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The $300 House: It is Not Charity. It is Innovation.
I wrote an article in Harvard Business Review asking why can't we build a $300 house? Now, why do you need a $300 house? Just let us look at a simple fact. In the world today there are 75 million people who are homeless. 75 million is the size of the United Kingdom, the same number of people who sleep on pavement, for whom sky is the only roof. Is this right? Even insects have homes, do they not? Even a spider has a home, does it not? Why can't every human being have the right to have a home?
So I started with a basic premise: housing is a human right. And then I said why can't we create a house for the poor? And I came up with a $300 figure because I read Dr. Mahmood Yunus’ book. He is the founder of micro-finance, and he wrote in his book, using micro-finance, when poor people came out of poverty, they were able to build a house for $375. So I kind of rounded it off and made it into $300. And my point was the $300 doesn't mean we want a cheap house, we want a low-cost house. We wanted to give the poor value. This is about shifting the price-performance paradigm. This is about giving more with less for a lot of people.
What do I mean by giving value? To me, a house is simply a metaphor for delivering more health to poor, more education to poor, more jobs to poor. How is this possible you might say?
Take for instance, health. In the world today millions of people are dying, poor people are dying because of three diseases: tuberculosis, cholera, and malaria. Tuberculosis is an airborne disease. Imagine a hut in a slum which has no sunlight, no ventilation and there are 10 people sleeping in that hut. This is typical of any hut in a slum. If one of the 10 has tuberculosis, it infects the other nine. So my idea is can we stay within the $300 price point and create a home for the poor with better sunlight and better ventilation, thereby dramatically increasing the incidence of tuberculosis?
Cholera is a waterborne disease. By staying within the $300 price point if I can provide clean water it decreases the incidences of cholera. Malaria is carried by mosquitoes. Again, by staying within the $300 price point if I can provide free mosquito nets for any exposed part in that hut, then I have decreased the incidence of malaria because health is not delivered only in hospitals, health can be delivered at home. And can we use the $300 house to deliver value in terms of more health?
Take education. Education is not given only in schools. Education is delivered at home. Take a country like Haiti. In Haiti there is no electricity. That means once the sun sets the country goes dark. We cannot even imagine in the United States living in darkness for 50 percent of our life. That's what Haitian people have to go through. That means a kid in a household in Haiti cannot do his or her homework once the sun sets. Is that the fault of the kid? Is the kid in Haiti any less intelligent than a kid in the U.S.? If we can provide low-cost electricity then that kid can do homework in the evening. That way we can deliver more education.
So this was the whole concept that I had with the $300 house. And when I wrote that article in Harvard Business Review, it really generated a lot of interest. I was really surprised. And because of the tremendous interest, I created a social media platform, it's called www.300house.com, and I invited anybody who is interested to join us. I had 2,500 people join the community. And this is a blog I created with my colleague, Christian Sarkar, and the 2,500 people who have joined this community, these are not unemployed people. These are architects and engineers who say, how can we help? With that phenomenal response we said, why can’t we create a global competition for a $300 house?
So we invited anybody to submit a design for a $300 house. We got lots and lots of designs. Then we picked six winners. We invited them to Hanover, New Hampshire. I teach at Dartmouth. So they came to Dartmouth and we paired them with other architects and engineers and we did a prototype design workshop where we actually designed a home for Haiti. And then our next step is to see how can we actually build that prototype and help Haiti, but also build a model village in Haiti. That is how this movement has taken shape.
A $300 house is not charity. Poor people don’t want charity. Poor people have a sense of dignity. All that they’re asking for is opportunity, is it not? There is no difference between the poor and the rich, absolutely no difference except income differences. Poor people have the same intelligence as the rich. Poor people have the same ambition as the rich. Poor people have the same aspiration as the rich. Poor people have the same needs as the rich. Why can’t we give the poor people access to opportunities?
That’s what the $300 house is. It is not charity, it is innovation. Therefore it is a challenge for commerce. Therefore I say, big corporations should step in because they know how to innovate, they know how to scale, they know how to execute. So, this is a challenge for big corporations who have to work in partnership, obviously, with NGOs and governments to make this happen.
In my way of thinking, this is perhaps the biggest opportunity for big corporations going forward: solving complex social problems, like affordable health, like renewable energy, like clean water, and of course, affordable housing. This is at the heart of reverse innovation. How can we connect with societal problems? And because much of these societal problems are in poor countries, by solving the can we really create prosperity in rich countries?
So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
Metal-like materials have been discovered in a very strange place.
- Bristle worms are odd-looking, spiky, segmented worms with super-strong jaws.
- Researchers have discovered that the jaws contain metal.
- It appears that biological processes could one day be used to manufacture metals.
The bristle worm, also known as polychaetes, has been around for an estimated 500 million years. Scientists believe that the super-resilient species has survived five mass extinctions, and there are some 10,000 species of them.
Be glad if you haven't encountered a bristle worm. Getting stung by one is an extremely itchy affair, as people who own saltwater aquariums can tell you after they've accidentally touched a bristle worm that hitchhiked into a tank aboard a live rock.
Bristle worms are typically one to six inches long when found in a tank, but capable of growing up to 24 inches long. All polychaetes have a segmented body, with each segment possessing a pair of legs, or parapodia, with tiny bristles. ("Polychaeate" is Greek for "much hair.") The parapodia and its bristles can shoot outward to snag prey, which is then transferred to a bristle worm's eversible mouth.
The jaws of one bristle worm — Platynereis dumerilii — are super-tough, virtually unbreakable. It turns out, according to a new study from researchers at the Technical University of Vienna, this strength is due to metal atoms.
Metals, not minerals
Fireworm, a type of bristle wormCredit: prilfish / Flickr
This is pretty unusual. The study's senior author Christian Hellmich explains: "The materials that vertebrates are made of are well researched. Bones, for example, are very hierarchically structured: There are organic and mineral parts, tiny structures are combined to form larger structures, which in turn form even larger structures."
The bristle worm jaw, by contrast, replaces the minerals from which other creatures' bones are built with atoms of magnesium and zinc arranged in a super-strong structure. It's this structure that is key. "On its own," he says, "the fact that there are metal atoms in the bristle worm jaw does not explain its excellent material properties."
Just deformable enough
Credit: by-studio / Adobe Stock
What makes conventional metal so strong is not just its atoms but the interactions between the atoms and the ways in which they slide against each other. The sliding allows for a small amount of elastoplastic deformation when pressure is applied, endowing metals with just enough malleability not to break, crack, or shatter.
Co-author Florian Raible of Max Perutz Labs surmises, "The construction principle that has made bristle worm jaws so successful apparently originated about 500 million years ago."
Raible explains, "The metal ions are incorporated directly into the protein chains and then ensure that different protein chains are held together." This leads to the creation of three-dimensional shapes the bristle worm can pack together into a structure that's just malleable enough to withstand a significant amount of force.
"It is precisely this combination," says the study's lead author Luis Zelaya-Lainez, "of high strength and deformability that is normally characteristic of metals.
So the bristle worm jaw is both metal-like and yet not. As Zelaya-Lainez puts it, "Here we are dealing with a completely different material, but interestingly, the metal atoms still provide strength and deformability there, just like in a piece of metal."
Observing the creation of a metal-like material from biological processes is a bit of a surprise and may suggest new approaches to materials development. "Biology could serve as inspiration here," says Hellmich, "for completely new kinds of materials. Perhaps it is even possible to produce high-performance materials in a biological way — much more efficiently and environmentally friendly than we manage today."
Dealing with rudeness can nudge you toward cognitive errors.
- Anchoring is a common bias that makes people fixate on one piece of data.
- A study showed that those who experienced rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to bad data.
- In some simulations with medical students, this effect led to higher mortality rates.
Cognitive biases are funny little things. Everyone has them, nobody likes to admit it, and they can range from minor to severe depending on the situation. Biases can be influenced by factors as subtle as our mood or various personality traits.
A new study soon to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that experiencing rudeness can be added to the list. More disturbingly, the study's findings suggest that it is a strong enough effect to impact how medical professionals diagnose patients.
Life hack: don't be rude to your doctor
The team of researchers behind the project tested to see if participants could be influenced by the common anchoring bias, defined by the researchers as "the tendency to rely too heavily or fixate on one piece of information when making judgments and decisions." Most people have experienced it. One of its more common forms involves being given a particular value, say in negotiations on price, which then becomes the center of reasoning even when reason would suggest that number should be ignored.
It can also pop up in medicine. As co-author Dr. Trevor Foulk explains, "If you go into the doctor and say 'I think I'm having a heart attack,' that can become an anchor and the doctor may get fixated on that diagnosis, even if you're just having indigestion. If doctors don't move off anchors enough, they'll start treating the wrong thing."
Lots of things can make somebody more or less likely to anchor themselves to an idea. The authors of the study, who have several papers on the effects of rudeness, decided to see if that could also cause people to stumble into cognitive errors. Past research suggested that exposure to rudeness can limit people's perspective — perhaps anchoring them.
In the first version of the study, medical students were given a hypothetical patient to treat and access to information on their condition alongside an (incorrect) suggestion on what the condition was. This served as the anchor. In some versions of the tests, the students overheard two doctors arguing rudely before diagnosing the patient. Later variations switched the diagnosis test for business negotiations or workplace tasks while maintaining the exposure to rudeness.
Across all iterations of the test, those exposed to rudeness were more likely to anchor themselves to the initial, incorrect suggestion despite the availability of evidence against it. This was less significant for study participants who scored higher on a test of how wide of a perspective they tended to have. The disposition of these participants, who answered in the affirmative to questions like, "Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in his/her place," was able to effectively negate the narrowing effects of rudeness.
What this means for you and your healthcare
The effects of anchoring when a medical diagnosis is on the line can be substantial. Dr. Foulk explains that, in some simulations, exposure to rudeness can raise the mortality rate as doctors fixate on the wrong problems.
The authors of the study suggest that managers take a keener interest in ensuring civility in workplaces and giving employees the tools they need to avoid judgment errors after dealing with rudeness. These steps could help prevent anchoring.
Also, you might consider being nicer to people.