Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where Innovation Comes From

Just a quick note - I'm not into video games at all, so I'm not sure why I clicked on this link, but this quote is worth highlighting:

Ralph Baer, who turns 90 this year, discusses his life's work, which includes creating the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game console, and the iconic pattern game Simon. When people ask him why he's still inventing, he says "I'm basically an artist. I'm no different from a painter, who sits there and does what he loves. Would you ask a guy who's been painting his whole life, 'why do you keep painting? Why don't you retire?' Retire to what?"

I highlight this to show the fallacy of having to have the whip and the lash of utter destitution to make society work. Great innovations never come from being forced to do things, they come from people who are able to exercise their talents to the fullest. If you are doing the work you love, you do not need to retire of have a supervisor standing over you with a time clock. In fact, when you look at the history of invention, every great discovery has come about not because people had to do something, but because they wanted to do it.

The idea that if we do not sit at our desks and labor for forty hours a week for our corporate overlords we will have no more innovations or discoveries is preposterous, and the quote above proves it. When you put aside the rhetoric and actually look at the history of the major inventions that better our lives (whether video games actually do this is debatable), they all come about this way. In most cases, profit was even the farthest thing from the minds of scientists or inventors. Many of the fundamental discoveries that revolutionized science were made by the Royal Society, which was basically a club of aristocratic dabblers. Sadly, many great inventors died penniless and forgotten, with the money-men reaping all the rewards (e.g. Tesla).

So, something to keep in mind the next time someone tells you we need to keep society advancing by forcing everyone to work at jobs they hate.

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