Good ideas aren’t a dime a dozen

I’ve learnt my lesson and won’t be disclosing my concrete ideas and algorithms because Academia and business will rip them off again. So you, non-“competitor”-reader, won’t be exposed to the nitty-gritty and instead get “evergreen” content – stuff that will remain relevant decades from now, if the world hasn’t been plunged into chaos by that time.

Last night I had an epiphany, related to how grammar and syntax relate to Set Theory as it applies to the concepts communicated and how to reason upon sets. Inductive, Deductive and Analogical reasoning. A good idea is also good when someone else had it before you. What counts is that YOU stumble upon it somehow, a Eureka-insight occurs and you act upon it, in the context of your particular problem.

“Idea are a dime a dozen, buddy. It’s the implementation that counts” is an appropriate putdown for a “business guy”, seeking to snare a naive programmer into implementing his questionable idea for the promise of future earnings. But that doesn’t mean all ideas are a dime a dozen. Only the bad ones. The good ones are worth a million, a billion or even a trillion dollars. In the past 15 years I had five separate ideas and executing upon them grossed over one million dollars each, already. I won’t disclose those, but recently I sold my gold and made a huge profit. The ideas of buying and selling it were correct and timely, regardless of their execution. The same with me buying the first major SARS2 dip in the Norwegian stock market and selling right after the peak of the partial recovery, when yet another crash started to occur. Whether of not I had acted upon these ideas was irrelevant – anyone else could have done so and make a bundle.

My point is that a valuable idea is valuable, regardless of whether its originator executes upon it. And the merits of an idea do not lie in its practical benefit for its originator, but in its objective properties.

E=MC² as it was promulgated by Einstein comes to mind as an idea that few could ever have but are actually worthless, since no money or practical use has ever been made with it, to my knowledge. GPS systems would have worked fine without knowing it – it’s a matter of trial & error, some tweaking and atomic clocks, which also are built without a need to know that formula. Also the launch vehicles for the satellites work fine without it.

As an aside: Einstein and current Physicists did not and do not understand what E=MC² truly describes. The scientist who understood it and managed to persuade a silent minority of colleagues was Menahem Simhony. His is an example of discovering the “use” of E=MC² by explaining how it relates to the cause of Mass Inertia, the Pauli Exclusion Principle and Electron shells etc. but it got ignored due to dogma, ego, greed, sloth, envy and stupidity. Ironically, Einstein’s idea could with some poetic license be classified as “a dime a dozen” but Simhony’s wasn’t.

But consider QuickSort. That’s already a more practical idea. What about the idea of the bicycle? The airplane? The electric motor/generator? The wheel? Not everyone could originate the idea of the wheel but many were capable of making them.

How should we define “breakthroughs” in an endeavor such as True AI R&D? Do we measure in practical milestones reached, or in theoretical insights gained? Theoretical insights can be argued about, whereas practical advances can be measured. But if the theoretical insight is correct, then it, not its implementation, is the major breakthrough, since not many people seem to know how to implement human-level AI but it is likely that thousands of programmers, when given the algorithms, will be able to implement them.

When you’re trying to build something important and novel, your ideas are much more important than their implementation. The idea will survive and thrive and multiply and evolve, whereas its implementation will wither away, as it gets succeeded by improved incarnations. Guard your ideas and provide fertile soil for them. Sow plenty of seeds and tend to them well.

Also: Try to fully understand and mature your ideas. Don’t get carried away and accept the first interpretation that comes to mind. Dig deeper, until you’ve examined all plausible explanations and implications. And what seems implausible to you may in fact be the Truth.

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