Monday, February 27, 2012

The Death of Backyard Invention?

I suppose to some extent we should have surmised that this would happen.  That is, that the process of invention, by and large, becomes more cumbersome and more needing of resources as the inventions made become more complicated.  I could go home tonight and build a new model for a working toilet.  If I wanted to of course.  I don't.  Equally, if I went home tonight, and even if I needed to, never mind wanted to, I could NEVER build the next greatest computer chip.  It is physically impossible.  8, 10, 12 nanometers?  You lose me by a factor of a thousand at least.  You need to be a large corporation, with billions of dollars of equipment to be able to create then next big advances in computer chips.

The same is true for most things today.  All?  Not quite.  But most.  Certainly more so than ever before.  There's really nothing of consequence to the world today that I can improve, alter, build off of, or be inspired by that can lead to the invention of a new, amazing, hi-tech advancement.  Nothing.

So is it the dead of backyard invention?  Are we relegated now to hypotheses and Time Machine / Frankenstein types of literature?  Have we lost the ability to individually create and moved into a more collective, or "hive", humankind?  Is it possible to take an idea today and make something out of it?

For the vast majority of people the answer is an astounding no.  People do not, by and large, have that ability anymore.  We are blinded by the bright light of our current innovations and have not yet been able to fully wrap our heads around them.  Additionally, companies still hold valuable patents/copyrights on inventions that have come out in the past few decades.  Companies have the collective brain power and resources to do what was considered unimaginable just decades ago.  Yet, I fear we are losing something too.

I'll sit here now and then and be struck by amazing ideas.  Some of them could change the world.  Back in the day, with such an idea, you had a better chance, it seems, of being able to do something about it.  You didn't need to mobilize dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people to get it off the ground.  You could do it yourself.  But science and scientific research is changing.  There will be no DaVinci's or Wright brothers of the future.  Arguably there never were, but for chance.  A hundred thousand people try flight and two succeed.  Whereas today you have a hundred thousand working for the space program worldwide, and they all might eventually succeed at something.  Or they could fail.

There has to be something so simple, so intrinsically plain left that someone can create.  Imagine though, that the billions of minds that thought before you missed it.  You could be the only one to ever have had this idea and decided it was merit-worthy.  After billions of tries already, humankind still hasn't found something so simple?  No wonder we are seeing the death of backyard invention.  Is there that few simple ideas left to invent?