Reflections on a saying I was raised with: "There is no limit to the good you can do if you don't worry about who gets the credit." When you consider that "ideas" actually come from the divine, and that it takes a lot of people and talents to bring an idea to market, it's easier to maintain the needed humility.
Yesterday I received an email from a 14 year old student with high ambition to attend MIT and perfect an all-magnet motor power system that could revolutionize the energy industry, to show his dad and the world the this really does work. He was wondering if he should open source it, or if he should get a patent and take it to market through the traditional path. "I know that if power companies were to use this technology on a large scale, I could receive much fame and revenue."
As I began composing a reply to him, it occurred to me that what I was telling him is something that our PESN audience would benefit from in general.
My dad raised me with the following maxim that he heard repeatedly from his colleague, McKay Allred, who was also the Stake Patriarch in our local LDS community: "There is no limit to the good you can do if you don't worry about who gets the credit."
Both of them worked for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), formerly the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), and both have personified the humility and accomplishments that statement describes.
Like my dad, McKay Allred, was very successful, full of clever ideas, and contributed significantly, both in his work in the LDS Church as well as in his work at NBS. At one point he served as Division Chief in a department that was involved in antennas, electromagnetic systems metrology, capacitive inductance, precision electromagnetic measurements, impedance, and resistance.
Without having a Ph.D. himself, my dad has traveled the world extensively talking to audiences of Ph.D.s about the "Allan Variance", and idea he received while on his knees in prayer during a three-day fast asking the question if he should accept a calling to serve as a bishop for a local Mormon ward, a volunteer calling with time demands that would prevent him from pursuing a Ph.D. on the schedule he had lined up for himself. The Allan Variance is at the heart of international ultra-precise time-keeping, a major application being the global positioning system (GPS). A search on Google for "Allan Variance" returns 203,000 results, the first being a Wikipedia entry. To accompany this article I've written today, my dad compiled an account titled: Inspiration for Allan Variance, giving the history behind it, and that he ultimately credits the Lord for the discovery, which was the basis for him receiving the "Time Lord" award last Fall.
He's also come up with a Unified Field Theory that has some very compelling points. Last Sunday, I posted a feature article on the solar home my parents built 20 years ago, which integrates ten different solar gain principles.
Admonishment in My Patriarchal Blessing
In the patriarchal blessing McKay Allred gave me when I was about 16, which in the Mormon world is akin to a personal guidestone from God for life, he admonished me:
"Sterling, [the Lord] is looking at you specifically to carry certain loads, to perform certain duties that he will show you as you prepare yourself and as you live worthy that he might use you in carrying on his work here upon the face of the earth.... The development of yourself, your abilities, and your understandings, will be beyond your greatest understanding at this time.
"You are blessed with a good intellect and understanding, and the Lord desires you to cultivate this. Learn all that which is good, noble, and true, pertaining to all aspects of life. But, he also cautions you to be humble, to use your knowledge to serve and help your fellowmen, and to bless your fellowmen without thought of receiving honors of me. Be willing to help others achieve and let them receive credit and honor. If you do this, you will help many grow and develop, and you will be loved and understood....
"Again, be humble. Be considerate of others, seeking to help others achieve and accomplish. Be less concerned about the praise and plaudits of your fellowmen, but always be willing to do that which is right."
Credit Belongs To...
I personally believe in giving credit where credit is due, but I also am a firm believer in a higher power, in angelic beings who guide our paths and help us accomplish our foreordained missions in life, which we helped engineer before we were born. So on that level, there really isn't such a thing as "my idea", because "ideas" come from the higher power, which taps into the God essence of humanity and the oneness of all things. If anything, the very notion of "my idea" is inaccurate and egotistical, actually hampering the flow of inspiration because of not acknowledging the divine source.
My reason for tracking who does what stems from the principle of "there's more where that came from." That's why through all these years I have always put my name on my articles, with a link to my profile. It's not ego. Every inventor I've met has far more than just one idea cooking around in their head. When you find something great, it's a good idea to keep track of the person or group responsible for bringing it forward, because they are likely to bring forth other great things as well along those lines.
Takes a Village / Body of Christ
It takes a lot more than just a person with a good idea to bring something to market where it can enhance the lives of many people. By the time it goes that far, there will have been a large number of people and talents brought to bear. Each of those talents is required, and each is a gift of God, with foreordained purpose and calling. Each role is orchestrated from the divine quorums that watch over us and help us along, whether or not we acknowledge them, though acknowledging them usually results in increased productivity.
So inventors who want their name emblazoned on the finished product forget that actually a whole bunch of names ought to be emblazoned on the finished product, if credit were rightfully given.
There will be financiers, businessmen, business plan writers, accountants, attorneys, manufacturers, marketers, news writers, stress testers, certifiers, beta testers, early adopter customers, distributors, shippers, warehouse operators. And all of them use computers, with all that is involved in supporting those; and they use electricity, eat food, and use bathrooms that rely on local utility providers, not to mention the toilet paper and warm water that makes life a little more comfortable. And there are the entertainers who give us a break from the stress of our work. Really, we're all interwoven. We're all in this together. Who is to say one is deserving of all the credit when so many played a role?
Yes, some play a more direct role than others, and just a few individuals will be involved in orchestrating a project from beginning to end; but along the way, the number of people involved, ultimately, tallies up to . . . EVERYONE. Even the aborigine weaving a basket in Belize somehow ties into the project.
You've heard it said that everyone on the planet knows everyone else via connections through no more than seven people. I know Fred, who knows Gene, who knows Sally, who knows Horishi, who knows Lin Liu, who knows Wan Lee. So it is with the support structure of society. We're all interconnected in more ways than we usually acknowledge.
Should You Open Source?
So what do you think I'm going to say regarding the question of whether you should open source?
It really depends on how well the technology fits the key criteria for a successful open source energy project:
- Easy to understand.
- Easy (including inexpensive) to procure the parts needed.
- Provides significant power output, to make the cost per watt produced cheaper than grid power.
- Unencumbered intellectual property (free to share the idea without violating a patent, copyright, trade secret, etc).
As for making money with your idea (and there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a career out of your inventive ability), remember that open sourcing does not mean that you just give the idea away and get nothing for it. You can even put a copyright on it or file for a patent on it, and then open source it, which gives you leverage in requesting that any commercial applications remit a royalty. But I will argue that if your technology fits the above criteria, and you do the right thing by sharing the idea with the planet, that there will be enough people who will do the right thing back and share a royalty with you, so you can live comfortably and have capital to build that laboratory you've been wanting to build to be able to experiment and test to your heart's content. So the legal coverage of patents might be an unnecessary expense.
Chances are, as you do a thorough patent due diligence search, you're going to find that you weren't the first one to come up with the idea.
Ideas Downloaded in Multiples
My observation is that key ideas are downloaded from the angelic hosts in multiples, increasing the probability that at least one person will take it the distance. The sperm and egg analogy is quite fitting here. Though just one sperm penetrates the egg, immediately changing the cell structure to prohibit additional penetrations; it actually takes hundreds if not thousands of sperm to break down the barrier around the egg to get to the point that penetration is possible. So also, it takes many people with the same or similar idea, pushing the idea forward, thinking about it, testing various alterations, discussing the possibilities and theory, brainstorming what will and will not work, trying crazy things to find a version that you would have never thought would work; then finally, someone comes up with a great combination that will work great in the marketplace; but even then, someone else is coming up with ideas that will even improve on that one.
So why are we so obsessed with one inventor wanting to get all the credit for taking an invention to market? I guess to use the sperm and egg analogy, while many hundreds or thousands of sperm were required to break down the barrier for the one successful sperm, the fetus that emerges as a result will have the genetics of the one sperm that made it in. I can't help but think that the angels have a strong influence in guiding just the right sperm to create the body that will best suit the foreordained purposes of the person that will incarnate into that body. So also, I suppose it's likely that the inventor who finally gets the ideal combination and is successful in being first to market with a particular genre of a new clean energy technology, will have some serious angelic guidance in that process, and the industry that emerges from that birthing will bear that inventor's genetics, so to speak.
Indeed, whoever is first to market deserves kudos, but we should realize how many others were involved, not just in helping that one technology, but in helping spawn the idea to the point of maturity that one person was able to embody it in just the right way.
Just some thoughts to bear in mind.
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This story is published at PESN.
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