I was watching a show on NPR this weekend where they had a little spotlight on Dean Kamen, the creator of the Segway. The segment showed him at work in his own little workshop tinkering with different projects. Of course the workshop that he has in his house is a little different than what anyone else might have. But the view of his workshop as well as a bit about his work with kids, developing programs to get them interested in science and engineering, got me thinking. I really liked his take on the world, that our society had taken the ingenuity out of the average person. The average person is to happy to just sit back and have things fed to them.
All too often we focus too much on consuming. Taking in what corporations produce, paying for goods and media. With the rise of service industries the average person doesn’t really produce anything for themselves anymore. Not that I’m advocating that we should go back making everything for ourselves from scratch but tinkering in an area that you find interesting and trying to make something better has a lot of benefits.
Far too many people don’t have the confidence in themselves that they could make something that someone else would want. There’s a whole lot of satisfaction to be had in having other people enjoy something that you’ve made. People are also afraid to start a project because they won’t be able to complete it. I think this attitude in particular holds a lot of poeple back from doing really interesting work. It’s not often that a product is created exactly as it was invisioned. There is usually a whole lot of tweaks and changes that need to occur before you get to a successful finish. The biggest obstacle to this whole problem is just starting.
Dean Kamen’s programs aim to combat these attitudes. To get kids doing things for themselves and finding that sometimes they can do it better.