What a great idea - Prof Mike Bruton.
What a great idea - Prof Mike Bruton.

What A Great Idea? is the name of Professor Mike Bruton’s latest book. Professor Bruton has written a number of well-researched books some of which even going into second reprints.

‘What a Great Idea’ is his latest book and about what one may justly wonder. “Innovation 4” relating to the 4th world revolution when looking back to the major advances driven by inventions made by mankind leading us up to the Industrial Revolution. Now in comparatively recent times, the speed with which the rise of computers, the internet, information science (v. important) and the digital economy has surprised many. Many of these “new inventions” take the form of digital services being apps on smartphones, cloud-based services among other services which serve the requirements of people which in turn assist in the ever-continuing search for new endeavours. All this brings about a new way of thinking.


Some of these modern inventions bring about a new way of thinking and living, whereas others are novel forms of music, sport and entertainment. The consequence of all this is that technology has now changed from being basically a hand-held tool to a form of social intervention and even possibly domination as well!

Many of these new inventions or innovations consist of processes that facilitate technical leap-frogs to yet new decision-making protocols. This can then bring more and more people to research new ways of dealing with and interpreting the new technology itself. This is now throwing up such things as hyper-connectivity (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc) as well as vast data fields amongst which are our wasteful ways in which we live and behave! It goes on and on almost it could be said in a rush to be the first to make that ‘leap’ ahead of the competition. Science, innovation, invention whence this headeth?

Professor Burton did not mention this, but just recently, we have been hearing about a company calling itself Cambridge Analytica. CA has been accused of interfering in elections in both the USA Presidential Election and the British Brexit election. The company does this by use of personal information acquired from Facebook without permission by the way of an external researcher ‘who claims to be collecting information for academic purposes’. So, in so many words we are aware that there are those out there who are using these new technologies not only for good but as in this case, to turn or control people’s minds and even way of life. Beware!

Turning back to the Professor’s talk, Mike went on to explained with much pride just how clever and inventive we South African are. We have many great inventors whose inventions and ideas have benefitted our world enormously.  To quote from the Professor’s book, ‘How remarkable, inventive, original and filled with great ideas we South Africans are’ he goes on to mention, the Oil of Olay, the Kreepy Krawly, the incredibly useful and simply mind-blowing CAT scanner. And in a lighter note Pinotage wine and Mrs Balls Chutney which are now well known throughout the world! Walkie-talkies, Appletiser, insect repellent socks and many other useful products.

However, it does not end there! The digital laser and something called Cybertracker or Cryoprobe, Automatic identification and data capture (AIDC). Going into space MeerKat, SALT and SKA being soon to be the largest radio telescope on the planet and possibly looking as far back as the Big Bang! Stretching from the Karoo to Australia then Ghana and to UK’s Jodrell Bank. There is much more which of course many of us are aware of including Eon Musk with his Tesla electric cars and his SpaceX rockets which are leading the race to Mars and subsequent human populations! Musk co-founded a company called X Com which later, following several mergers and buyouts became Pay Pal bought later by eBay.

There are many more South African inventions and inventors and if interested, the book “What a Great Idea” is available online and in most bookshops countrywide. The book, hardcover version, costs R295 and has 253 fact-filled pages together with splendid illustrations. – by Peter Grist

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