Is the American Inventor Show a Disappointment?
****** When I think about what truly distinguished America from other countries, I think about the fact that we have been a country profoundly blessed by innovation. Due to the fortunate alchemy of a stable government, a capital structure which supports and fosters innovation through our capital markets (including out pre-eminent venture community infrastructure) and the creativity and brilliance of all the best and brightest in the world coming into our shores these past centuries, America has been the leader in innovation in the world. But you would not even get an inkling of that in watching the television reality show American Inventor.Yes, there are some good ideas in the final 12, but other than the rolling car seat, I personally feel the rest of the inventions are not truly innovative or original. They are not small revolutions in the way we think or approach our world.
I've been trying to figure out why the American Inventor show has been such a profound disappointment to me. I agree with the criticism of many commenters here at American Inventor Spot that 1) the show feels manipulative and base, that 2) Mary Lou Boo Hoo perpetuates the worst stereotypes of women as overly emotional creatures unable to make decisions without their hearts getting in the way of their heads, and 3) the show chooses to highlight the ridiculous ideas and the pathetic stories of failed inventors rather than the creativity and dedication of successful ones. However, I think that my disappointment is based on my growing conviction that the show does an extreme disservice to America. Rather than inspiring us, it insults us. Rather than showing us role models of resourcefulness, the show chooses to emphasize the pathetic. I am not in any way trying to criticize the inventors featured in the American Inventor show or their struggles and challenges. I respect all of them for having ideas and for following through with them. What I am criticizing is the show's choice to edit their show in such a way that a key thread in their storyline is that we feel sorry for or laugh AT the inventors. Do the producers of the show feel that the American viewership cannot get behind an inventor and support their invention without feeling sorry for them? I find their attitudes about the baser interests of the viewer and what makes for a popular show which seeps through every frame of the show a bit condescending. Do you?
To help make my point, I thought I would highlight another inventor related show The Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge and a few of their Top 25 Inventions of 2006. The semi-finalist included "a doctor who found a breakthrough in bladder management that will prevent infections and save millions of dollars in antibiotics, to a firefighter who created a 360-degree fire-resistant light that will help firefighters, divers and the military save lives daily, to an engineer who found a way to turn fly ash into durable, cost effective bricks, a process that has great economic and environmental implications."
We are going to do a separate review of the Mondern Marvel competition shortly, so I will not go into too much detail here, but here are the first four of the 25 inventions listed in alphabetical order from the Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge press release. Can you see a difference?
1. Brent W. Crutchfield, Veterinary Student, Greensboro, NC Quick-See: Quick-See uses paper coated with thermo-chromic ink set to change color allowing people to cut their pets' nails at the appropriate place. The artery and nerve within the quick of the nail causes the color to change over the area not to be cut.
2. Dr. David L. Cull, Surgeon, Greenville, SC Hemoaccess Valve System: The Hemoaccess Valve System is a device that is able to regulate blood flow in arteriovenous (AV) grafts which are used to connect patients with kidney failure to a dialysis machine.
3. Robert E. Fischer, CEO, Optics One Incorporated, Westlake Village, CA Light Pipe: A new flashlight innovation that behaves like a kaleidoscope, creating near perfect light uniformity at the output end of the pipe.
4. Dr. David E. Flinchbaugh, Doctor, Orlando, FL UroCycler Bladder Management System: This invention allows patients who must wear an indwelling urinary catheter to regain nearly normal bladder function and live healthier lives by preventing dangerous infections, painful muscle spasms and encrustation, thus saving hundreds of dollars in unnecessary antibiotics.
From listening to the dialogue of the inventors here at American Inventor Spot and seeing the inventions featured in the Invention Gallery, I think both shows started with the same quality of inventions. (In fact the American Inventor show's prize is $1 million and the Modern Marvel show's prize is $25,000, so guess which one probably piqued the interest of more inventors?) Do you feel the same level of disappointed in the American Inventor show? I was excited by the show's concept as I felt it really had the potential to focus this nation's collective energy and attention on the power of inventing and help inspire a new generation of inventors. So far, I fear this show has only served as a tear-jerker and a hollow source of amusement. Did I just have unrealistic expectations? ******
Does our viewer Janice have it right? What do you think?