One of the tricks I use to motivate myself is to have at least one project going at all times with the potential to change the world. Realistically, the odds of one person changing the world are miniscule, but for some reason that doesn’t make the thought of it less motivating. People buy lottery tickets with near-zero odds of winning because the act of buying the ticket apparently triggers the production of some feel-good chemistry in the body. I use a similar technique, except that I think in terms of saving the planet because that sort of thought does a better job of hacking my body chemistry compared to buying lottery tickets.
I like to think that the bad ideas I describe in this blog might someday inspire one of you to come up with actual good ideas. That’s how ideas evolve; you start with bad ones then tweak them. If I may borrow and modify a quote from Isaac Newton: If you can see further it is only because you’re standing on the pile of manure I so generously provided. Bad ideas are the raw materials for good ideas.
I use bad ideas as the basis for writing comics too. Every Dilbert comic that made someone chortle started out as a bad idea that I tweaked and poked and molded into something that I wouldn’t have expected at the start. Sometimes the end product retains the germ of the original idea, sometimes it drifts into something entirely different. One of the big secrets to creativity is that you have to start walking before you decide where you’re going. It’s opposite of how you’re raised to think.
This morning, as always, I sat down at my computer at 6 am with my cup of coffee and started browsing the Internet. Sometimes I start with a question and just keep clicking links until I learn something. (Another one of my self-motivational tricks is that I try to learn something new every day.) This morning my click-path to nowhere turned up a random guy on the Internet who is promoting a craptastic idea for building huge towers in desert areas to generate clean energy, bring water to arid climates, and regulate global climate change at the same time. I don’t know who this guy is, but I like his style. Here’s his page.
The idea for a super chimney isn’t new. In fact, Spain successfully tested one such tower years ago. We know high towers with sun-heated bases can generate airflow that powers turbines. But obviously there are lots of economic, legal, engineering, and political obstacles. And no one has tested towers that cool the atmosphere and produce rain clouds at the same time. But the idea seems reasonable to my untrained brain.
What I like best about this random guy is that he’s thinking big. I’ll bet he enjoys waking up in the morning and feeling a sense of larger purpose.
Also check out the awesome idea for a so-called SuperGrid that might involve a combination of superconducting cables, maglev trains, and a liquid hydrogen pipeline all in one tunnel. Perhaps that’s how the super chimneys will one day distribute energy from remote deserts to the rest of the world.