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keeping ideas original

In the last few years, I've noticed that ideas or conjectures that I made in the past as a naive and imaginative college student have come to have substance behind them in the empirical results of various research reports in the areas that have been published since those times. I won't go over the actual items because they really aren't relevant, what is relevant and likely is that I wasn't alone in making these mental prognostications. I think that as we speak, brilliant solutions to incredibly vexing human problems are being engineered and forgotten in the minds of precocious young thinkers and in the minds of refined thinkers as well. The key difference between the two groups lies in my view in the perception of two groups that allows one to vastly out perform the other in the skill of "innovation" is self motivation or belief.

As a young college student I literally felt that there was no problem that I alone, could not solve. This belief was reinforced by the experiences I had in studying illustration, my early forays into programming as a pre teen in the early 80's and in college , the focus I placed on studying particular subjects that I found interesting. As a youth the landscape of life is barren, there is only our boundless optimism and fascination with the breadth of open questions begging to be solved. Most of us (at least here in the United States) are free of the burdens of self support thanks to the aid of our parents. Some of us even so blessed to have had the academic performance and focus to secure this support through our own energies. Free to engage the problems , youthful engineers can plunge themselves headlong into the difficulties and through dilligent exploration of the possibilities perhaps chance across novel and innovative solutions to previously open problems.

In contrast, as we move beyond the early years, we tend to saddle ourselves with the responsibilities of life. We fall in and out of love, we have children, we redirect our energies to these endeavors and necessarily are left with less ability to attack the open problems that still beckon us. This realization then fetters the mind with doubts, doubts of our ability to perform to the same level as we did in the past, doubts of our ability to keep up with the younger generation, doubts can serve as the anchor that keeps our ship from steaming forward to new explorations and discovery. The fountain of ideas that we once were is brought to a trickle and a feedback loop of self doubts in some cases , completely stops the flow. In my life I've done my best to rebel against this erosion of ideas with time by ensuring I am free of the diversions (some would say blessings but that is a matter of perspective) that would reduce my ability to solve problems with innovative and novel ideas. Rather than steep myself in family (a task I do want to engage in eventually) I steeped myself in study (of both illustration and engineering) , rather than laden myself with material burdens (home, car...etc.)

I've been quite successful living an extremely ascetic life, one that I have chosen so that I could direct my energies inward toward the problems that I deemed most important to solve. In so doing, I've realized that a second benefit to this focus is the fact that I have been in some ways oblivious to the ideas of others, now in some areas this may be a huge detriment, as being completely unaware of the progress being made in a particular area of study can lead to the world of advances passing you by, but just the right amount of sampling of the work of others , allows the ideas to catalyze rather than pollute the innovation engine in our own minds. If we focus on every detail of what others are doing I believe we tend to pick up those ideas and may then neglect novel patterns of thought that might have led us to original creations. So, to have an eye on progress periodically allows us to shuffle the deck so to speak on the choices we will make in our designs without being stuck into a rut of following the prevailing "dogma" of ideas.

In history we see that many of the most innovative achievements were performed by lone gunmen characters who seemed at first , secluded away oblivious of the workings of the world. Einstein serves as the archetypal example of such a character, but Einstein wasn't a lone gunman, he sought and maintained correspondences with many influential individuals in his work, he was able to bounce his ideas off those people and use the feedback to continue his innovations without being polluted by a mass of dogma that might have derailed his train into the unknown and extraordinary concepts of relativity, brownian motion, photo electric effect among other great realizations. Einstein kept his ideas original by NOT mingling too much in the world of scientific dogmas that said, time must be absolute, that space must have an "ether". He delved into the work and let it reveal the truths to him and objectively accepted the results. Software engineering is in many respects the same type of endeavor, it is possible to get lost in a sea of dogma, as we embrace this or that programming methodology, as we are introduced to this or that "pattern", these templates allow us to solve certain types of problems but as we all know, all problems are unique and just as a tailors suit patterns are not amenable to designing all sizes of suits...so to is it that the constantly evolving dogma of software engineering technique (one which has a definite industry behind it in the form of lectures, books and videos by the way) are not applicable to all problems. We must be facile enough with our ideas that we can engineer novel solutions on the fly without being restricted by the patterns of dogma. In doing this we ensure that we can busy ourselves with solutions that not only solve the problem, but solve it in a tailor made fashion that ensures extreme and complete long term efficiency. The theme of taking time to properly design solutions and avoiding the pollution of foreign dogma is one I've come across a great deal in my life, so far it has been very beneficial and has kept me from falling into a rut of self doubt, at least that is my perception. ;)

jist: be so busy with your own innovations that you have little time to read about the dogma of others. Time will reveal the value of the path you have taken.

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