Dean Kamen (video screenshot from Time.com) holds 440 patents and is on a quest to solve the world’s largest health problem: lack of access to clean water

By Dan Wilcock

Dean Kamen, founder of DEKA Research and Development, holder of 440 patents, inventor of the Segway, and member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, thinks deeply about invention and what it takes to be an inventor.  He shared these gems at the Time Future of Invention forum held at the Newseum in Washington, DC, Nov. 21, 2013.

Recommended viewing: Time posted the video of Kamen’s interview, from which these quotations are taken.

  1. “Government plays a critical role in invention at the highest level of abstraction. They fund public education. Without tools, it’s pretty hard to turn some great abstract idea into reality. If you don’t have a little math, and a little physics, and a little electrical engineering, you can have great ideas, but they are just ideas.”
  2. “Teaching is sort of the antithesis of inventing because teaching is all about analysis. They teach you how to break something down based on the experience of people before you. That’s how you learned algebra and trigonometry, with the answers in the back of the book. You’re learning what people have done, what’s in the past. So you’re learning what’s here. Invention is not analysis, breaking things down. Invention is synthesis. It’s putting things together in a way they were never put together before. You rarely get to do that in school. In fact, when you do it the way it was never done before you get an F.”
  3. “You probably remember the story of David and Goliath. As a little kid, I heard that story and maybe it proves I was born a geek because the moral of that story…is that technology is cool.” (In reference to the Slingshot water purifier, on which DEKA will partner with Coca-Cola to bring clean water to villages around the world)
  4. “Ultimately, inventing is not a committee activity.”
  5. “Inventing is seeing the same problem that everyone around the world is seeing, but looking at it differently.”
  6. “If we don’t redouble our efforts to increase incentives for invention, this country’s going to lose its edge.”

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