Disaster Brings Invention

Seatchute Chair

Fast Company:

Catastrophe is a powerful agent for invention. More than gadgets like the Rescue Reel and SeatChute, which conjure up an almost super-hero-like fantasy, ever since September 11 entrepreneurs and scientists (and some who wear both hats) have been quietly plodding away at a variety of ideas, mechanisms, and processes designed to make the world a better, safer place.

The devastation catalyzed new concepts in community, industrial design, architecture, and safety protocols that may serve to prevent—or at least mitigate—future calamities. Similarly Hurricane Katrina inspired new ideas about urban planning, like grinding up storm debris to raise city elevation.

Scott Heiferman, co-founder and CEO of Meetup, a New York-based web start-up that facilitates in-person meetings for people with shared interests, says the idea for his company was spawned by September 11.

“When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before,” he says in an e-mail statement. “People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way.”


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