Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ideas on ideas

A non-simulated photo of my brain thinking up this article
What's the easiest thing to steal? You might think first a pack of gum. Continue to think, maybe a pen from work. Or go step further, a paperclip. Eventually you make your way down to an idea. Ideas are almost Bluetooth'd brain-to-brain. There's an idea for something which will inevitably exist. If you yawn, often you'll notice people begin to yawn around you. People also pick up on and copy ticks. Ideas are contagious, especially if they're clever or good. (A distinction was necessary, as intelligence and morality have no innate correlation.) No matter how big or small, if they are heard out loud, actionable, or written down, their spread is inevitable. Let's try one.

Most work is a recurring nightmare you must learn to wake from.

There's truth in it: it's repetitious, it induces dread in thinking persons, and it's vaguely funny. The only way my catchy phrase doesn't take off is if it exists already. That idea wasn't stolen, if it is, it's parallel thinking. Parallel thinking likely comes from our vast society of open and stolen secrets and ideas. Sometimes we get hit with a plethora of new ideas in a new movie, some piece of art, some political figure shares his ideas or opinions, sometimes a meme is made. Ideas are the basis of that which shapes societies. That's not provably true, it's an idea. But you can intuit the basic logic behind it. "I think, therefore I am." Anything else requires speculation and contemplation, or thinking, which is the one and only prerequisite for an idea. Societies are shaped by communities which are shaped by shared values. And what are values? A set of principles on how people and conflicts should be considered and governed. These are basic ideas about ideas.

I bring this up because there is this bothersome idea that ideas are precious or worthless. I've heard most people take their good ideas and inventions to the grave. Why? Perhaps they fear their ideas will be stolen, or worse, are not worth sharing to begin with. People try to pretend around this. But even the greatest minds it seems their greatness revolved around a few revolutionary thoughts. Isaac Newton had an idea about gravity. Einstein had an idea about the speed of light. Camus had an idea around suffering. All ideas in their essence are public domain, especially the remarkable ones, being so intuitive they're impossible to forget.

How many people's lives have been saved by good ideas? We'll never know, because a lot of those good ideas were thought of and implemented before anything bad could happen. How do you gauge who deserves the merit? Who is our greatest mind: Isaac Newton, or his mom, or the first caveman to utter some sort of communication that began language? You can't have calculus without numbers. Three grunts means there's three apples over here. That's how language started, a distant relative of Tim Allen's character on Home Improvement spoke in his native tongue to convey an idea. Perhaps he thought, "If the apple is falling, is the moon also falling?" but he didn't have the grunts to express it like Newton and received none of the credit.

It's difficult if not impossible to quantify merit and creativity. Sure, you can get a sense for it. Some people it's clear drip with creativity. Some people are so conscientious and concise they are engineers, creating value systems and rules, lubricating the gears for creative thoughts and behaviors. Is it any less or any different of a kind of creativity to engage in? Or are they different routes to the same goal? Does a score need to be taken, and would that be something of value? It's clear that order has social utility. It helps me convey this now which is little more than a series of grunts.

We see great competition in and for social status. If you're a bit inclined toward the shallow, you keep up with the Joneses, and you want a bigger house and a car that's a shinier red. If you're a little more informed, you might want to be known as the most charitable. Or if you're truly humble and God-like, you want to do good with indifference to acclaim, and only secretly hope someone finds out about your altruism. There is an order of competence. You trust people with a PhD because that's not easy thing to steal. You trust celebrities because you think you know them, or further, they're your friend. You trust family often, because they have given you a lot of the extraordinarily valuable asset that is time. You trust name brands because they're worth a billion dollars, and one scandal can cause them a lot of that money. Money might be the third greatest predictor of behavior after greed and fear. There's a reason so many problems can be solved under the adage follow the money. Money itself comes with respect, if you earned it, or if it gave you a good education, or if you have so much of it you can freely speak your mind.

It seems humankind is inching towards a meritocracy with every action. Something that combines the popular vote of a democratic system with success under capitalism, with social status, with moral rigor. Billions of lives want to have the best possible life they can have, which is a constant, unending pursuit. It manifest itself in different ways. The self-centered quality of social media. The polarization of opinions in an increasingly connected world where anyone can have a voice. Right now we are in a knives out stage of capitalism. The most common desirable destination among kids is to be famous. There's not a lot of morality and merit, and there is much meanspiritedness and oneupsmanship. Beneath those shallow waves there's hopefully a slower and more powerful undercurrent of people driven to do right.

And ideas shouldn't be neglected as worthless. No one pays for print like they used to. Information is cheap now, because ideas are the easiest they have ever been to spread. The good aspect is the cost of entry for anyone is quite low, and in a fair enough system, the chance for good ideas to succeed is high. We are in a slow burn singularity of sorts, a work in progress. The entire planet beta tests for a future that could be more grand than billions could imagine collectively, or it could end itself entirely.

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