New 'Lost Generation' Has No Clue How to Fix Things

Engineering advocate wants us to repurpose broken devices, not just get new ones
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2014 11:16 AM CST
Today's 'Lost Generation' Has No Clue How to Fix Things
Now what?!   (Shutterstock)

If your smartphone suddenly dies, you may be tempted to toss it and get another one, but Danielle George is aiming to change that. The University of Manchester engineering professor uses household hacks like sending wireless messages via barbecue and surfing the Internet with a torch, the Telegraph notes, and she wants to let people know how easy it is. She's talking about it in this year's Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures (broadcast today through Wednesday on BBC) in an attempt to underscore that today's generation will simply replace broken devices with new ones rather than attempt to fix them. "I want young people to realize that that they have the power to change the world right from their bedroom, kitchen table, or garden shed," she tells the Telegraph. The reason under-40s shy away from fixing what's broke: We live in a "disposable" world now, George says.

"We've got a lost generation that has grown up with factory electronics that just work all of the time," she notes. "Because they don't break, we just get used to them. And when they do [die], we throw them away and buy something new." She's hoping to change that with this year's lecture series, which focuses on household-inspired hacks that include crafting a lamp out of a water bottle and turning a mobile phone into a projector. And while these little nuggets of everyday ingenuity may help around the house, George hopes that by inspiring an untapped demographic of dormant inventors, the world will be better for it. "If we all take control of the technology and systems around us … then solving some of the world's greatest challenges is only a small step away," she tells the Telegraph. "I believe everyone has the potential to be an inventor." (We present the 7 coolest inventions of 2014.)

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