the next idea

The Next Idea

Advances in computer technology are one of many factors that have led to the decline of certain types of jobs. To some extent, technology has always played a role in changing how people work and live: think of the internal combustion engine or factory mechanization.

But today’s guest on The Next Idea wonders if advances in artificial intelligence could be a tipping point into societal unrest, even revolt, because of loss of jobs.

The Next Idea

It’s fair to say that the automobile has been central to the life of Bob Lutz. He’s 85 now, but before he was semi-retired he held top-tier positions at BMW, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, where he was vice chairman.

He recently wrote an article for Automotive News with the striking headline, “Kiss the good times goodbye.” It’s about where the world of cars is headed, for better or worse. 

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“There ought to be a law.” It’s easier said than done.

The truth is that making policy is an incredibly complex process. For each bill there are multiple stakeholders, and they all demand different things from the outcome.

Teachers can illustrate that complexity for their students through role-playing simulations around policymaking, but even simulations can be too much for one instructor to organize.

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So many innovative ideas begin with inventors observing simple events. Take Newton’s falling apple, for example, or Archimedes’ overflowing bathtub. 

For Emil Ureel of West Michigan, it was building an ice rink in his backyard — or rather designing a refrigeration system to keep it from melting.

 

I thermodynamically ended up producing a chiller system from a used central air unit,” Ureel said. “Going through the process, I learned something related to thermodynamics that’s referred to as saturation vapor pressure.”

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One afternoon while waiting for my flight to board, a headline caught my eye: “Civilization-Destroying Comets Are More Common Than We Thought.” I assumed it was one of those flashy clickbait attention-grabbers like the ones about how researchers have discovered how you can lose ten pounds just by drinking dandelion tea. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t one of those smarmy websites you’ve never heard of. It was Popular Mechanics. Yes, that do-it-yourself periodical for the pocket-protector jet set that has all the panache of your dad’s brown shoes. So why the hyperbole?

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The Incubator Kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market is helping people with an idea for a food product or business turn their dreams into reality without risking their life savings.

The Incubator Kitchen is a full-sized commercial kitchen where hopeful food entrepreneurs can get help with business planning and the licensing required to legally produce their products and sell to the public.

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Is there a “state of mind” that aids innovation and creativity?

Think for a moment about the last time you were totally immersed in a hobby, music, or sport. Things just seemed to flow, time became imperceptible, and everything seemed almost effortless. Might you have experienced this when writing? Running or gardening? Creating poetry, music, or dancing? Or even tinkering?

Are such times rare or non-existent in your life? These experiences of “flow” are rocket fuel for innovation and creativity—and you can have more of them.

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If you’re old enough, you might remember Schoolhouse Rock, a series of musical films that helped kids learn.

Emmanuel Smith is “Mr. E in the D,” and he’s updating that concept by using hip-hop to teach kids math.

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Caring for a baby takes up a huge amount of time.

Yet one mom managed to find the time to come up with an idea for a product, pitch it in entrepreneurial competitions, win, and make her idea reality: The Pumpndo.

The slogan? "Because mom life doesn't stop when you pump."

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Helping underserved young people embrace education, get into college and go on to be world-class citizens is the mission of a program called FATE. It's operated as part of the cause-based clothing company Merit Goodness.

Give Merit  Executive Director Kuhu Saha and 2016 FATE graduate Asha Stewart joined Stateside to share how FATE provides a space where students can create aspirations.

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It’s the quintessential American success story. Three young, black engineers left a major technology corporation to form their own business. They built it into an internationally successful company and eventually sold it. 

Today’s guest on The Next Idea, David Tarver, was one of the engineers who founded Telecom Analysis Systems over 30 years ago amid the challenges and promise of the post-Civil Rights era. 

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Parents of children on the autism spectrum face significant challenges in getting the right education, support and other life tools for their kids. But the difficulties don’t go away when these kids grow up. Can they live alone, support themselves, be a part of society? And what happens when their adult caregivers age out of watching over them?

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In a recent interview, Microsoft founder Bill Gates created quite a stir when he suggested that robots be taxed because society will not be able to manage the speed and magnitude of the impending automation of everything.

While his intent was to suggest ways to stave off the massive social unrest that will surely come with wholesale unemployment, it wasn’t a week before the editorial staffs at the Economist and BusinessWeek weighed in on impracticality of the idea, saying it would slow down technology investment and automation rates, and seriously damage American competitiveness.

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Most offenders in Michigan’s prisons will someday be released. Figuring out what to do next is difficult. Some may lack skills, and employers are wary of hiring people who have done time.

At Ionia's Handlon Correctional Facility, they're addressing this problem with a program called Trading Places. Inmates use their time inside to prepare for trade apprenticeships on the outside.

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Usually, when we hear the word “hacking,” we think of someone breaking into something — like your computer or customer data at a credit card company. But there’s a constructive, positive spin on the word hack too.

A2 Health Hacks is a weekend-long exercise where people come together to find new solutions to old problems in health care.  

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Michigan and other states are having an increasingly hard time finding qualified people to work in construction. The perception that construction careers are dirty, hard, and dangerous plays a big part in the labor shortage.

Brindley Byrd, executive director of the Michigan Construction Foundation, wants to help people find careers in construction by marketing the Michigan Construction "brand" and connecting people to resources like educational training programs.

Michigan's farmers and growers are always looking for new and bigger markets for their products.
 
The Michigan Farm Bureau thinks they should look at China, where there is growing interest in what Michigan's farms have to offer.

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Day care for children is a fact of life for many Michigan families. But with more and more people looking after aging parents, there's also a need for adult day care.

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We think of borrowing from a library and what comes to mind? Books. DVDs. CDs.

Now, through the Capital Area District Libraries in Lansing, you can check out a badminton set, a GoPro camera,  a thermal leak detector or even a sewing machine. Those are just some of the items that they have available in the CADL's Library of Things.

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For centuries, people who need some fast cash have turned to pawn shops: "pawning" some personal treasure for a cash loan.

Today there is a modern way to pawn an item. Instead of driving from shop to shop, you can turn to a Michigan-based startup called PawnGuru and do your dealing online.

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So, you've got a small business. You've been selling your product at farmer's markets or art fairs, or maybe online.

But it's a great big step from that to having your own brick-and-mortar store. One way to help bridge that gap is happening in Midtown Detroit: the Cass Collective.

It's a new collaborative retail space where businesses rotate in and out so a budding entrepreneur can put a cautious toe in the water without a big commitment. The Cass Collective is a joint project of Midtown Detroit Inc. and TechTown Detroit.

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You can't have a successful entrepreneurial community without money. And that's exactly why venture capitalists play such a critical role in helping Michigan start-ups get up and running.

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More and more Americans are choosing to shop in the comfort of their homes. With a few clicks of a mouse from online retailers like Amazon and Jet.com, almost any product imaginable can be delivered to a shopper’s door within one or two days.

American malls are struggling to compete on the pricing, selection, and convenience offered by online shopping.

And because the retail industry built so much space during the 70s and 80s and 90s, dead or dying malls now dot the landscape of American suburbs.

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In the early 1990s, I visited billionaire George Soros’ office in New York City to provide some direction on an investment his firm had made in a technology startup run by senior Israeli Air Force officers. Their technology was something akin to an iPod, and this was almost a decade before you could store your entire music collection on a device the size of a bar of soap.

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Why is it that you can summon an Uber with one click on your smart phone, but if your child is struggling in school, you might not find out for weeks?

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