The innovation movement creating opportunities to explore and reimagine the future
Serendipity Collective, the innovation movement creating opportunities to explore and reimagine the future, hosted its inaugural pitching event in Berlin on 10th and 11th May 2023. Eight shortlisted multidisciplinary teams of radical innovators from around the world with revolutionary ideas competed for funding.
Three ideas received $50k investment from the expert panel of judges, including representatives from event sponsors: The U.S. Office of Naval Research Global (ONR Global), and the German Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIN-D).
The ideas and concepts selected for $50k funding grants were:
Co-Creating Music Using Brainwaves – Develop a multi-user Brain-Computer Music Interface (BCMI) and AI-assisted hyperscanning techniques to enable two or more users to interact musically via their EEG signals in a way that rewards intra and inter-brain synchronisation in real-time.
Green-G: Connecting all plants on Earth for telecommunications and information management – Tap into the inherent communication ability of plants and create new communication pathways that can be engineered to harness short and long range plant-to-plant communication, as the basis for a new communications and information network, “Green-G”.
Controllable Evolution of Metacognitive Machines – A general-purpose computational platform that could create and evolve its own concepts in a controllable manner, while gradually developing how it perceives and reacts to the environment.
The structure of the event allowed space for the teams to undergo processes of ideation and grasp new concepts related to their ideas. The ideas initially pitched on the crowdsourcing platform were intentionally vague, due to the thesis underpinning the Serendipity Collective. At the event itself, teams were challenged to grow and better understand their ideas, through workshops with IdeatePlus facilitators and keynote speeches from invited guests. The workshops focused on how to weave a story through the ideas and bring them to life, as well as validating the concepts themselves through user testing. Keynote speakers included acclaimed science fiction writer Matthew de Abaitua, visual artist and Head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Innovation Hub Louise Agersnap, and leadership and innovation scholar Markus Baer of Washington University St Louis. These talks offered participants inspiration through science fiction, an understanding of the artist’s role in innovation and knowledge of how teamwork and diversity of thought can facilitate innovation. The workshops and keynotes allowed participants at the event to better refine and define their ideas.
Alongside $50k in funding from the event sponsors, selected ideas will also have the opportunity to return to the Serendipity Collective for further funding opportunities. Connections with ONR Global and SPRIND also mean that for both selected ideas and ideas that did not receive funding, there are opportunities for these organisations to move into their pre-existing programmes. Furthermore, the Serendipity Collective offered an unparalleled networking opportunity allowing participants to meet representatives from the organisations that supported the participants.
Thanks to all participants
Thanks to all participants over the Serendipity Collective for your blue ideas and enlightening comments.
IN SUMMARY, WE ACHIEVED
2,732 views on the website, including 1,300 unique visitors for 60+ countries;
225 participants in the Serendipity Collective cohort (registrations on the crowdsourcing application); and
73 visionary ideas being created
AS PART OF THE EXPERT ASSESSMENT
we have met with some of you to attain a better understanding of your ideas and motivations.
THE 2023 WINNERS
Controllable evolution of metacognitive machines
Idea Owner: Igor Balaz
Have you ever wondered how we could create machines that possess a controllable level of consciousness? These machines would be capable of independently developing, monitoring, assessing, and enhancing their comprehension and performance, but in a controllable manner. Our idea is to develop and implement a general-purpose computational platform that could create and evolve its own concepts in a controllable manner, while gradually developing how it perceives and reacts to the environment. It will be a computational system capable of autonomously adapting to any set of environmental signals through an evolvable environmental interface, simultaneously developing novel concepts, combining them to create more complex concepts, monitoring and assessing their performance, and storing them into a hierarchical conceptual network. The core of the platform will rely on using the Category Theory, which is a branch of mathematics that deals with mathematical structures and their relationships. The practical implementation of the platform could be purely digital and/or a biohybrid one. A brief outline of the computational platform, its mathematical background, and an initial team are given in the attached document.
Co-creating music using brainwaves
Idea Owner: Jachin Edward Pousson
Brain-Computer Interfacing (BCI) may change the way humans interact with computers and each other forever, and we believe that music is the key to unlocking this technology. We propose to develop a multi-user Brain-Computer Music Interface (BCMI). Music interaction is a creative and fitting approach to advancing multi-user BCI technology, especially in that it is a psychologically rewarding phenomenon that gives rise to social resonance, and has entrainment and synchronisation effects on the brain. This is different from BCI applied to the gaming industry in that game mechanics do not necessarily promote creativity, cooperation, or socially rewarding behaviour. Our Brain-Computer Music Interface (BCMI) research team has previously developed tools to enable individual users to harness their EEG signal for live music performance, mapping brainwaves to shape sounding parameters of musical instruments, as well as to control the colour of stage lighting and head-tracked visual projections in real-time. However it takes two to tango – thus our core idea is to extend the tools with AI-assisted hyperscanning techniques to enable two or more users to interact musically via their EEG signals in a way that rewards intra and inter-brain synchronisation in real-time. Further, extending the mapping of brainwaves to control immersive multimedia outputs such as elements in VR, AR or 360° projection is expected to open a new playing field for interacting musically, or even with narrative media. The concept of an multi-user BCMI is a disruptive innovation because it opens up a completely new way to understand as well as express ourselves. It may open the door to new modes of creating art, and reveal previously-hidden aspects of collaborative creative or artistic processes. Further we envision that this technology will have an immeasurably positive impact on the lives of those with limited mobility. This is because music interaction is known to have a multitude of social and mental health benefits especially for those suffering from types of paralysis which cut them off from engaging in this world. For healthy creators, we envision such a tool may open the door to engage with an entirely new dimension, and extend their toolsets and formats for creative expression farther than previously could be imagined. The main work will be develop a user-friendly yet scientifically transparent way to manipulate BCI inputs and outputs, and to tune a system to work for any individual ergonomically and in a short time. This is expected to involve 1) human EEG data and biological sample collection and analysis; 2) development of software functions with the help of machine learning AI for tuning the BCMI system to individuals on a biological basis; 3) mapping multi-user EEG inputs to multimedia outputs based on this new dataset; 4) fabrication of a standalone prototype, testing and receiving feedback. The envisioned result may be a breakthrough solution for manipulating media with the brain, paving the way for truly collaborative BCIs. Currently there is no standard or standalone BCI or BCMI system. As neuroimaging techniques become leaner and more mobile and as music computing continues to bridge gaps for signal processing and transformation, disruptive innovators in the BCMI field may play a part in ensuring that technology serves to better the human experience of music, and that this will serve to better human lives. Creating the first standard tool designed for rewarding human interactions may lead to the adoption of its wider use, and pave the way for others to improve upon it. The future looks bright for BCMI and there is a chance to be the first to make this technology accessible to others. As a final note, perhaps after these developments the system may aid in the safety and quality assessment of potential brain implants, material bio-compatibility, or even pave a way for quantum computing if the findings are applied to the BCI field.
Green-G: Connecting All the Plants on Earth for Telecommunications and Information Management
Idea Owner: Michael Daniele
Wireless and traditional telecommunications and information technologies, including cell towers and data storage facilities, are expensive, ugly, unsustainably proliferating, and often unavailable in parts of the world. What if we tapped into the inherent communication ability of plants for both telecommunication and information management. The existing and new communication pathways can be engineered into plants to harness short range and long range plant-to-plant communication as the basis for a new communications and information network, “Green-G”. Across the Green-G network, local ecosystems can be designed for underground information networks, and these local networks can be wirelessly linked with other remote networks via volatile compound communication. Information “farms’ can be realized, in which both processing and storage are handled. Ultimately such a concept can even be translated for inter-kingdom communications, such as plantae-to-fungi, plantae-to-animalia, etc.
THE 2023 SHORTLIST
Pan Life Carpet (PLC)
Idea Owner: Zorica Svirčev
We strongly believe that our unique idea is supradisciplinary in so far that it is underpinned with almost all of the topics synonymous to grand societal challenges of today: human-centered imperative, sustainable development goals, circular economy, conservation of biodiversity, mitigating climate change, etc. Regardless of the field, external conditions, implicative or applicative benefits for humans, the overarching goal is resilience of humans in a changing world. With this idea, we advocate life, which must be preserved and expanded in every sense! Based on our idea, life is promoted and maintained in practically all situations, even under very hostile conditions (including life on ice, rims of volcanoes, degraded and desertified surfaces, in deserts and extraterrestrial environments). In all these places, life has its own forms, roles and meaning. Those roles support some basic environmental services: • Restoration of damaged and degraded surfaces • Reduction of air pollution • Prevention of water pollution • Prevention of soil erosion • Rehabilitation of deserts and damaged loess surfaces • Terraforming of other planets, such as Mars • Restoring and enhancing biodiversity and ecological balance. Our idea will not only support the above-mentioned services but it will introduce a “germ” that promotes life in all types of extreme conditions, including those prevailing after big catastrophes of any origin. The major innovation here is to design and make an inoculum that should be applicable in unknown and unpredictable extreme conditions by causing successive and continuous explosion of life. The critical challenge is to ensure sustainability and continuity of the initiated life. To solve these problems, our multidisciplinary team of scientists, entrepreneurs and highly skilled experts is proposing an innovative (bio)technological solution: biocarpet engineering that ensures the continuity and sustainability of life, no matter what the conditions are. What is the IDEA? Our concept is the BIOBOMB. This is not a biological weapon, not a bomb that blows up the environment, but a means to initiate life in every environment and in every case by providing the elementary conditions. Our task is to design the conditions for the initiation, development, continuation and survival of life. These conditions include the organisms, the necessary nutrients including water and a physical support. How does the idea work? Our idea is to create PAN-LIFE-CARPET (PLC) which consists of an agar/alginate support that is molded into a “carpet” made from agro-industrial waste material. The physical support will be designed to dispense the necessary water to the organisms. The combination of the carrier with an improved water-carrying capacity and agar/alginate will contain a community of cyanobacteria, spores of fungi, mosses and lichens, and grass seeds, all preferably autochthonous. We are also considering adding some invertebrate animals (such as Tardigrada) to the carpet if there are no autochthonous animals in the target area (cf sending Tardigrada to the Moon in 2019). Once the carpet is spread on a lifeless terrain, the cyanobacteria will have enough minerals and moisture to begin reproduction and they will grow as the primary colonizers and pioneer organisms. As they create a synergetic relationship with the abiotic environment, they will establish the conditions for the germination of fungi, lichens, mosses, and grass, eventually creating a sustainable ecosystem and conditions for higher organisms. PLC is a revolutionary idea that has the potential to transform the world we live in. It offers a reasonable, simple and yet powerful solution to some of the most pressing societal and environmental challenges we face today, while enhancing the quality of life for people and the planet. With extensive research and development, PAN-LIFE-CARPET can be a real game-changer in creating a sustainable future. Challenges: While the advantages and benefits of PLC are ample and clear, there is a “highrisk-highgain” element to it. For instance, some environments may not be suitable for the carpet, and may require periodic maintenance, especially related to moisture. To mitigate these challenges, we propose conducting extensive research to test the viability of all PLC elements so as to ensure that the carpet is suitable for diverse environments. Further maintenance and support services must be provided to ensure the efficiency of the carpet.
Self-Aware Operating Systems Transforming Reliability
Idea Owner: Nigel Greenwood
Vehicles relevant to the ONR– large ships, submarines, aircraft– are increasingly complex systems-of-systems, with coupled, profoundly nonlinear high-dimensional dynamics. The health of these vehicles is mission-critical. Often the information about the health of dynamical systems has to be gleaned from small, noisy fragments of time-series partial sensor data. This is extremely difficult for humans to interpret. Consequently there’s a strong push to build digital twins using conventional AI predicated on artificial neural networks (ANN) and/or Koopman operators; but ANN-based AI require huge amounts of data and labour-intensive data cleaning and curating, plus model training and testing. They are hugely inefficient in data representation. Furthermore ANN lack epistemological knowledge (“knowing what they know”), so the AI have limited reliability in interpreting their data or understanding “black swan” events, especially in mission-critical events. Techniques based on Koopman operators have different constraints to ANN but don’t scale well to real-world complexity and discontinuities, so they’re also flawed. The solution is not to keep investing billions in ANN-based AI or Koopman operators to try to improve them, but to discard these in favour of a completely different paradigm in AI. Concepts of evolutionary machine learning (ML) have been around for decades, but have suffered from stagnation and interpretation constraints, so are currently used just as an adjunct to ANN-based ML. By completely re-thinking how evolutionary ecosystems actually work– in particular the interplay between predation, fractal landscapes, adversarial processes and the emergence of Turing-style patterns and plumage– we have developed novel forms of evolutionary ML able to evolve digital twins of complex engines and other dynamical systems from tiny fragments of time-series sensor data, and AI able to autonomously interpret these digital twins using adversarial processes, to generate novel insights. This is completely different from ANN-based AI. While in stealth mode, we have been granted patents in the US, Australia, Canada and Singapore, and have patents pending in Europe and the UK (we’re finally coming out of stealth this year). But we want to go much further, using this technology to create “self-aware” operating systems for ships and submarines, aircraft and spacecraft. Epistemological knowledge can create the basis for AI, running on a vehicle, to become “aware” of its dynamical self, transforming its ability to control and repair itself. We’ve already sketched out the mathematical theory for this, and now we want to build it.
Idea Owner: Jazz Hassane
A symbiosis between fungi, plants and humans, in the form of fashion that continues to grow and if required connects to a water charging station. Because when we exchange, we recharge our batteries from several sides and expand our skills. So we grow together for a certain time, up to the stadium the root system needs more space and the plant is planted out in nature in order to then equip the garment with new companions. That would change a lot in the fashion industry. Above all, the basic idea of slow fashion, which is taken up in a new way. It connects plants with fashion, consciousness and last but not least the removal of CO2 from the air. Of course also available as NFT.
Synthetic Gastronomy Quest
Idea Owner: Alfonso Jaramillo
Food production is becoming a major challenge for humanity, with traditional agriculture and livestock farming leading to significant wastage. While some startups are producing food from tissue grown in vitro in the lab, this approach has limitations in terms of taste and growth conditions. To address this challenge, we propose genetically engineering bacteria to produce the proteins and molecules found in normal food. This would require the bacteria to grow as fast as the fastest known cells, but still deliver a good taste. However, we recognize that genetically modified foods are not yet widely accepted by society. To overcome this challenge, we propose reconstituting the protein and other molecular ingredients required to create tasty food without leaving the DNA in the final product. By using in vitro translation of selected recombinant proteins and molecules, we could potentially create tasty and sustainable meals that meet the needs of the future. To achieve this, we welcome team members from the materials engineering, cooking, art, and psychology, in addition to molecular gastronomy and synthetic biology. Together, let us envision a world where we can enjoy delicious meals while being mindful of the environment. Synthetic gastronomy also presents an exciting opportunity to provide sustainable food sources for long-term space travel and planet colonization. Join us in our pursuit of innovative solutions that revolutionize the way we approach food production.
Human bodys running on electricity
Idea Owner: Johannes Aurich
Today, organism with chemotrophic metabolizm require the intake of biomass to cover their energy demand, e.g. food for humans and animals. Human digestive processes release glucose into the blood stream by breaking down longer-chain carbohydrates to power all biological functions. This has the general drawback that a massive agricultural industry is required to provide those carbohydrate calories and feed the human population, which is a major driver of environmental pollution, ecosystem destruction, loss of biodiversity and climate change. This problem could be solved if humans (or any other biological organism with similar metabolic functions) could run directly on renewable solar energy without the need of passing it though the highly energy-inefficient food chain first. Electricity will be the most cheap and universal form of energy in the future and is therefore especially suitable as an alternative power source. It was already proposed to design biocompatible electrochemical devices, i.e. glucose fuel cells, to power pacemakers or other medical implants. Based on the fact that electrochemical reactions are in principle reversible a device can be constructed which directly synthesizes glucose to power the body in vivo. It only required electrical power, CO2 and water and releases oxygen as sole by-product. The educts water and CO2 are in fact metabolic products from using the glucose and can be therefore directly sourced from the blood stream, creating a closed metabolic cycle within the body only requiring external electrical energy. Fatty acids and amino acids for essential body functions and protein biosynthesis can be produced by alternative and regenerative pathways like precision fermentation and added to the bloodstream as supplements. Pitfalls are general biocompatibility of the device, selectivity of the electrochemical catalyst (which could be solved by desiged enzymes) and the interference with one of the most fundamental biological processes: metabolism, rendering our complete digestive system practially useless with unknown consequences for biology and psychology. Acceptance problems by people are actually not a necessity because sensations from food taste, smell and intake can be a) experienced through specialty restaurants focussing on creating those in the form of small “calorie-light food sensation meals” rathern than providing tasty large plates of calories and b) by pure artificial sensations created by neural-computer interfaces. If you are thirsty you don’t drink the finest wine or whiskey – so why should you be required to buy ingedients, prepare a tasty, healthy and diversified meal every time you are hungry? Treat food like whiskey. This technology could also be a key enabler for a completely new generation of machines, fusing conventional mechanical engineering and synthetic biology – driven by electricity only.