Saturday, 14 February 2009

Thoughts about Ideas

I believed in ideas.

Yes, for a long time I believed in ideas. I looked at the world around me, saw all the man-made things and knew that each and every one of them was first conceived as an idea. Ideas of form and function, sometimes born together, sometimes one following another. I believed in ideas thinking, knowing that ideas have the power to shape the world.

But I made an error: I was wrong in thinking, believing that ideas have intrinsic value. This was followed by another error when I began to think that ideas could be owned. So as I believed that ideas were valuable by their own right I began to think that I must protect them, hide them from others lest they would be stolen and taken away from me. Somebody else might realise them without me if I wasn't careful.

For a long time I was a fool. In all honesty, chances are that I still am, but perhaps for a different reason now.

I'd like to think that I now have a better understanding of ideas, of what they really are about. Lately there have been times when I have been thinking that yes, ideas do have intrinsic value but that value is no more than a value of unfulfilled promises. Perhaps that is a cynical way of thinking about it, but to be cynical about something is to belittle it; so instead I choose to think that yes, ideas are valuable and yes, they are needed to shape and to change the world, but they have no intrinsic value nor can they be owned: To try to hide ideas is to try keep the world from changing and that just is not possible.

Perhaps ideas should be seen as roadsigns: they point out places to go and give directions, but beyond that they do very little to help us to actually get anywhere. In the end what really matters is how ideas are implemented and how the implementations are used afterwards. For example, it is one thing to have an idea about a text processing application, a movie or a sculpture but realising them would be altogether different matter and it is the end-result that counts.

For a long time I tried to protect my ideas by hiding them from others, but obviously it made no difference. I think there are plenty of examples in the history of inventions showing that the same or similar ideas can be discovered independantly by several individuals roughly about the same time. It is as if an idea seeks to manifest itself when the time is right and increasing number of people just keep coming up with similar ideas until one of them eventually has the right skills, resources, contacts, timing and most importantly, luck to realise it before somebody else does. So it matters not if I get an idea and choose not to tell about it to others, somebody else is bound to come up with the same idea (and most likely already has) on their own: many ideas are born from a need solve a problem and when many people face the same problems and as very few people has a truly unique way of thinking, is it any wonder when similarly thinking people facing the same problem, come up with resembling solutions?

So, what next? I guess I still believe in ideas and I do still feel protective when it comes to ideas, but that is just an old habit taking its time to die. Perhaps the next time I come up with an idea I'll write about it in here. Perhaps I should get one of my notebooks from my bookshelf and see if some of the entries are interesting enough to be shared here (and believe me, while we all like to think that we recognise a good idea when we get one, I suspect that the truth is that most of them are better off forgotten).

After all, what do I have to lose?