Synergy of Solutions, if not of Problems

If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.
Robert Fulghum ran an article about a person who started to mix a drink as an alternative to regular eating. He eats ‘normal food’ only two times a week, otherwise he drinks a food drink (suitably called “Soylent“, but hopefully with other ingredients). It reminded me of an old idea of mine — an Energy Bar for Busy Workers: Instead of eating normal food, you simple eat an energy bar that contains all you need to eat (the idea came when I was dating a doctor who said that she had not time to eat during the day due to her busy schedule). It also reminded me that this are problems that could be dealt with with better scheduling — and that these are typical ‘first world problems’. There are other regions where the question is not ‘saving time to eat’ but ‘having something to eat in the first place’.

But I am wondering — isn’t it possible to fund research into an alternative to ‘normal food’ — nutrition drinks/bars — and use the results to aid in supplying those that have too little to eat? In this case an “artificial” problem (like having no time to eat) could inspire research that aids those with a “real” problem.

And I think it’s not only in this case, but in many other cases as well. Take the One Laptop Per Child project. I think one of the main reasons why it did not take off was that the ‘first world’ was excluded from it. The idea of this Laptop was cool, and many geeks would have loved to contribute to it — but they couldn’t. This, in combination with the lack of a pedagogy/didactic behind it, proved — in my opinion — fatal to the project.

So I wonder — how many projects can be used/tweaked so that they are financed by the ‘first world’ to solve one kind of problem, and then used by the ‘third world’ to solve other problems?