A machine for ideas exists

I was just sitting here wondering what it would feel like to plug into an “idea machine.”

In this fantasized scenario, the idea machine would be something you can sit down in front of, or next to, maybe attaching a wire or two to your scalp or putting on a type of lightweight sci-fi helmet. Then, with the light touch of a button, creativity in your mind is enabled.

Your mind would feel utterly focused. Concepts in the world would be connected in ways you never realized they could connect. You would see details that are only obvious in hindsight. Everything would suddenly “click” or, to use a more appropriate metaphor, flash on like a lightbulb.

Such a machine would feel empowering, exciting, and enlightening. We could solve almost any problem, see infinite possibilities, and turn our imagined ideas into reality.

Yet, as I started to think about what this idea machine might feel like, I began to realize the potential power of such a machine is useless if we don’t know where to aim it.

What good is being able to connect any idea to any other idea if there’s no clear intention or, at the very least, frame of focus?

Without that focus anything can connect to anything else. Without having to enter a “focus” or “purpose” into this imagined idea machine, the machine is just as good as our imaginations.

Because through imagination we can already combine anything with anything else. We can imagine our ideas as real, tangible, things. We can fathom solutions to any problem.

It’s only when we give ourselves a clear focus (or purpose) that all of the possible connections we can fathom between ideas have to rub up against reality, a reality that can often add to those connections just as much as it constraints them.

And this, to me, is really what the idea machine is all about. As fun as it is to sit here and imagine what such a powerful machine might feel like to use, the reality is that such a machine absolutely already exists. Of course you know the answer, the idea machines are our brains.

They’re fully capable of finding connections between ideas in the world, to resolving problems, and turn concepts into reality. All it takes is focus (or purpose) and information. Plug these two things into the idea machine between your ears and these things are absolutely possible. And that feels pretty good.

You don’t need some magical machine or some brain pill to be more creative. You need to focus on what it is you’re trying to do, then give yourself time to explore that interest to the best of your abilities.

Sometimes that means dedicating hours upon hours researching and doodling or writing, sometimes that means collaborating with someone else who has more information (or perspective) than you do.

The idea machine exists. It’s merely waiting for you to more or less input the necessary information and pressing “go.”