I have some of my best (and worst) ideas in dreams. My work requires creativity - often in the extreme. One boss said, 'Tom is so far outside the box, he can't see the box.' I of course took this as an extreme compliment, simply galvanizing how close most cling to the box, catatonic, stickleback, thumb in mouth.
I've noticed my most creative inventions appear in dreams. The kind where if someone wakes me up and asks what I was doing, the answer is, 'thinking.' And indeed, the thoughts are usually related to thorny work-related technical problems. The kind that most have given up on as impossible to solve. But I've long ago realized that if the problem doesn't literally violate the laws of nature ... it probably has a solution. Maybe not practical or possibly requiring technologies not yet developed or mature. But solutions there are.
Analogies most often present in dreams. Connections non-obvious in waking hours. Most recent was the seemingly impossible posit - I need to see through the 'back' of an object in order to see the front --- clearly. Most would dismiss this out of hand as cute but 'clearly' impossible. Well - it turns out that not only is it possible --- it’s damned easy, once you get your head on straight! So I built a prototype and coworkers wait in line to admire the impossible.
That's one of scores manifest over the decades. So 35 patents and an equal number intentionally retained as internal proprietary. My greatest gratification is that the synapses still seem to click. Indeed, the mind is like the muscle - use it or lose it. My greatest pleasure is that of discovery - it even beats sex, although in a different way. Yet I swear both tap the 'lizard brain' imbedded deep within our skulls.
Root-Bernstein contends (and I believe correctly) that creativity in the extreme can be honed but is substantially genetic and rare. And correlates frightenly with other mental disorders like mania. Its positive connotation of course leads most to rate themselves as unusually creative. Well --- think again.
Do you see the regular hexagon in the cube? If you only knew that all circles are similar and that we arbitrarily agree to use the Greek letter 'pi' as the ratio of circumference to diameter --- could you derive the formulae for area of a circle, volume of a sphere, surface area of a sphere, surface area of a right circular cone, surface area of an arbitrary cone? These are not higher math ... any British or Japanese HS student could solve them with ease. Can you derive from scratch Newton's and Kepler's Laws eyes closed?
My dreams are recurring nightmares. Last night I was in the usual ghetto world of post-war anarchy. A few levels up in a nearly infinite building of fellow-thugs. A half-stoned 350-lb guy says, 'You owe me a pizza.' I reply, 'Well, I'm on my way out, you want pepperoni or sausage?' He says 'sausage' and we get on a freight elevator with a few others and my main motivation is to find street level and beat feet out of there. At the moment he's agreeable - but I know the drugs could easily turn to violence. Sausage it is...
I wake up, realizing I have solved the directionally-invisible object problem. Off to work to design and build the simulator that will save the nation and all mankind.
© 2012 Thomas Dey - 2/23/12