Wednesday, August 24, 2022
Discovery is not invention, and invention is not discovery.
When we discover something new – the scientist in the lab, the physicist in their head, or a child turning over a rock to find living things moving around and shoots of things growing – there is amazement, thrill and advancement of knowledge for the discoverer, but we are discovering something for ‘our first time,’ and, in those rare moments of science, ‘discovering something for the first time’ – the creation of new knowledge that might change the world. For the child, they’ve discovered something that’s not new – but it’s new for them, and like so many other things they’ll discover in life, it changes their world.
Or, sometimes, it changes everyone’s world.
Invention, on the other hand, is taking something that’s already been discovered and then using that knowledge in previously untried ways to develop new products or processes.
Everything we scan today with our phones or at retail stores, every document or package shipment en route to a destination, whether barcodes or any other language or data and the fibre-optic cables and countless technologies are all direct results of the first laser built in 1960.
Someone discovered/developed how to make glass cables/fibre-optic, microchips, connectivity and internet protocols – connecting people and organizations everywhere in real-time by phone, computer, or wristwatch – and the world changed.
Could any of those pioneers creating things, and discovering things, have predicted the impact of their discoveries?
Just as Einstein came up with brilliant theories about energy and matter, he wasn’t trying to invent nuclear weapons – something he much regretted, but that came as a horrific byproduct of such extraordinary discoveries that allow us to harness the atom and its parts …
And Tim Berners-Lee never imagined cyber-stalking, cryptocurrencies, social media, porn sites, phone apps, fake news, alternative facts, spoofing, identity theft, streaming services, or cyberbullying as a consequence of his work.
Everything we do, whether never-before discovery or invention or doing the same old things in slightly different ways, has the power to change how people live, work, communicate, behave and organize lives.
Nobody knows the consequence – for good or evil – and nobody can predict what will happen by accidental discovery. The X-ray , penicillin , Viagra , plastic , the Microwave , gunpowder , cornflakes , Teflon , the pacemaker , saccharin , and radio astronomy – had their birth in accidental discovery when somebody was trying to do something else …
More relevant, perhaps, to most of us are the accidental discoveries we make about people and situations – because people reveal things we need and want to know. They often do it in subtle ways we won’t know if we aren’t paying attention. Whether it’s a friend doing a big reveal, a colleague, a customer, or a competitor, we’ll learn much more when we focus on listening to them, watching them and observing their disguised tells and their deliberate revelations.
Loved this one, too, Mark!! You are on a ‘roll’ of goodness and wisdom!, SF, Lethbridge, AB