Life is kind of funny. If you stick around, sometimes you get to see it’s little bonuses. I recall staying late at a fireworks show once and seeing the grand finale, followed alittle later by some extras. Movies are supposed to have a climax at least three-quarters of the way in if not later. Dessert comes after dinner. On that note, the same can be said with ideas.
Wisdom comes after experience. Old people have an advantage – they’ve seen alot of life. I used to wonder as a kid why my dad would say “no” to things. He knew better than I did at the time, and it wasn’t until I became much older did I start to have the answers I wanted.
Sometimes even when we think we are at the end, we really aren’t there yet. I consider myself a philosopher… ok, I admit, I do take some pride in my work, but at least I know I’m not the best philosopher out there (thank God – humanity would be doomed considering often as I write… er, ok, that’s an exaggeration, but who here doesn’t hang on every word of this sole internet nobody?). I wrote a blog post some time ago about the Atheist’s Guide to Reality, and despite all my rambling, one of the comments on my post summarized the flaws of the book in a much more succinct way than I did. I felt kind of silly for rambling, but I did appreciate the comment. Maybe I that point, I became much more inclined to want to summarize.
One of the most inspirational quotes I heard (by who, I sadly can’t remember) was about teaching. Those who know what they are talking about can bring it back down to everyone else’s level. This was certainly true (at least to some extent) for men like Richard Feynman, whose small book on quantum electrodynamics I still consider one of the best scientific books I’ve ever read. Of course, he had to spend years thinking about the topic before he could write a book like that.
Arguments (good ones, logical ones) are much better the more you have time to think about them, but sometimes you have to wait on a spark of inspiration or come back to it. For example, I was thinking recently about the argument of legalizing certain drugs. Some people argue that would eliminate the problems. I knew that wouldn’t work, but I could have spent needless time trying to write several blog posts on the topic and never really helping people understand. Today, I was actually able to synthesize my argument down to a something average Joe would understand by a very simple comparison: legalizing drugs is no different than legalizing any other crime, like murder. Sure, we could legalize murder, theft, gambling, etc., but people aren’t going to be deterred just because it’s now “legal” i.e. I can do it in public. It won’t eliminate the industries that support it – it would only modify their marketing plan. People want to commit crimes, and making it illegal makes it harder for them to do so. We could eliminate copyright law, and guess how many people would rip videos off of Youtube? Yup – same amount, if not more. No change. Had I tried to make this argument a few months ago, it would have been something similar but disguised by all sorts of gibberish and convoluted examples people might not relate to or disagree with. While this argument seems obviously correct to me, I must at least sympathize with people who don’t see it this way.
In another example, I’ve spend some time trying to write philosophy. I’m aware other people have already written about these topics before, but I wanted to express it in a way that was uniquely my own – what I personally believe, not just some encyclopedic reference. Having started a long time ago (being young and ambitious), I ended up restarting several times because nothing was quite the way I wanted it. Everything was so general because all the ideas of the universe are too interconnected and I was trying to generalize and connect all of them. Even if I was correct about everything, it was all so abstract and there was no good starting point that I might as well have tried to teach matrix algebra to a kid who just learned to add. I tried to again not too long ago and found myself struggling with going two different routes. Wrong idea again. Then I read an article recently that summarized some ideas very succinctly, and I drew inspiration from that. Sadly, it sounded like something I would have said when I was younger. At that time, I was very good at teaching, but as I age, my thought process has drifted and become much more convoluted with a variety of theories. I’d like to get back to that. I had started a blog for my philosophy ideas some time ago, but that sort of became an encyclopedia of my ideas, and trying to replicate that in book form was silly. Now I’m back to simplifying. Having sat down and knocked out a couple of tiny chapters, I feel much more pleased with my work than I ever have, which is strange because the book isn’t any bit how I originally intended it to be structured, but it’s better this way.
Ideas in technology is similar. There are an amazing number of simple inventions, even today, that are created on the “Why didn’t I think of that?” level. “New” human ideas are reusing or reapplying the same ideas we’ve always had but on different things. We finally have Velcro, even though magnifying lens and dog burs have been around for thousands of years. You could say it helps to have plastic, but let’s be realistic: ancient people weren’t stupid; they could have found some way to invent it.
I have no doubt that you, my dear reader, have probably had an idea and then had a better idea later. The nice thing is how applicable this fact is to everything, and it never hurts to be reminded (ok, so it may hurt our pride if we let it, but don’t!).
The only bummer with this conclusion is that it makes for very, very short blog articles. Tweets are too short for me. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to like more substance in what I read and write, even if I’m rushed. I don’t know why. I guess I’m not getting my (no) money’s worth, right? 😄
I guess another lesson derived from this is “Get started early”… like, a few months early, so you have plenty of time for failure. I’ve read that over and over again, but the only way to apply it is to get an idea and sit on it for a long time. I’m done that too and it’s saved me lots of time in implementing what would be really poor ideas. It also helps very much to repeatedly return to the thought…. again, and again, and again. And to do this, it helps to be infatuated with the idea. A trick would be how to do this when you aren’t so infatuated with the idea… And no one, say “marriage”, please. I know that’s a good one, but let’s think about some help for single people too. 😄 (I’m only joking, of course.)Conclusion: I managed to knock the political post off the top of my homepage before Christmas. Win!