Dean Kamen Interview

[via Yuvaraj] A profile of Dean Kamen, as part of a Gartner interview:

Most recently renowned for the Segway Human Transporter, Dean Kamen holds more than 150 patents on such other revolutionary inventions as a shoebox-sized dialysis machine, a stair climbing wheelchair called the IBOT Mobility System and his “Project Slingshot,” a water purification system that was named a runner-up for “coolest invention of 2003″ by Time magazine.

The founder and president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation, Kamen is a tireless advocate for science and the need to bring first-world technology to the third world.”

Quotes from the Gartner interview:

A patent, or invention, is any assemblage of technologies or ideas that you can put together that nobody put together that way before. That’s how the patent office defines it. That’s an invention.

An innovation is one of those things that society looks at and says, “If we adopt this and make it part of the way we live and work, it will change the way we live and work.” And the number of inventions that ever become innovations – I don’t know if it’s one in a million – but it’s pretty damned small.

I consider the high-speed data transmission an invention that became a major innovation. It changed the way we all communicate. However, due to Moore’s Law in recent years, all the inventions related to data transmission have fallen far short of what their impact could be as innovations if they were properly applied.

Suppose instead of multiplying the bandwidth by a hundred in the past five years, you left the bandwidth alone, and you figured out how to get the Internet to a hundred times as many people so the four billion people living in Africa and Asia and places where they have no access to information and knowledge, got access. That would be an innovation.

I think in some cases inventions prohibit innovation because we’re so caught up in playing with the technology, we forget about the fact that it was supposed to be important.

I look at the fact that two-thirds of the human population of this planet does not have reliable access to water or electricity. And it’s that same two-thirds, it’s that same 4 billion out of 6 billion people that have very little money. At least I can say, here these are productivity tools – generators and water makers. But we must find a way to deliver them. When we fail to get there quickly, at least I can say to myself, that’s because it’s a really big problem, and nobody else got there yet. So we’ll keep trying. If you’re going to fail, you might as well fail at the big ones. That’s what keeps us going.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.