Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Free Will & Ingenuity

I heard a very good quote on NPR the other day:

"True freedom, when given a choice between A and B, is to create C." - Robert Gruden

The quote was given by atmospheric scientist Carl Hodges of the Seawater Foundation. Hodges wants to sink rising seawater through recharge of defunct aquifers and also create biofuel from Salicornia bigelovii, a crop that can be saltwater farmed. The interview with Hodges was on APM's Marketplace. You can listen to the interview here: http://waterfortheages.wordpress.com. Hodges ideas are both revolutionary, and, by his own admission, exceedingly simply. However, it was not Hodges's ideas, specifically, that I found so intriguing. Rather, it was the idea that we always have a choice. And not just a choice between the options before, but a choice to do something different. 

This same idea was presented to me once as the basic difference between humans and all other animals. Animals, when cornered, have a choice between fight or flight. Humans, when cornered, have the ability to choose a third option, an option not available to other animals, and that is that we can choose to reason. Sometimes, unfortunately, I think we forget this. Just as we forget that we can always create a choice for ourselves, not just when we are cornered or under pressure. The famous quote "necessity is the mother of invention" of course is a great truth, but it often seems that necessity is the only mother of invention. Sometimes, as was the case with the iPod, you didn't actually know you needed something until it was invented. So in that case, invention was the mother of necessity. 

And, of course, there are the mixed relations. I read an article that said as many lives are taken by drivers talking on cell phones as are saved by motorists having cell phones. So, in that case, are cell phones a solution or a problem? I guess they are both.

But really, the quote struck me because of its simplicity and eloquence. As someone who fancies himself an innovator, I found the idea that there is always another solution to every problem. You can always build a better mousetrap.

1 comment:

alejandro said...

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