On the Philosophy of Inventions

Many of us today will embark on a journey, returning from which we’ll never be the same. Some of us are here for the people, some of us for the challenge and some of us for the experience. But at the end of the day, we’re here to create and the point of this post is to present my views on the differing philosophies behind such a task. Though I use the word ‘philosophy’, I’ll try to be as crisp as possible.

1. Make what they want

This is the traditional way with which most development happens. Market survey, Mission Statement, Designing, Prototyping, Testing, Production and Launch. And ideally that’s what you want right? To fix the problems the blind face and aid doctors and patients as they require?

This is true to some extent, and is the backbone of mainstream development. But all this ever does, is patch the bugs in the world and not create radically new products. This is because their frame of reference makes them ask for incremental improvements rather than an absolute position that they’d want to be in.

Which takes me to the second type,

2. Make them want what you make

This is the philosophy that is most famously followed by Apple, and looks at everything from an absolute perspective. Here you make something that you feel should be the ideal way things should work and function.

Without this there wouldn’t be smartphones, or televisions, as these weren’t basic needs we asked for, but became basic needs when we knew what they’re capable of. So does this mean this is the best way? Well no, sometimes people really have problems, sometimes people need water supply to their house, sometimes people with myopia need glasses, and if everyone in the world was hell bent on creating new technologies, we’d have internet but it’d be faster to walk to a library, we’d have computers, but it’d be faster to use an abacus. We need new technologies, but we need to maintain and improve and fix them too.

But these were focused on the ideating stage, what about the developmental stage?

This too can be divided into similar lines, so I won’t go into much detail, and I’d bring into picture the probably fictional story of USA’s million dollar pen and Soviet’s pencil during the Space Race (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-nasa-spen/)

So while developing, and trying to build a pen for space, if you are hell bent on replacing it for what it is, it might not be the best thing to do. Case in point being, trying to replace the eyesight of the blind might be a far cry and there might be a better way out of it using other senses. This might even lead to spin-offs that might make the lives of people with all senses more immersive, add extra senses for all you know, and improve rescue missions or in low-light or turbid regions.

But just like how pencil leads would break and poke your eye in space, there is no replacing sight for exactly what it is. And just like Fisher developed pens for space, we too must, and I stress on the word must, re-establish their vision.

Same principle applies to diagnostics as well.

I’d like the people who are attending this event to read and think about this, and I hope it gives the reader some clarity on how they’d want to approach this event.

Also check out this talk given on the TED Stage by Chris Downey, a blind architect. (http://www.ted.com/talks/chris_downey_design_with_the_blind_in_mind)

Please leave your views in the comments below.


I’m Laksh Kumar from National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal and i’ll be reaching very early in the morning of the 12th, and would really appreciate some company! 😀


One thought on “On the Philosophy of Inventions

  1. Very well thought! Though I would say there’s one more category – People who make without any ‘want’ factor. Neither do they make it as per others wants nor do they expect others to want it.
    Just for the creative pursuit.
    But that’s a very small number we look at.

    Nice to hear of philosophy.
    Swadhin Thakkar – VJTI Mumbai.
    Team Aram – Sleep apnea.


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