices to help air-force pilots react more quickly in high-speed manoeuvres.

2.On line gaming is creating ever more sophisticated realities, with three dimensional environments; while computer animation is close to developing animated characters who are indistinguishable from real life ones.

It is only a matter of time before thought controlled computers become more sophisticated, allowing users to perform almost any action via mind control. This would allow people to actually become the players in on-line games and to live and move about in virtual realities. No need to use a mouse or joystick. Just think and it will happen.

As fond as we all are of this life, given the choice between living life on earth, with all its hassles, discomforts and dangers, versus living an ideal life with in a computer environment where you have control over your looks, your fate, your environment and more; it is not hard to guess what most people would choose.

In time, our bodies will no longer be necessary. Our minds will be uploaded on to the network where we will live as long as we want. With everything being supplied by the computer network, capitalism will fall. There will be no need for factories to supply us with goods, no need for farms to nourish us. The computer network would be self maintaining and people within the network would have whatever they want – just for the asking. Meanwhile, those people who like to work, will be able to create art, invent new games, devise new realities and more.

Many people I have shared this vision with find it frightening. In many respects, it is. But it also offers a new kind of hope. No one need starve. No one need suffer human rights abuses by nasty regimes. The severely handicapped will be given their physical capabilities back. The Earth's environment will cleanse itself of the damage we have done. Even manned space travel will become easy. Spaceships need only contain a computer with human minds saved to it.

Indeed, it will be utopia, because each person will be able to modify their environment to suit their desires without affecting others. Something no previous vision of utopia has been able to offer.




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Jeffrey Baumgartner
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Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium




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My other web projects 100s of articles, videos and cartoons on creativity - possibly useful things I have learned over the years. reflections on international living and travel. - paintings, drawings, photographs and cartoons by Jeffrey