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Anatomy of Next: New World with Mike Solana
...earth.MikeSalona Mars is a cold inhospitable planet far from earth. It represents one of the most complex challenges faced by engineers....
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In Conversation #8 - Eureka deconstructed
...aMikeSalona The court to the idea of building a new world is invention. Technology. We have to create things that have never existed before. How do you do that? How do you make something new? It was just a rapid fire builders, build bad problem solve this and that weekend week out for fourteen years, Jamie Hyneman his best known for his work on Mythbusters, which hosted for fourteen and a half years. Prior to that, he ran a special effect shop in San Francisco for decades, inventing work on over eight hundred commercials and dozens of feature films. Mostly he's made a career of building new things today. He's using his shop as his own quote, personal playground you experiments and projects for civilians as well as the military and just kinda comes up with deals that are needed. Then he builds he and I talked about the nature of inspiration and how it relates to invention. What is the fabled urea. That moment of inventors scientists and how do you nurture your mind in such a way to kind of prime yourself to have these Eureka moments all the time. We talked about incremental as inverse planning and the relationship between the two. But we started with the firefighting robot. There are a lot of reasons I wanted to talk to you, but I think the thing that has been most exciting to me I've been most looking forward to is talking about or through this question of invention and the inventor. A lot of what we've been looking at this season of anatomy of next seems I think to the average listener, sort of like magic requires a lot of people making new things. They're even some people who don't believe new things can be built. They believe everything is repurpose something else. And I think back to my own childhood reading comic books, watching movies, love super heroes. And in fact, one of the ways you could get your powers was by being an inventor, and it was treated in the same sort of magical way that being a mutant or being hit with. Kind of cosmic rays was. It was all just like magic. I want to spill that. I wanna myth bust that idea of the inventor. Let's start with your firefighting robot. So you get this idea where did this impulse come from? And then now you have to build it. What, what? How do you go about how to go about building firefighting robot? Well, the inception of the idea was that I had noticed from a commercial that I had done that required me to make seven vending machine into a robot that had tracks on it. Like what a tank has after the commercial as usually do. I kept all the parts and had things to salvage to put to other purposes, and I was looking at these tracks. I realized that these are awfully broad, you know, that's kind of the way they work. They have this wide footprint which translates to a low pressure on the ground, low PSI distributed over that wide track meant that it can stay on top of things like sand or mud and things that normal. Heels would sink into. I started to think about that, and I had seen some images on the news of these fires in California that are on a grass hilly field. And you see this leading edge of burning material where it's just kind of moving across the field in a line, kinda zigzagging line. And I realize, well, what if we had a vehicle that could use these tracks to roll over that burning line and sort of stamp it out? And maybe if we sprayed water on it at the same time, it would hold that water or the water vapor and steam down on the grass and penetrate the leaf litter and things like that. It could just move at faster than running speed along the leading edge of this fire into stamping out. I called the rolling wet blanket affect. I had that idea sitting there percolating in my head for like a decade. I started getting more serious about it. Eventually, I was thinking that, well, these things that we had on the vending machine while the idea was. Sound. They weren't really that big. So I said, let's make it bigger. Let's put something big enough to hold on what a fire truck can hold on around thousand gallons or so. I started researching it and eventually came up with this idea to use a repurpose military armored personnel carrier, which was about the right size to do that was all terrain. It had tracks. And this whole system basically runs water that we have sloshing around in the Bill of the Senate. This is effectively a robot with rainstorm inside and that. Yeah, it is. Whole thing is just crazy, doesn't exist. You know, it wasn't like, I'm going to build this thing and I go out and do it was a an incremental process where you have an idea kind of an inkling of an approach and you start to push on it. You start to pry a a little bit on that and apply leverage to the idea and incrementally bit by bit. You start to notice things and other things that you can apply. Leverage to as far as forming the concept. I wonder if that's really the thing that you just mentioned. It wasn't this moment in culturally. We. We have the story of Eureka. We think about it as it's like the apple falls on Newton's head. And suddenly this entire theory emerges from him like a FINA out of the skull of Zeus or something. We really think this for some reason. We believe that if the ideas just don't come and in the whole invention is done within a day, then you're not an inventor or something. Well, often I find it starts with a seed on the seed in this case, was that idea of this rolling wet blanket affect that? I described with these tracks. You observe things, you form questions you, you daydream and you go what? If and that's not a Eureka moment, but it might lead to another thing which leads to another thing and and so on with a lot of the projects that I take on and fact, I end up making progress and reaching some end game that I would never have been able to get to a single intuitive leap. That's the incremental process and and it's actually. Kind of an adventure for me. You know, I'll just hold something in my head and let it percolate for a long time and dream batted or play with the idea sometimes physical experimentation with the idea and so on actually is also a really helpful, but then maybe even a decade down the road through all of that playing in my head and incrementally coming up with additional ideas to enhance or evolve the original one I end up getting someplace that I never dreamed of that I would get to. I just just a fascinating experience. I wrote a book called citizen. It was a science fiction book, and people would ask me and it's pretty intensely conceived of world. And there's all this drama that happens. Where does this idea come from? It's like laxly. I was standing in union square on a corner, busy corner, and I imagined myself just leaping over the street and that was it has nothing to do with my plot today. It has nothing to do with the story. It was just weird thing that I started asking questions like that. I was like, oh. How did I do that? I wonder where did that come from? What about this? And then slowly the story blossomed, that's something I think more people have access to the idea of of telling a story. We tell stories all the time, we've dreams all the time. Maybe they're more similar than the creative piece of us is, is the same, whether we're inventing something or telling a story or. Oh, absolutely. I think there's a lot of all these things that go into coming up with an idea or story or any kind of an effort as it's all kind of a part of a soup. We actually volved from the primordial soup as using kind of me Belykh things that eventually all them to where we're at. And I think our brains still kind of work that way. It's not like stuff in our branches stacked up like boxes that are put on a pallet rack with a forklift and neat little rows, sort of a pile. You know, if you think of it as a pile of sand say, and you keep adding as you go through life or through your experiences or. Even just through your thoughts, you keep adding grains of sand to that pile. Eventually, it causes a 'cascade like an avalanche. That's the Eureka moment, or it may just be a seed that you'll add to the pile that will cause some other avalanche that eventually becomes the Eureka moment is kind of fascinating looking back over a very active and inventive life from being a boat captain and Caribbean, and growing up on a farm to doing linguistics and special effects. And so on. I found once I started having access to these effects shops, I found myself delighting and going from say, using sewing machine to So-someone to operating an excavator and moving some massive thing or welding something or using explosives. It started seem like the same stuff. It's all there in that pile. And I've gotten to the point where I do feel like some of these things are starting to pop out as just Eureka. Moments because I've got such a big pile in my head. If I'm, I'm at the same time, it was on eventually becoming senile is opposes. I presume that maybe the pile will collapse into a mud puddle or something like that. But what I find a regular experience now is that I'm making intuitive leaps in areas that I have no direct experience with at all. As a result of that foundation, I find what I'm going into some conversation or brainstorming session with specialist and his particular area that I can keep right up or even come up with some things that that person didn't think of because of this broad foundation. As a result of that, I become a real advocate for collecting everything and anything that you possibly can put in that pile because your brain will hold onto that and make connections for you that are not rational kind of methodical things. You can go incrementally through a process and you know, make great strides that way. But occasionally there these superpower leaps that you end up making. That you have no idea how you were able to do that. Inspiration will attend Spiratou, but it's built on this phone Dacian of stuff that was acquired. It's not like I'm sitting in a vacuum and crap just pops out of mid air, right? There's stuff in there that is causing this. You can build a kind of inspiration engine in your brain. I'm THAAD tried to do that when I go into a session with myself, if I'm inventing something or problem solving something, I'm generally on a treadmill because I find the mind and the body are really not as separate as we seem to feel there's some evidence, and I've been trying to encourage some of my colleagues in the universities to do controlled studies on this. There's not been much that has gone into whether idea Shen and thought processes are enhanced by physical activity. At the same time. I speculate that there's an evolutionary reason for it, which is that the way we evolved when did we need both physical. And mental hunting mating evading pray. That's when everything kicks into full gear. So I find it like turning on switch if I get my body going than my brain is right there with it. The same experience with my, I think my best creative thinking happens in when I'm walking in the cold, the colder weather, and even if it's raining, especially if it's miserable weather. Yes, something works something just clicks. Yeah, and for other people that'll be something else. There's some physical processes with that that you know hormones in oxygenation in the blood and who knows what. But as I said, these things don't exist in vacuum. You know, we live in a physical world deal with physical and abstract things. The way that I see are Brian's working when we're inventing or problem solving or something like that, is this sort of amoeba like or more like popcorn going off where you know things start bouncing around and making connections that you're not aware of. And that's when new things are. Rated whether they're seeds or or large ideas and the when I go into problem solving process, I'm trying to generate that environment where I even intentionally create a specific environment like a three d video game sort of environment that has textures and features and smells and sounds and everything I can put in there to create something for my brain to make attachment points on instead of, oh, I'm in limbo, you know, pop, there's the idea, doesn't work that way. I'm wondering if we can apply some of this stuff to there's a pre popular kind of ongoing debate and Silicon Valley in the technology industry. More broadly of luck. I planning. Can you iterating your way to success or do you have to plan something from the very beginning now, I think it's seems like almost certainly a little bit of both or some amount of both. I, it doesn't seem like any company is purely one or the other, but on the iteration side, what you were talking about makes me think that maybe the calculus or planning folks look at it ration-. As this hopelessly luck based worldview and it is that a lot of times it seems the problem is people don't know what seeds are worth working on that inspiration is the seat. If that's the luck part, it doesn't, like you said, come out of a vacuum. You have to, you have to build up a sense of which one of those random things is worth tinkering on, and then which one of those things is is worth working on for a long period of time. I agree with that. But another way to look at this that aren't fond of using is to think of this as a forensic investigation. Your job is go in and collect evidence and try to create this context environment that I I was talking about that's aimed in a particular direction. Just like a thing would you know? Okay. There's bullet hole in the wall, and you know there's a whole over here that means gun was from such and such angle or something like that. You are incrementally starting to build evidence. Some of it's gonna be useless. You're gonna have to sift through it to find out the ones that aren't used. Philis and run experiments, collect more evidence. This incremental assembly of evidence eventually starts to paint a picture of what happened there. If you're trying to idea it, taking that same sort of an approach where you're starting off with a relatively blank slate, you're trying to fill that slate with evidence that allows you to apply leverage on an idea and move you incrementally towards a conclusion which you know maybe a Eureka moment where all that evidence cascades at a certain point to give you an answer that a ha. This is what happened or this is what I need to do to make this idea actually work the looking at it like that. I think a lot of science, for example, it's not like on the scientist. I'm gonna do some science this as well. I have an idea or I have some kind of gold how Megan go about it. We'll just start collecting evidence. You don't need to have all the answers. You don't need to do anything other than take one step at a time. And the servant take notes be methodical and work your way through it a long time ago before I got into facts was a library student. I had got my degree in in Russian and was intending to become an in charge of Slavic election a university. You're at government libraries, something like that. And I decided to take a break and go to the Caribbean because I wanted to learn how to sail. I got voting magazines and found, you know what places in the world do a lot of charters. And so I made lists of those and just methodically went about finding out that the US Virgin Islands was they must appropriate place for me, and I went there no experience a couple of weeks after I got there though. I ended up with my own boat and six months later had my captain's license in my Dodd Nassar's rating, and this was all just being methodical. A lot of people young people in particular may hesitate about trying to take on some new direction or, you know, like, let's say. Building things 'cause I'm known for being billed all this stuff. Well, most of the people that I have apply for work, young people students or whatever. They read stuff in school and whatnot, and they had all this passive knowledge, but they didn't know which screwdriver to use as it were my answer to that gets into go into what I did. I started because I was reasonably handy, but I didn't have any experiences, machine tools or sculpting molding casting or anything like that. So I started off cleaning the shop. You know, I got my self a job as a an assistant at one of these effect shops in New York City. And I had reasoned that if I was the person that was clean south than putting things away, I had to kind of know what those things were and how they worked, what they were four. And that actually worked. I've sorted and organized and observe what people were doing and became good at doing all of those things simply by cleaning since then, I've never had any of these. Young people that wanted to come and work in my shop do that. Everybody looks at it as that's a dead end thing you're janitor or something like that. But no, that's being thoughtful person knows where everything is. Shop is person in power. Nobody anything or her that's just being, what am I gonna do? Have an experience get in this place. They're going to keep things clean, right? So do that. Soared with that. This being thoughtful working incrementally through something don't have any experience. You don't have a clear idea of. In something solve a problem, just need to start poking at it and and electing evidence. What's all this stuff start grabbing in sorting etan you'll know. From founders fund a Mike Salona, and this is a Nazi of next new...
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