‘Everything that can be invented, has been invented’

You’ve probably never heard of Charles Holland Duell.

He was the commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and died in 1920.

So, unless you’re mega old or mega interested in patents, there’s no reason why you’d know him.

But, here’s his most famous quote – which was allegedly uttered in 1899:

“Everything that can be invented, has been invented”

(Historians and the like have made several attempts to prove that he didn’t actually say this – for the sake of the post, let’s say he did).

Now, as I look around a world where AI and robots are becoming part of every day life, I can’t help but wonder…where will we go next? Where will it end?

And, most importantly, are we happier?

But those are questions for another blog.

What is clear is that, as creatives, we need to make sure that we’re not like Duell – we can never stop thinking about the future and the next step.

Imagination drives innovation, so don’t kerb it. Everything that can be invented hasn’t been invented yet.

Did you hear the one about the internet and the spade?

The internet. It seems like such an all-powerful thing doesn’t it? A 24/7 access to everything around us, available at the touch of a fingertip.

A way to socialise, to work, to sell and to find information. A digital land of happiness, cat memes and dark, evil corners.

When I think of the internet, the first image that comes to mind is a giant cyber brain. That’s constantly pulsating and growing. Growing bigger and bigger by the day.

It’s a complicated thing. Few of us really understand it, and even though we take it as part of our day-to-day it’s still an awe-inspiring thing.

Let me take you now to the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi. A place of cobblestones and art Noveau buildings, among many other things.

One day, not so long ago, a 75 year old woman was out digging for scrap metal. She was just on the outskirts of the city and had been working really hard that day – the more scrap she got, the more money she’d head home with.

tibilisi

As she was digging her spade accidentally ripped through a cable. Naturally this worried her, but after a quick look around all seemed okay and there was no one around to notice. So she continued her day’s work, set the memory of the cable aside and as dusk fell across the city she headed home.

Meanwhile, web-users in neighbouring Armenia were having a tough day. No matter how hard they tried they just couldn’t get online. It took five hours for them to realise that something had gone wrong in Georgia, the country that provided 95% of their internet.

You’ve probably guessed what happened.

The cable that the old lady had damaged was a fibre-optic one that provided Armenia with their internet.

Sure they fixed it soon enough, once they’d realised.

But, it just goes to show that even though the cyber world around us is so advanced and complex, it isn’t invincible.

Something as simple as the spade can conquer the internet.

It’s the same with life. As intense and complicated as it may well be, we need to make time for the simple things and look out for the simple problems – as they could very soon evolve into much bigger problems.

Creative Jobs

It’s hard to look for anything inspirational without coming across a Steve Jobs quote or story.

Love him, hate him. Love Apple, hate Apple.

The guy knew how to connect creativity with the masses.

I really agree with the quote below. So many times a creative line or idea has come to me, and seemed so obvious to me and yet so unthinkable for everyone else.

Do you get that too?

Judging books by their covers?

I liked this TED talk, so I thought you might want to see it.

The guy’s called Chipp Kidd and he designs book front covers for a living.

How’s about that for a profession?

I wonder how many times he’s heard the old ‘can’t judge a book by its cover’ line?

Anyway, while I mostly talk about writing I like to learn about design too. And, this raises some interesting points about first impressions.

P.S TED stays for technology, entertainment and design. Who knew it?!

A dinner party for strangers…

You’ve been asked to help your friend host a dinner party. You’re a decent cook and you know your way around a wine-food pairing scale, so you should have no problems.

The catch is…you don’t know any of the guests – they’re all your friend’s friends. Of course that’ll create a few general social hurdles for you to scale when the night comes, such as initiating conversation with strangers (!!) – but, the main obstacle is having to cook and prepare a night of entertainment for some people you know nothing about.

So what do you do? I mean, yeah you can create an all-rounder menu that you hope everyone will like – but then, particularly in this day & age, diets are so widespread that you could majorly miss the mark. And hell hath no embarrassment as embarrassingly embarrassing as mild social embarrassment, right?

Imagine the social ramifications – a collection of eyeballs bulging out as you dare to serve brie to a vegan! Or, on a somewhat darker note, the chance that the cake you prepared might trigger off a nut allergy – meaning a change of location from your living room to A & E.

And, believe me, the options in A & E vending machines aren’t gourmet. Even if you put a cocktail stick through them.

How would you resolve this predicament? It’s simple really. You’d investigate. You’d ask your friend and perhaps use social media to check their friends’ Instagrams – as, let’s face it, if a meal is munched without being uploaded to Instagram, was it even consumed at all?

But the point I’m driving at is that you’d research. You’d get an idea of who you were cooking for, and you’d make up your night accordingly. Creating a menu to accommodate everyone – a peppering of personal flair here and there.

My question is – why wouldn’t you do that for your writing?

Whether it be a blog post, a sales letter, social content, a novel, etc – you need to have an idea of who you’re writing for and what they’d like.

Next time you sit down to write something, take a little time to do some research about the kind of person you’ll be writing for.

Those reading a ‘young adult’ novel aren’t going to want to read a breakaway chapter about Thatcher’s Britain, while senior citizens aren’t going to respond very well to a meme about how annoying it is when your mum disturbs your FIFA game by calling you to dinner.

Personalisation is the key to connecting with your audience, and if you’re not interested in finding out about them you’ll struggle to engage them.