The Lie

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by KL7AJ, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. KL7AJ

    Thread Starter Senior Member

    Nov 4, 2008
    The following is just an excerpt from my upcoming "Opus of Amateur Radio Knowledge and Lore." Comments, debates, refutations all welcome. :)

    One of the biggest lies we technical types have labored under is the pithy quote, "Necessity is the mother of invention."
    Unfortunately, this quote is more pith than fact. In fact, by obeying the premise of this statement, you are effectively disabliing truly creative endeavor.
    A cursory view of the history of technology will indicate that all the best innovation is the result of sheer curiosity, not attempting to "fix" some perceived problem. In fact, most of the great innovations of the late century came about LONG before anyone had a practical use for them. Marconi's biggest pain in the posterior wasn't getting radio to WORK, it was trying to convince anyone that it had any value once he DID have it working. This is a matter of historical record.
    Michael Faraday encountered the same brick wall when he demonstrated electromagnetic induction. Fortunately, he had the perfect answer.
    After he demonstrated his magical transformer at the Royal Society, some of the bearded sages approached him. One such anointed one, said, "That's all very interesting, Mr. Faraday, but of what practical value is it?"
    Faraday didn't miss a beat. He replied, "What practical value is a baby?"


    Nothing has really changed.
    If you really want to be a pioneer, especially in something like electronics, you need to move away from solving current problems. This is a subversion of science. Your job as an innovator is to discover new Laws of Nature. Don't let ANYONE tell you we've discovered them all....not by a LONG shot.
    Current problems will change. Today's pressing "disaster du jour" will be tomorrow's "What was THAT all about?"
    NEVER begin your innovative adventure by asking, "What needs to be fixed?" Things fix themselves. A patient gets better or he dies. Either way, he gets fixed.

    We need to always be asking, "What hasn't been done yet?" How is the universe put together?

    Leave it to lesser minds to figure out what to do with it. We need to be midwifing technological babies, not figuring out to exploit them. Sooner or later they will figure out their practical value...ALL BY THEMSELVES.........

    Respectfully submitted,

    Eric P. Nichols
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2009
  2. thatoneguy

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2009
    I believe we have all experienced that feeling when we showed our wife/girlfriend/parents our first blinking LED with great enthusiasm, only to be met with "You wasted all that time and it doesn't DO ANYTHING!"
  3. inventorjack


    Apr 4, 2009
    Very nice! Although I would argue that finding new uses for an existing technology can be just as innovative as discovering that technology in the first place. I agree, though, that ideally we should place more emphasis on research with the general goal of discovery. Sadly, it seems it's difficult to find funding for the truly innovative research, because there's no immediate payoff for the financiers and stockholders.

    I'm merely an undergraduate student, but like many enthusiasts I have my own little home electronics/physics laboratory, and do my own experimentation. I hope to one day discover something extraordinary, even if it has no immediate practical use. That sense of discovery (even if it's just something new to me) is exhilarating.
  4. thingmaker3

    Retired Moderator

    May 16, 2005
    I think it is important to remember the difference between science and technology. Science (which Mr. Faraday and his contemporaries called "natural philosophy") helps us to better understand how the universe works. Technology (which in my boyhood was called "applied science") is the putting to use of the understanding gained by scientists.

    Necessity is indeed not the mother of invention. Frustration is the mother of invention. We don't create new technology only when there is a need, but whenever we find it convenient to do so! Necessity might be the mother of discovery, but I lack the wisdom to contemplate that arena.
  5. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
    Isn't the former invention and the latter discovery?