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What kind of knowledge do independent inventors have?

  1. Dec 4, 2008 #1
    What kind of knowledge do independent invent0rs have? Do they have knowledge in all the areas of engineering?

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2008 #2
    Re: Inventors

    I would say they most likely woudl have knowledge in the field that they are inventing in. Someone who is inventing a new fabric would be most likely be material science/chem, whereas someone inventing a new remote control would be electrical. I could be wrong, this is just how it seems it would be.
     
  4. Dec 5, 2008 #3
    Re: Inventors

    I have wondered where inventors get most of their studying done? Is it self-study or is it from their education in school? Also have there ever been inventors that seemed to show no promise while at school, and then all of a sudden became something big?
     
  5. Dec 5, 2008 #4
    Re: Inventors

    If you look through the history of the most popular inventors, they have little or no university education. For example; Edison, Tesla, Wright Brothers, etc. All of which were very poor students/drop outs and showed little potential at a young age.

    However, these days I think most successful inventors have a very strong educational background and are people that devote their lives to science and/or engineering. Of course there will still be exceptions to this. I think the secret to being a successful inventor is not to let your formal education stifle your creativity, which it seems that many institutions do so well.
     
  6. Dec 5, 2008 #5
    Re: Inventors

    That is very true, creativity is I believe the most important characteristics that inventors hold. I mean, being able to think outside of the box is not always so easy to everyone in my opinion. But you are right that many institutions do have a strange way of blocking the creative thought in people - my thoughts on this is that many students go after grades too much and in the process become robot like study grinds who want nothing more than the grades and a job afterwards to go through life simply.
     
  7. Dec 5, 2008 #6
    Re: Inventors


    This was what I was trying to get at. I just don't see how one can make a living, in today's world, without a degree. I would absolutely love to self-teach only, because I already do, but I can't see how I can make a living without a degree. In the past, I think there were many career oppurtunities that pay decently for people who weren't formally educated, so this gave them more time to themselves to pursue their interests. In today's world, you need 4 years of college to even be able to make a living because of the dissapearing jobs.

    The only reason I am attending college is because I see that as the only way to make a decent living.

    Do you guys agree that a college degree is the only way to make a living in Today's world?
     
  8. Dec 6, 2008 #7
    Re: Inventors

    I would strongly agree. Actually I know for a fact (one of my Professors told me) that at my university they only hire secretaries who have at least finished a Bachelors or fours years of college/university. Before, like 10 years ago they would take anyone even without a degree.

    I think though times are changing primarily because of the different tasks and responsibilities that certain jobs are demanding. The type of tasks that people had to do before compared to know are quite different, and I assume that most of todays tasks require that you have some knowledge of the area.
     
  9. Dec 6, 2008 #8
    Re: Inventors

    This is an interesting question. I would imagine that those in the newer science rather than the older science are more productive inventors. They say the shortest path between two points is a straight line, although when starting off, one may need enough money to hire patent lawyers.

    Are there many independent inventors out there who make a living by inventing?
     
  10. Dec 7, 2008 #9

    Moonbear

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    Re: Inventors

    It's not the only way to make a living in the world, but a university degree does give you a lot more opportunities for ways to earn that living, and to enjoy more challenges and satisfaction from their jobs.

    As was mentioned by Topher, above, the vast majority of inventors today have formal education in the field they are working in to create these inventions...or in a very closely related field. Of course, a lot of inventions are also not just created by one person, but are the work product of a team of people with the company getting the patent rights.
     
  11. Dec 12, 2008 #10
    Re: Inventors

    I think it's much tougher for a single person (independent inventors) to invent in today's world because everything is so specialized. For people to properly invent things, they need to know the fundamentals of all the engineering disiplines, all the sciences, etc... This is why I like self teach, because when you are trying to build something and get stuck on a portion having to do with physics, you can just go look it up study it, whereas in a formal education, you learn things seperately so its tougher to understand how all the different studies interrelate and work together.

    I also fail to see how getting a formal education helps me" enjoy more challenges and satisfaction from their jobs." I think formal education is conformity because you're getting taught a single standard of study that someone thought was good, and that can't lead to creative or diverse students. Everyone thinks the same way because they're taught the same way, whereas if you self teach or home school, conformity is impossible because there's no outside influences. I think this is why self-taught inventors like tesla and edison had the greatest impact on humankind.

    I truly wish there there was a standard exam in each field of study where anyone who passes it automatically recieves a degree in it.
     
  12. Dec 12, 2008 #11

    chiro

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    Re: Inventors

    Theres a good topic for debate in what you stated. A lot of people do have the ability to self-learn many different crafts of which crafts do include areas of scientific learning. Often the person who is a lot more motivated at what they do will be a lot better and have a lot more skill than the average person in that particular area. Examples like Faraday and Tesla come to mind.

    I guess the problem then is standardization. In modern times, if people are going to work together in any form be it in an industrial setting or in something more informal, when people are going to work with one another (and thats the case for nearly anything where people want to accomplish something major), then people need to have a benchmark where they can set a standard for knowledge, acquired skill, and level of training (and perhaps in some cases ability as well although this can be implicit). If everyone was a Nikola Tesla then ok, but even then we would need to have a level where people can work together effectively to communicate, to learn, to facilitate each others knowledge.

    You can make it through but there's a good reasons for standardization. Think about any sector of human labour, and think of what would happen if there was no standardization. My guess would be that it be more detrimental than anything to the sector. IT has different forms of standardization. Engineering has it (imagine if it didn't). Mathematics has it. Science has it. If it didn't exist everyone would be trying to speak a different language to everyone else and that is not a good solution to get things done.

    I also agree that standards have drawbacks. Sometimes people come up with better standards or better advancements in an area and standards take long periods of time to catch up. That is of course a major drawback to high levels of standardization, but it explains why some sole survivors of our times can be switched on like the beat of a drum and be years ahead of their time.

    Also I believe that a civilizations ability to communicate sets a precedent for the expectations that you could use to assess it. If they are able to have a communication standard whereby ideas readily flow (in as complete an entirety as is possible) from one individual to the next (and also have a civilization that actually endorses this) then I believe that the civilization will be very well off.

    Also the fact that there is a lot missing from conventional science gives rise to the fact that many independent inventors can create things which are very real and outside the realm of conventional scientific wisdom. Yes I do believe that some people are just crackpots, but I don't believe all people that create technologies outside of our conceivable realm of science are as such but that topic is for another time.

    As for a standardization of exams that people can pass to receive accreditation, I think that it is a great idea. The institute of actuaries have the same process where people can simply take the exams and become accredited. They may use any form of study (be it at an accredited uni or done by themselves possibly through an existing institution like an insurance company or bank). Typically the final exams are done through this method but the first set of exams can be done in different settings. If this were the case for nearly everything, then I could see some dramatic changes in the way we perceive education.

    I guess the problem with the above is usually one of motivation. It's very hard to get motivated to do everything sorely for your own benefit. Often we need to form social groups and learn for ourselves perhaps initially, but remain learning to help other people. It's very rare that a person can learn entirely for their own benefit for long periods of time. It's not to say that we can't it's just that a lot of people burn out this way. Also I think if you profile some of the greater minds you may see that a lot of them had a certain dedication for other beings like say Richard Feynmann. Even people like Aristotle were great men of their era that seemed to demonstrate a sort of passion for many things. You would hear of Feynmann being a sucker for being there for a freshmen class over doing his usual duties for the already acclaimed bunch of physicists.

    Also with regard to learning there's no reason why people can't learn independently in the current university climate: in fact a lot of universities usually just provide the guidance but everything else remains up to you. There might be a prescribed textbook on electromagnetism, but if you want to read the original treatise as well as any new paper in particle physics outlining some newer discovery, then there's not much stopping you. I would say that the better physicists out there acknowledge almost everything that is on offer and are able through their own experience with experimental data, mathematical analysis, physical analysis and (where applicable) engineering analysis, be able to not only lay out what a particular phenomena is in plain english for others to understand, but also relate it with everything else that is out there. But that's no small task for anyone! :)
     
  13. Dec 12, 2008 #12

    Moonbear

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    Re: Inventors

    First, I said "university degree." You can balk all you want at it, but that degree is what gets your foot in the door. Without it, many job opportunities will simply be closed to you because the degree is a requirement for the position.

    Second, your impression that formal education teaches conformity is extremely misinformed. We're talking university degrees here, not high school. A university degree teaches you to think for yourself and self-learn. Those who wander through their university classes in a daze and just trying to memorize things the professor tells them are not successful. The education ensures you have the foundation of knowledge anyone in the field should have, and then challenges the student to learn to think critically and reason through novel problems. It is not about finding the one right answer in the one method taught by the teacher. In fact, I've been known to put up questions for my students in which I tell them there is no answer (in reality, there is, but it's not the point for them to find that answer based on the information given, because what I present is not sufficient to get all the way to the final answer). What I ask them to do is to think about a possible answer, and justify it. I leave out enough information that there are multiple possible answers, and sometimes they still come up with a good one that isn't something I considered or within the scope of what I taught. It's the process of reasoning and providing support for their answers that is important. I know many of them hate me for it right now, because my class is hard and they don't all do well in it. I don't really mind, because I know they really had to learn something and that every student who passed is competent in the content knowledge. My hope is that they will appreciate what they learned more in retrospect than in the present, when they realize they were handed the tools to think through problems, not just regurgitate answers I've handed them.
     
  14. Dec 12, 2008 #13

    Choppy

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    Re: Inventors

    It's called a Ph.D. defence.
     
  15. Dec 12, 2008 #14
    Re: Inventors

    Although this is true, there are stills courses within even university that require that students memorize lots of facts. A prime example is biology. Although the courses at my school, have begun to add in critical thinking questions (which I think is great) the vast majority in biology tests/exams is still being able to regurgitate facts back on the test.
     
  16. Dec 12, 2008 #15
    Re: Inventors

    I only part I disagree is in that I think all people can self-learn, it's just that most were never given the chance to do so. Now most are so adapted to a teacher that they cannot function without someone telling them what to do.

    Well, everyone needs to know fundamentals of all the sciences so there isn't any miscommunication between. I'm sure you know that a geologist won't understand a physicist and vice-versa. Everything in the universe is interrelated and so we can't understand it if our studies aren't interrelated also. If Universities aren't so busy trying to make so much money, most people can learn what they learn in 4 years, in less than a year. All students really need are the educational resources that Universities have, like books, internets, labs, etc...


    I do think there needs to be something in place where one has to prove he/she has the skills to get a degree or license. But I don't think the credit system is efficient, it's just a way for universities to make money. I think what needs to be done is have standard exams (which can be written or hands-on or both over a period of time) and whoever can pass it knows how to work in their field. This would be the best way because everyone learns in a different way, which means they will create things in different ways.
     
  17. Dec 12, 2008 #16
    Re: Inventors

    This was my point earlier. A degree gets you a job, not a "challenge" or "satisfaction." Those things are internal.

    I'm a second year student and so far it's been exactly like high school. Sure they have better facilities, teachers, etc but for the most part, nothing is changed. And it is far from self-learning, anything but.


    Those are the ones who recieve "A's."


    It ensures that you have a PART of the knowledge, and forces you to depend on others for different parts, hence specialization, and then to collaborate your efforts so the corporation you're working for reaps the benefits.

    This is exactly what my professors say. There is no one right answer. But on the test, if you want an "A" you need to have the professor's interpretation of the "right answer."


    It's hard for some, easy for others, plain boring to most, fun to a few. But they all have to do it.

    It's exactly what student do. Especially the "brightest" ones.
     
  18. Dec 12, 2008 #17

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: Inventors

    It's clear you don't feel your university experience is valuable. I would suggest that you are wasting your time, and recommend you try something elese - perhaps a transfer to a place that you will find more to your liking.
     
  19. Dec 12, 2008 #18

    chiro

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    Re: Inventors

    I think you'd be surprised about resources being available to people. There are lots of people that make their resources available to the public in almost any area of scientific endeavour and there's not much stopping someone going to a university bookstore or a 2nd hand bookstore purchasing textbooks and relevant notes. The amount of learning material for physics for example that can be sourced for no cost whatsoever is quite numerous.

    Also the fact that not everyone is a naturally curious being is another challenge that could prevent such a method from becoming mainstream. Lots of people are lazy and not willing to teach themself. Of course if everyone found something they were interested in and actually focused on that then this would be kind of irrelevant as ones natural curiosity would come into play here.

    Like I mentioned before the actuarial societies provide a system of self-education. It's examinable and is done more or less in a university style manner with the exception that the exams are open everyone for a set fee that have any educational background. Perhaps a similar system could be adopted whereby people just do the exam and pay the exam fee and if they pass they get a certificate saying they passed the exam. This would basically provide a way for people that have self-learned to prove themselves to a standardized examining committee for a small fee that would cover exam-marking time. In this way people could pay for the tuition seperately to the exam. This would be beneficial as if someone fails they can simply retake the exam without retaking the entire course. It seems like a very good system that it is already in use and seems to work for the people that make use of it.

    You could use the same thing for lab examinations as well if need be. So I guess in this system people would simply learn by themselves and then just turn up to the examinations and attempt to pass them. But like I said before not everyone is naturally curious and thus not always suitable for such a system. But it could work.
     
  20. Dec 13, 2008 #19
    Re: Inventors

    I just dislike the system so much. Of course I'm going to get a degree whether I like it or not, unless I find a gig that I can make a living off of, then I'm out of school. :D
     
  21. Dec 13, 2008 #20
    Re: Inventors

    My older brother didn't go school for 6 years after high school. He tried to take odd jobs here and there while building a lab, because he's into engineering also. He found out that he needed a a decent job to sufficiently fund his tools, materials, and experiments, so he went back to school at the age of 23. Of course he was staying with us at the time, but some problems arose and he had to leave. He is just finishing up school now. I don't want to be like that so that's why I went college first.

    Life is pretty tough for us because our parents weren't exactly well-off. They migrated from thailand at an older age so it was difficult for them to go to school.

    My goal in life is to create products that will make life easier for people, and so that is my drive in self-teaching. I will definitely try to finish college fast so I can get a decent paying job that will allow me to pursue these goals.

    I just spilled my heart out to some e-strangers. Thanks for all the advice guys.
     
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