26 November 2008

Portrait of a Male Mind

The male mind is oriented outward, toward problems in the larger world. Other than perhaps Ray Kurzweil, there is no more prominent example of the problem-solving nature of the male mind than inventor Dean Kamen. Esquire presents an engaging portrait of the inventor and what his male mind is focusing on currently.
... there's nothing so soothing as cutting a piece of steel when it's late and you can't sleep because you're trying to work out some problem in your head. Because machines are more than machines, they're a road map to the people who built them. They tell you what kind of problems they had and what they wanted. Just as Kamen's inventions are his own autobiography in steel -- every one designed to cheat gravity, to declare independence, to make every man the king of his own empire.

He leads the way to the cupola at the top and watches the sunset, chattering happily. This is why he never got married or had children. He loves being away from everywhere, completely alone. He can watch planes land at the airport. He can watch the weather change. And it doesn't bother him that he usually comes home at nine or ten and drops into bed exhausted. It's like the private island he rarely visits, the girlfriend he rarely sees, the vacations he never takes. It's the idea that counts. Just knowing he has it is enough. Anyway, what should he stop doing? FIRST? Water? Power? Medical equipment? "I can't stop," he says. "As a practical matter, I can't put the world on hold."

He really can't. There's just too much he wants to do. When he proved that FIRST worked, he was sure it would be in every school in the country the next year. Same with the Segway. It's 100 percent more efficient than cars, those metal boxes designed for the open road when 50 percent of the people alive live in cities. It's just stupid. It's lunacy. And someday, the Slingshot will go into production, too. And one of the kids from FIRST will win the Nobel prize or cure cancer. But it takes time for an innovation to become a commodity. Because the Wright brothers flew a plane and it was a long time before frequent-flier miles. You have to be patient, give the world time to catch up.

For fun, he's starting to dream about something that flies. A new form of personal transportation. It will be, he says, Dumplonian. It will empower the individual.

Some kind of helicopter?

"Not a helicopter," he says, staring intently at the helicopter. "I've got a couple of ideas." He smiles, turning inward for a moment, lost in the vision of a new machine. _Esquire
When thinking about such inventor-spirits, only a few names come to mind after one remembers Edison, Bell, Marconi, Tesla, Carver, Burbank, Turing, von Neumann. But there are many lesser known inventors, and some destined to become legends. Besides Kamen and Kurzweil, there are Lonnie Johnson, John Kanzius, and a host of others in America alone.

Almost all of them are men. There have also been women inventors, since a woman's mind is as clever as a man's on average. Temple Grandin is an example, although being an autistic may place her mind closer to the male mode of thought. But historically, the female mind has focused upon issues close at hand, of more immediate practical or esthetic use. The male mind will typically cast farther afield for ideas, connections, and implications--and into the more distant past and future.

So even now, in a time when feminists have sacked the university and made the public sphere virtually uninhabitable in many ways for men who are themselves, or who dare to speak their minds--now is as good a time as any to celebrate the world transforming potential of the male mind.

H/T Kurzweilai.net

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Blogger Will Brown said...

I confess surprise that you overlooked Hedy Lamarr. Sadly, most of her co-inventors spend too little of their time standing still and looking stupid, but her talent in that regard shouldn't overshadow her inventive contributions, I'm sure you'll agree.


Wednesday, 26 November, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

She was "a Hedy her time", no doubt about it, Will.

The list of female inventors at your site is quite short.

Humans need their inventors, and almost all inventors are males. That is not a politically correct fact.

Hence it could not possibly be true. Wipe it from your memory.

Thursday, 27 November, 2008  

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