TIME Innovation

How Banning Mobile Phones Can Boost Grades

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. High schools can boost grades by banning mobile phones.

By Jamie Doward in the Guardian

2. The “Solar Suitcase” is saving mothers and babies.

By Ajay Singh in TakePart

3. Can peer pressure make people go green?

By Per Espen Stoknes in Salon

4. Infused with bacteria, this concrete heals itself when it cracks.

By Andrew Stewart in CNN

5. Here’s a solution for the iron deficiency that impacts millions around the world.

By Philippa Roxby in BBC News

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Fighting Climate Change Will Take Economic Innovation, Too

manhattan-skycrapers
Getty Images

The local community is key to a successful outcome

If any of us want to make a dent in the adverse effects of climate change in our lifetimes, we’ll need all hands on deck. That, in fact, is one of the core tenants of the contemporary environmental justice movement.

Proponents of environmental justice point toward crises looming on the horizon: President Obama is urging new and quick action in reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases; California is strategizing a way past its crippling drought; and urban megacities are searching for new models of development that use less resources and generate less waste.

But the project of ensuring a secure future for our planet can’t rely on the innovation of science alone. We need economic innovators, too. That was the message from Peggy Shepard, executive director at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a New York-based advocacy organization, at a recent event at The Museum of the City of New York, co-presented by the Museum and New America NYC.

Shepard was joined in discussion by Ashley White, a young graduate of the Green City Force Corps; Bomee Jung, Deputy Director of the New York City Office of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.; and Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower, all of whom confronted head on common assumptions that sustainable development is more expensive and makes little economic sense. On the contrary, a healthy environment requires — and helps reinforce — a healthy economy.

Shepard, who co-founded WE ACT almost 25 years ago, first got turned on to the intersection between environment and economy as the Democratic district leader in her West Harlem neighborhood, where various utility mismanagement struggles came across her radar. Long-neglected and releasing noxious emissions into a residential neighborhood already plagued by poor levels of air quality, the North River Sewage Treatment Plant was a particular problem in Shepard’s district. Another was the absence of an efficient and functional bus depot in northern Manhattan.

The green benefits for the community in advocating for a more environmentally compliant treatment facility and an alternative fuel-operated bus depot were obvious. But WE ACT managed to achieve those benefits while simultaneously creating new jobs and ensuring more long-term government accountability in maintaining both facilities. In both cases, the community was key to a successful outcome, Shepard said. WE ACT’s wins were directly born out of using “models of community organizing and public policy [that allow] residents [to] integrate in and directly influence policy.”

WE ACT’s community-centered approach has caught on in addressing all types of environmental and economic issues — affordable housing development, urban gardening and food distribution, and alternative energy, to name a few.

With her work with Green City Force Corps, White acknowledged the constructive power of the community in the huge gains her organization has made. They have planted urban farms in otherwise unused lots which have yielded 3.6 tons of new of produce by and for residents of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a lower-resourced neighborhood often considered a “food desert.”

In many of the same communities, Jung’s work has transformed amassed assets – the resources accrued by developers through market-race contracts along with the government and tax incentives they receive for committing to new ownership and new building within the city — directly into policy solutions by adjusting city planning regulations for building contracts to include provisions for affordable housing developments that adhere to higher environmental standards. At BlocPower, Baird is leading the effort to invest in public-private partnerships and employ solar and energy efficiency technology to slash both energy consumption and cost.

Taken together, these four pioneers are just a few of the cohort of entrepreneurs working to prove that—through the right combined forces of local empowerment, public and government investment, and private sector support—we can be greener, healthier, and more productive while becoming more economically viable.

To be sure, there’s still work to be done. Shepard observed that government still hasn’t become effectively responsive to community needs. If our environmental footprint is going to get any better, Shepard noted, residents and neighborhood stakeholders have to be put at “the center of efforts for change so they become informed and empowered enough to take their own actions.” Just think: if more residents and fewer bureaucrats were invited to testify in front of city planning commissions and participate in green task forces, how much more consensus and momentum could be generated?

If urban green innovators like Shepard, White, Baird, and Jung are any indication, the environmental-economic future looks bright, but that doesn’t mean they they’re resting comfortably on the laurels of their breakthroughs. To the contrary, they’re always thinking about the next big benchmark for progress. In a society where dollars gained and lost are the go-to arbiters of risk and success, there are still too few companies that see their business impacts outside of environmental terms, and vice versa. But if we see environmental justice as connected to — and often the same as — economic justice, they both win.

As Shepard put it, environmental activism isn’t just about “stopping the bad stuff,” but about cultivating a system that creates the new — new technology, new partnerships, and (sooner than we think) new ways of thinking about the world we all want to live in.

Tyler S. Bugg is the New America NYC associate for New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Why Doubling the Value of Food Stamps Helps Families Eat Better

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Want to help poor families get healthy food? Double the value of food stamps.

By Jay Cassano in Fast Co.Exist

2. How training service dogs is giving veterans a reason to live.

By Chris Peak in Time

3. Can saltwater quench our growing thirst?

By Brian Bienkowski in Ensia

4. High school sets up autistic kids to fail when they reach college. Here’s how to fix the problem.

By Noel Murray in Vox

5. The next big idea for ending poverty is thinking small.

By Jacob Lief in Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Here’s When Apple’s Next Big Products Are Coming Out

Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco.

Soon your iPhone will control your home's lights and locks

Apple confirmed Friday that a new suite of smart home devices specially designed to take wireless commands from iPhones and iPads will begin shipping as early as next month.

A spokesperson confirmed the shipment plan in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, denying recent reports that Apple’s software platform for smart devices, called HomeKit, hit a snag in development.

“We already have dozens of partners who have committed to bringing HomeKit accessories to market and we’re looking forward to the first ones coming next month,” spokesperson Trudy Muller told the Journal.

Apple unveiled HomeKit during the company’s developers’ conference last June, promising to replace light switches, garage clickers, and thermostat dials with a single control panel that integrates seamlessly with Apple devices. Siri, for instance, could be extended to take voice commands for HomeKit-enabled devices.

TIME Business

This Is How Successful Leaders Spent Their Teenage Years

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.

Spending time alone is really, really important

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Note: I don’t think I have ever before been compared with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. I am no where near as successful or accomplished as most of the people on this list. But for what it is worth, I’ll give you a trait that I think is common among most of these people (including myself).

Lots of alone time
Most of these people spent a massive amount of time alone when they were kids and young adults. And most of these people still spend a much larger percentage of their time alone today than most outsiders would think.

Especially when people are growing up, spending time alone gives one the space to explore, to be weird, to learn, to imagine, and to dream.

Reading is really (REALLY) important.
Read a wide variety of books and articles that stretch your imagination. Don’t just read easy books (like Harry Potter). Read difficult texts that really stretch your mind.

Read fiction and non-fiction. Read wonderful novels written by authors from far-away lands. Read things that challenge your political thought. Read the Bible, the Koran, Buddhist texts, and ancient mythology. And don’t just read conventional things assigned to you in school (like Hemingway, Shakespeare, and more) but try to seek out authors on your own.

Because most of the people mentioned grew up in a different era, they spent a big portion of their time just reading the encyclopedia. Many of them would eventually read every encyclopedia volume letter. These people had an insatiable need to learn new things.

When these people walked to class, they were probably reading a book or a magazine (in those days, it was a paper book). Some of these people even got injured walking into things because they were reading.

Most of these people had parents that asked them to read less.

Today the encyclopedia is free and on the internet. But today the encyclopedia is so big that it would be impossible to read in a lifetime — so today choices about what you read could be a bit harder. But reading is still really important.

Play acting
At an early age, most of these people spent more time play-acting than others. Very few of these people spent their time playing organized sports … they instead were in their bedroom, backyard, or nearby park playing by themselves. They were letting their imagination run wild.

They were imagining themselves as secret agents, slaying dragons, marshaling their toy soldiers to do battle, starting businesses, dealing with family situations, and more.

Experimenting
It is amazing how many successful people lit things on fire, blew things up, captured and studied bugs, built bird nests, and more. My guess is that every single one of the people listed subjected themselves to multiple electric shocks (some on accident, some on purpose).

They were building, creating, viewing, and observing. And they were the ones in charge of the experiment — they were the prodders.

Lots of creative activities
While most of the people listed are known for their right-brained prowess, most spent a very large percentage of their childhood and adolescence doing very creative things. They were writing short stories and plays, painting, sculpting, writing poems and lyrics, writing computer programs, and more.

Creating versus consuming
Reading, watching wonderful movies, listening to music, etc. are all great ways to spend time. But they are passive — these are consuming functions.

Most of these successful people spent a large percentage of their time creating vs. consuming. They were building things, starting things, etc. This is really important.

Today it is harder to spend time creating because there are so many more options to consume. In the days when most of the above people grew up, one would get bored pretty quickly of the consuming options (usually the best option was to read a book or watch bad television) where today there are just so many more options. In fact, the tablet is essentially designed to maximize consumption (unlike the PC which is a better tool tool for creation).

Get away from the social pressures of school
School, especially middle school and high school, is socially incredibly high pressure for everyone. People are jockeying for position and cliques are forming and unwinding constantly. There is a Game of Thrones aspect to the social standing within high school that is ultra competitive and hard to escape.

By spending time alone, people get needed breaks from the high school Game of Thrones. Alone-time allows you to spend time actually exploring yourself (rather than spending time conforming to some sort of norm).

Today, alone-time is frowned upon
Something happened in the last 30 years to encourage parents to spend more time with their kids. Another huge trend has been for parents to give their kids opportunities by enrolling them in lots of sports, weekend classes, summer learning retreats, and more.

While there are so many good things about the trend of more involved parenting, one of the very important unintended consequences is that kids have significantly less alone-time then they once did. And even when they are alone, they have the means to be a part of of the larger group through social networks, SMS, and more. So it is harder of them to escape the social pressures of school.

So we should expect the best strategy for kids today to not be the same as the best strategy for past generations. But most everyone (young and old) — especially those that have good social lives and have been reasonably successful — could use more time alone and more time to themselves.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How did successful people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Max Levchin, Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel, Vinod Khosla, Oliver Emberton, Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Auren Hoffman etc. spend their time when they were young, between ages of 10 and 22?

More from Quora:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

How the Navy is Taking the Lead on Maternity Leave

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Here’s how the U.S. Navy is leading the way on maternity leave.

By Alexander LaCasse in the Christian Science Monitor

2. What if growing up “color-blind” means white millennials don’t see racial injustice either?

By Mychal Denzel Smith in the PBS Newshour

3. Jailhouse informants are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. It’s time for them to go.

By Jordan Smith in the Intercept

4. Spend two minutes per hour walking — just walking — to cut your risk of dying by one third.

By Christopher Wanjek and LiveScience at Scientific American

5. Fruit and vegetables worth billions are left to rot because they’re ugly. Now we can eat them at a discount.

By Lorena Galliot in Grist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

This Website Says It Can Identify Any Photo

See artificial intelligence in action

Computing company Wolfram Research released Thursday a “milestone” website that it says will identify any photo—though of course, it won’t always be perfect.

ImageIdentify.com lets you drag a photo or upload an image into the program, then a machine learning algorithm then returns an answer, like “cheetah,” “zamboni” or “fragrant water lily,” according to examples on Wolfram Research CEO Stephen Wolfram’s blog.

“‘What is this a picture of?’ Humans can usually answer such questions instantly, but in the past it’s always seemed out of reach for computers to do this,” Wolfram writes. “For nearly 40 years I’ve been sure computers would eventually get there—but I’ve wondered when.”

Read next: Find Out What Your Name Would Be If You Were Born Today

TIME Innovation

How Survivors in Nepal Are Getting Better Earthquake Aid

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. When local systems failed them, survivors in Nepal lifehacked earthquake aid.

By Abe Streep in Wired

2. Can the same brain drain that’s crippling health care in Africa be used to save it?

By Serufusa Sekidde in Project Syndicate

3. Find out how female Marines are getting the job done.

By Hope Hodge Seck in the Marine Corps Times

4. Learning to use a drill is good. Learning to run the plant is better.

By Sophie Quinton in National Journal

5. We might be able to starve cancer cells to death.

By Sandia National Laboratories

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

How the U.S. Can Get Cuba’s Cancer Vaccine

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Cuba has a treatment for lung cancer, and now we can get our hands on it.

By Neel V. Patel in Wired

2. There won’t be an Uber for everything.

By Boris Wertz in Fortune

3. Stop climbing Mount Everest.

By Jan Morris in the New Statesman

4. Move over rooftop solar. Rooftop algae can generate power, cut CO2 and produce oxygen.

By Web Urbanist

5. Phantom flushing wastes water, and here’s how to fix it.

By Marika Shioiri-Clark in the Los Angeles Times

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

What’s Behind the Russia-China Cyber Deal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Should we be worried about the new Internet security pact between China and Russia?

By Cyrus Farivar in Ars Technica

2. Here’s a roadmap for building an innovation ecosystem in Africa.

By Jean Claude Bastos de Morais in IT News Africa

3. What if junk food actually kills off the bacteria that keeps us healthy?

By Luke Heighton in the Telegraph

4. We’re about to lose the best way to measure how well we educate poor kids.

By Jill Barshay in the Hechinger Report

5. Want to end the War on Drugs? Don’t talk to Washington. Lobby your local police department.

By Ben Collins in the Daily Beast

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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