NOW IT’S A PANEL ON LOW-TECH SOLUTIONS FOR GLOBAL PROBLEMS: It’s Jock Brandis from the Full Belly Project, Shawn Frayne, who won a Breakthrough Award this year for generating a new, low-cost wind generator, Ashok Gadgil of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who got a Breakthrough Award for designing a high-efficiency cookstove for refugees in Darfur, and Peter Haas, who heads efforts on incubating for-profit enterprises targeting poor people who need clean water, sanitation, and energy.
Biggest take-away point so far: “Simple technology” doesn’t mean “dumbed-down.” It’s not really even “low tech.” It often takes a tremendous amount of intellectual input to create a simple, rugged, inexpensive device that cleans water, makes electricity, etc. And while it may seem that the opportunity for small-scale invention has passed, it turns out that there are lots of places where individual inventors can accomplish huge things — they’re just mostly in the poorer parts of the planet.
UPDATE: Best line, from Ashok Gadgil: “The fun of doing this kind of stuff is amazing!”
Second best, from Shawn Frayne: “You can actually make a living at this.”
And from Peter Haas: “There’s a renaissance in tinkering going on.”
Biggest problems in third world countries: Corruption, government bureaucracy, and lack of legal infrastructure.