I desire many things. I invent ideas to satisfy my desires. Whenever I learn something new, I compare the new fact against my database of desires. If my new fact could be used to satisfy a desire then I get an idea.
Some desires are universal among humans.
- I want to be rich without putting in much effort.
- I want lots of people to think I'm attractive.
- I want a space station.
- I want an electric car that costs $100.
- I want a time machine, an invisibility cloak and a magic wand.
- I want to live for a long time in good health.
- I want to make my friends happy.
- I want an ethical source of tasty protein.
- I want to save and/or destroy the world.
Common desires are hard to satisfy creatively because too many people are competing to satisfy them. The possibility space of solution tends to have been picked clean. Either common desires are already satisfied or common desires are irreducibly hard to satisfy.
Cultivating Weird Desires
The trick to coming up ideas is to cultivate weird desires. Weird desires often arise from caring too much about things that don't matter (yet).
- I want my keyboard inputs to be as efficient as humanly possible. (Solutions: Vim, Spacemacs.)
- I want to learn foreign languages as efficiently as humanly possible. Anki isn't good enough. (Solution: write my own ML-powered flashcard software.)
- I run LineageOS to evade adware, bloat and root protections on my Android phone.
Another way to cultivate weird desires is to be stingy with your money.
- I write meta-ML software to automate architecture search because I need machine learning software but I do not want to hire lots of data scientists.
- I lived in a hallway for two years to save money in college. I lived in a kitchen cupboard to save money in China. I like capsule hotels.
- I use use AWS Lambda to avoid paying for more expensive EC2 instances. I use S3 to avoid the minimum price of a traditional RDS.
Weird desires motivate weird behaviors in a self-sustaining chain reaction.
- I wrote a bash script that uses
xrandrto adjust my screen resolution to the resolution of my drawing tablet because my drawing tablet's drivers for Linux did not map correctly to i3.
- I do data science in Hy because my meta-ML software requires custom macros for its UI.
- I am reading Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese because I want to better understand the poetry of Zen Master Ryokan.
Justin Ith and I will discuss "How do you come up with ideas?" via Clubhouse @lsusr at 7pm Pacific Time on March 15th, 2021. (Note: Clubhouse runs only on iPhone.)