I frequently hear comments such as “Oh, ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s only the moneymaking application that counts.” All we need, it seems, is a surefire way to screen out any dud ones quickly and we can generate advances with almost no mis-hits.
I’m an avid admirer of those who develop and deliver great products, but only a tiny fraction of inventions is even distantly capable of being profitably deployed -just look in any patent database. Does that mean that the vast majority of invention is hardly worth doing? (We used, by the way, to expect this curiosity-driven discovery from Universities, but then we started hiring people for conformity rather than creativity).
Well the point is that, sadly, there is no algorithm for producing insights that are guaranteed to make a buck -or even work. We simply need to have lots of ideas and try out a large subset of those, before we start any serious cherrypicking. This undertaking can’t be reliably short-circuited and it therefore isn’t usually a cheap process.
Just having the the simplest of ideas always costs somebody, however. It takes a huge amount of effort (and surplus resource) to educate someone to a position where they have the experience (and spare time) to think up anything genuinely new.
All ideas cost, even if they aren’t, individually, of any value.
This doesn’t of course mean that you can’t give ideas away. Here’s a scheme which allows people to do so after they have died. I say, why wait?