Creativity, invention, innovation, progress, and change are all coming in the technology of energy and fuels. We have all just been through a massive change in electronic developments that has computers in essentially every home and in many autos, as fixtures at work, and new TVs next year whether you’re ready or not. The concentration of inspiration and intelligence into creation, invention and innovation are done by a very small number of people in a whole civilization. The rest of us might be tougher than the research and developments that make the changes possible.

So to paraphrase David Letterman, here is my “Top 10 Toughest Challenges” that will be faced when any of the innovations get traction outside of development and into mainstream potential. Conquering these matters is fundamental to technological survival and world change.

  1. Patents have been mutated by clever lawyers and low character judges with a big assist from the Patent Office into something not quite what one thinks. While still important, they’ve become means to bleed new holders to death by large, well funded organizations to stifle inventions. While the intent of the law is plain to see, the Patent Offices worldwide has allowed so much through to patents with dubious or fanciful claims that the inventor’s hopes to succeed against the existing market powers can be a financial risk. The lawmakers worldwide have a lot of cleaning up to do, and the courts need a dose of character building.
  1. Most inventions fly into markets that have existing shares held by industries that have a strong interest not to have their cake taken away by some new upstart. Usually just making minor improvements, and hoping to just go on as before making money, disruptions are for them disasters to be killed off as early as possible.
  1. Beyond just patents lawmakers have a tendency to answer special interest’s calls for laws that will stop progress. Often hidden in claims about effects or dislocations or anything from job losses to environmental damage or market dislocation and antimonopoly allegations the endless stream of proposed and sometimes passed laws do incredible damage and increase costs and prices.
  1. The disruptive effects from innovations also affect how business is done. Most businesses have a model of practices that they follow to get all the work done so the customer gets the goods and the business earns the money. New technologies add to the value in the customer’s choice and take the value away in the business’ bank accounts. Naturally, those businesses that are or think they could be at risk will leave no tool unused to survive even to destroying the innovation in the mind of the customer.
  1. Special Interests are small minorities with passion and money to make themselves heard all out of proportion to their importance. Now I firmly understand the critical importance of free speech, but organized speech needs due and strongly diligent inspection before publicity is granted. Today that doesn’t happen and the mainstream press, the political community, the courts and government administrations do an ever poorer job of protecting minorities and instead have become tools to harm the majority in doing special interest’s bidding. Things are a massive mess.
  1. Capital, well money actually, is really people making choices. While thinking about capital, most folks lose their character to, well, MORE money. Add to that the idea that risk is bad from, “don’t frighten the investors” because the stock could go down. These two native and normal human attributes put risk all out of proportion to risk’s payoffs. Like investing in risky research, innovation, development and new markets. R&D budgets are an embarrassment both in industry and in government.
  1. Risk also leads to stasis. New and unfamiliar, testing, trials and courage can get a person fired. But history is packed with examples of dead industries that stayed with the old technology while the brave and innovative took their chances and made the risks work – better than the old ways.
  1. Customers are people too. They will be just as obtuse when denied a change as when change comes to soon or to fast or to big. Businesses are filled with good people who will try to break change out into easily digestible bites. But the price of going slow, metering out changes in little bits wastes enormous human and financial capital.
  1. Education is broken. The old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” surely can mean that if it is broke it should be fixed. In most every industry, the refrain of the lack of trained or qualified people is a leading problem. But to lay it off on the education system alone is shortsighted and shifts the basic blame. It starts at home, by admiring the jobs that pay big money instead of admiring making a worthy difference in the world. I think Robert Heinline said something to the effect that to be fully human one had to master mathematics. I agree, the keys to any worthwhile field has a base need for mathematics, and the most valuable people are not actors or TV personalities but are in the fields of engineering from micro biology to space travel.
  1. Misery and suffering are motivators. I have no wish to see others in misery or to see anyone suffer. But the point needs made that those emotional stresses from lack of fulfilled needs, unsolved problems, or challenges not met, are drivers of change. I think I mean that well developed civilized people might give some thought to the notion that one’s life might be better, changes more acceptable when we realize that many changes can bring better lives to many more people. Perhaps we are somehow predestined to resist change, but I can’t lay that on everyone. It’s a choice. We can choose to pursue change or resist it. It may be that pursuing change may be in the end, a longer more satisfying life – over one hunkered down fightin’ a losin’ battle to keep things the way they are.

All ten are not about energy and fuel. But to get to the payoffs in new energy and fuel we will have to in some small proportion of everyone be willing to look forward to innovation and encourage everyone else not to dread, but to look forward to the future. All ten are about human foibles that we individually can master. As a civilization our misery will be inversely proportional to our ability to share a willingness to change.

The coming months and years will bring massive opportunity for changes in energy, fuels, healthcare, longevity, electronics, and a wide range of things in life, as we know it. They will evolve in ways large and small, but people en mass will choose, and the changes that come in a big way will be good. Just beware the politician that tells you he/she has the change for you. Change is truly better left to the minds of the millions than the hands of a few. Keep that in mind as you invest, work and buy.


1 Comment so far

  1. how to patent an invention for free on May 25, 2008 8:22 AM

    […] in electronic developments that has computers in essentially every home and in many autos, as fix…Protect your invention idea by taking notes right away Akron Beacon Journal I f you have an […]

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