Orphan Hack!

edited February 2015 in Everything else
A friend to the Grinders, Hank Pellissier, is involved with helping orphans in Uganda and is preparing for a trip there soon. So if anyone has any weird human experiments they need test subjects for...

I'm joking! Shame on you if you got excited. Anyhow, Hank was trying to think of things to take with him and he was asking me about things like parasite detection and microscopes. I showed him this http://availabletechnologies.pnnl.gov/technology.asp?id=393 but it is kind of limited in zoominess. 

Here is the challenge:
Create a list of stuff to take that would be cheap (like 3rd world reproducible cheap) that would have the biggest impact on Ugandan orphan health, promote self screening, diy healthcare, etc. This is a country where the leading causes of death are HIV related, diarrhea, malaria, etc. Hank will mention the Grinders at biohack.me in his article and fundraiser, but more importantly, it could potentially be saving lives. So what items are in this inventory?


  • I did a long and very interesting interview with Hank for Vice and I have to say his heart is in the right place, but he seems not to engage with the wider ramifications of his work (specifically the DIY Soylent for starving kids thing). I don't doubt the guy's sincerity to helping people one bit, but there are well-funded, well-organised aid agencies working in this field and it seems far better to throw your lot in with them than attempt anything piecemeal. 

    I know it sounds contrarian and a bit defeatist but I really don't think that the details of a life saving intervention is something that ought to be hashed out by well-intentioned amateurs in a forum. These are people's lives - I'd say please leave aid to the experts.

  • edited December 2014
    I think you underestimate this forum, Frank, and I strongly disagree with the sentiment that health screening is something that should be done by professionals. Uganda currently has a dependence on foreign aid workers for medical needs. Certain livestock test kits are available that detect identical problems in humans. I just don't think someone should have to convert to christianity to find out they have a tapeworm. Also, Hank's soylent thing might not have been my angle of attack but it isn't a different concept than other things being used like plumpy-nut.

    (EDIT: The overall theme here is early detection to save lives/reduce misery. Things like diy home urine tests, stool centrifuge, etc)
  • Are we talking Reusable items? Or One-use?
  • Either. Bonus points for cheap or findable in third world.
  • I suggest using the foldscope instead of that pokedex setup-  http://www.foldscope.com/

    So until I finish my list of stuff later today, one suggestion that I will put forth to others in this thread is a restate of what DirX said which is that it needs to be usable, local, and robust (i'm paraphrasing ;). High tech toys won't work here guys. What we need are cheap, easily fixed tools, that work well in shit conditions. Things made out of paper. Basically, you're looking to pull a reverse kalishnakov.

    @Frank - a good deal of those well funded well organized aid groups waste a lot of cash, have serious issues understanding their infrastructural levels of competency (build a plumbing system, don't teach anyone how to fix it. big fubar), and, well cmon man, if anyone hear thought that well intentioned amateurs hashing things out in a forum was a bad idea, they wouldn't be here. If there are well funded well organized groups doing such a great job, why are we having this conversation?
    You're basically saying that you don't have anything to contribute except for cash. Let someone else carry the responsibility.
    Starting a thread about transhumanists being dicks while diy grinder kids are maybe better and then saying whoa there, lets leave things to the pros? That's a bold move, man... Don't back up, bring what you have to the table.

    Even if we brainstorm 100 shit ideas and get one good thing out there, isn't that better than doing nothing?
  • edited December 2014
    I concede your point about well-intentioned amateurs on this forum! And I don't mean to disparage the level of expertise available here, DirX. But there's a big difference between deciding to stick a magnet in yourself, and deciding to play doctor to someone half a world away - it's an issue of informed consent and of who carries the risk. 

    I know that perfect is the enemy of good enough, and small projects can have big impacts (just look at Peter Rosenberger's Standing With Hope programme of recycling US prosthetic legs for Ghana). And you're right to point out that big aid agencies have a lot of issues - but that's because effective aid is hard. 

    I'm tremendously in support of the creative minds here coming up with some cool ideas for low-cost interventions that can save lives in low-resource communities; but I'm also deeply worried by the idea of implementing a single one of those ideas in isolation of existing aid infrastructure. 

    e.g. Coming up with a cheap microscope design would be awesome, but that great idea will be for nothing if there's no clinicians to use it, or doctors to prescribe drugs etc. How can anyone here know what a suitable item to send is when we don't know anything about the needs of the people at the other end? Really, Hank shouldn't be asking us what to bring - he ought to be asking the orphans!

    So yes, please throw in lots of ideas about aid interventions for discussion, we could come up with the next PlumpyNut! But for the love of God, please don't do any of them without wider oversight.
  • we need to go low end hierarchy of needs on this. water. food. sanitation.

    the foldscope is easy and screening for parasites is not brain surgery. I'm going to assume that Uganda has people to write scripts. I mean, that's what it was developed for. So let's assume that those clever people from their complex social systems know what they are talking about.

    SO, simple level. foldscope. waterstraw. robust and ease of use diy distillery options. There are also some low tech water support systems that we could look at taht are good at being maintained.

    But let's talk bootstrapping. Can he get access to some of that FabLab or FabFi tech? Those have been proven to stand up to time and lack of outside maintenance.

    This is kind of key. Things that can be maintained without our interaction.


    @Frank - I am excited to see your desire to make sure there is oversight. I too like it when someone else holds the scalpel. Makes it easier not to feel responsible
    We're not building crazy grinder tools here. we're discussing a shopping list of preexisting technology. Un-knot your danties...

    Historically, white people going and helping the heathen devils (sarcasm) has shown that we have no idea how to interact with people with any amount of cultural sensitivity. While that is being worked on, there are the other issues to address. Said people have a tendency to do cultural stuff that ends up with plague dead being buried in water supply areas and whatnot. It's a weird form of liberal double standard when we can talk shit about some fat old white guy using religion to rage break the system we live in, but we let other people use religion or outdated beliefs to do equal amounts of bs because it is at a remove... Not even stoning, but like,... health things... I can't legitimately be ok with that.  Informed consent means informed not just made aware. "Informed" people came in and attacked and killed doctors during the latest ebola outbreaks. If you want to wash your hands of the whole lot, I won't say you're alone or out of line, but there is a huge divide between showing people how to heal themselves by giving them tools (despite their cultural prejudices), and nazis. Culture is important. People come before culture. How we address that is what makes what we do a work for good or evil.

    Also, Hank should really not be asking the orphans. Hank is both white as all get out and will scare them ;), and also, what are they going to ask for that isn't one of the core needs of food, water, and not being sick? Less of our guns in the area? Their father's hands back? An Ipod? Are we having a noble savage moment where the 10 year olds in some far off land actually have a comprehensive idea of what they actually need to not continue the cycle of collapse, while the 10 yr olds here are chock full of selfish because civilization? pff

    Brainstorm Plz
  • Build a man a fire and you keep him warm for a night.  Set a man on fire and you keep him warm for life!

    All kidding aside...

    One of the huge things we worry very little about is diarrhea.  We get a bit of a bug and there's loperamide and IV saline to keep us alive.  Other places, not so much.  You drink the only water available and end up crapping out your own water which you then try to replace with the dirty water that caused the problem in the first place.  Rapid dehydration due to diarrhea is an enormous issue in developing areas.

    Obviously all kinds of infrastructure and healthcare is ideal, but that isn't practical.  What is far more practical is small diy water treatment.  Sand and charcoal filters and "rocket stove" stills are not perfect, but it's a hell of a start.

    A filter is constructed easily enough from refuse, sand, and charcoal.  Get any large enough containers, fill them with alternating layers of sand and charcoal, put a hole in the bottom, and voila.  It isn't going to make the water really clean, but it will remove a whole lot of impurities.  A second distillation step makes a lot of sense here...

    A pot still is easy enough.  It's pretty much a container to hold and boil water in and a whole bunch of tubing to condense the water.  We don't need to go into fractionating towers and such, stay stupid simple so it can be build out of whatever's on hand.

    Any of you who are familiar with a "rocket stove" have probably seen the ones built out of nothing more than a few soup cans or a handful of bricks or just the earth itself.  For those of you who aren't familiar, I'll just link the wikipedia article so you get the idea of how it works.

    Nice thing here is that it can be used with all kinds of small fuel and can be used for cooking, etc. as well as running stills.  Even better, once you get the basic principle they are easy to cobble together with whatever happens to be handy.  I'm not really familiar with Uganda, but I'll bet sticks, grass, split up wood, twigs, etc. for fuel are an available resource even if they're scrounged from garbage.  Even if a filter and still aren't built, just boiling the water supply using whatever small bits of fuel are available is a start.  

    All you need to bring is the knowledge of how to build these things (filters, stills, stoves, etc.) and a willingness to teach someone how to do it.  Really, if you can teach the basic concepts of these things to someone and they are motivated to do it, they should be able to figure out how to use available resources to build and maintain these things.

    Sorry, this is just my first gutshot reaction to the prompt... I'll think on it a bit and get back to you with some more thought out ideas.
  • This is great stuff. Rocket stoves are a great idea. Here is the article for Hank's campaign:

    It would be awesome if some of these medicines had easy DIY recipes, biosynthesis kits, something along those lines to help them produce this on their own and not have to rely on Western brand-name versions.
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