Today I give you some positive news because frankly you need it.

Basic Instructions

Long time readers of this blog remember I was trying to help cartoonist Scott Meyer develop a syndicated comic strip. He already has a comic called Basic Instructions that is popular on the web, but its format and characters aren't a natural fit with mainstream newspapers. And while newspaper syndication didn't work out, Scott just came out with a book that is a collection of his comics. I have a copy, and it is pure genius. Check it out.


The web site is here: www.basicinstructions.net/

Voice Update

In July I had surgery to fix my voice issue. For 3.5 years I have had spasmodic dysphonia, a condition where the vocal cords squeeze shut involuntarily when you try to talk. The projected recovery time from the surgery is 3-4 months, while the transplanted nerves in the neck regenerate. I was told that after a few months of only being able to whisper, the new nerve pathway would finally be complete, and one day I would wake up with a voice.

It happened this week.

I don't yet have a full voice, and I still can't talk above much background noise, but it's a real voice. Unlike before, it is fully functional. For the first time in years I can use the telephone, and order food at a restaurant and be heard. It will take several more months for the voice to become essentially normal. I am delighted.


Recently I was asked if human creativity is nearing its limits. It seems as if every idea has already been done. Regular readers of this blog know that every time I describe what I think is a new idea, someone provides a link to an earlier description of the same idea.

I don't think creativity is coming to an end. I think creativity is increasing at an increasing rate, and always will.

Creativity is generally a combination of existing ideas. If there were only two concepts in the universe, creativity would be "What happens if we put them together?" If you add a third and fourth concept to the universe, the number of creative combinations shoots up.

The Internet allows you to check the originality of your idea quickly, so it sometimes seems that all the good ideas have been taken. But the Internet also seeds us with many more concepts than we would otherwise be exposed to. Humans are like distributed computing for creativity. The Internet and the media and our daily lives dump huge volumes of raw concepts into our heads and we process and combine things until something new feels right.

Worrying comes from predicting the future on a straight line, imagining trouble increasing at some established pace. But the real future comes in leaps and bounces, with creative solutions expanding faster than problems. I believe this is some sort of fundamental law of the universe, that solutions will always outpace problems.

Take a deep breath. You're going to be fine. Someone, somewhere, just thought of an idea that will fix everything. And you couldn't stop it if you tried.

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Nov 6, 2008
I am happy that your voice is improving I have a similar anomaly and would like to know where you went for treatment.
I am a nurse. Have an appt at Vanderbilt. Coincidentally, my husband went to Wake Forest in 1993 for a laryngoplasty for paryalyzed vocal cord. I do not believe mine is paralyzed. I use a voice amp to speak. If you can share any info with me I would truly appreciate all that you can share. Thank you so very much
Betty Souther
Oct 23, 2008
im not sure how word selection is anymore relevant to 'morality' than argument selection. that you and another person have the same facts does not mean you've both followed the same paths in reasoning nor weighted the issues similarly. by adding the proper 'connotation' to your thoughts, you help the other person see your view the way you do. they are free to do the same. that they might not have the same level of capability as you to do provide the same level of insight into their views may just be one more indicator that they really dont fully understand their own view, in which case, it might they might as well just have your view.
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Oct 13, 2008
Glad to hear your voice is getting better, I have to admit it was very unnatural to not hear instructions when watching the cartoon demonstration, I caught myself playing with the volume on my PC thinking the sound was buggered.

Thanks for the hit of happiness today.

Just to let you know, you are now my most commonly quoted of all informative sorces.

Oct 13, 2008
kris44dad is moving in the right direction - it's not just patents, but copyright also. In fact, copyright is really in worse condition than patents. At least patents expire at some point. Copyright has been extended again and again to the point where in effect they don't expire at all.

The whole idea that Scott points out of being able to use what someone else created, but in new and interesting ways, is just what the founding fathers had in mind when they put copyright and patent protection in the constitution. A limited protection for the author or creator guarantees them some return on their investment so it's worth their time to create something, but then it goes into the public domain so that everyone else can build off their creation after a few years. The creator gets paid, and everyone else gets something useful to mashup and combine to create something else new.
Oct 13, 2008
I've been reading Basic Instructions regularly since you turned me on to it. Scott (Oscar) Meyer is a funny guy with a great comic. To be honest, though, it seems to have been on a downswing for the past month or two.

I'm a bit confused about the voice improving. I thought that you discovered some type of change-in-context for your speaking, which provided the breakthrough you needed in order to speak normally. Am I smoking crack? Did that not actually happen?
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Oct 12, 2008
Glad you hear that you're recovering from your voice problem Scott. You should post up a video of you talking when you fully recover so we can hear your wonderful voice again
Oct 12, 2008
Read the last part of Scott's post today and then tell me that agnostics don't have faith in something that's utterly unprovable. Superstitious, even.
Oct 12, 2008
I just bought my copy of "Basic Instructions" - Love the comic and glad you promoted it.. Those dream comics are pretty good too.
Real glad that your getting your voice back. The procedure sounds like such a long shot, and yet, success! Hope you keep your voice for good. Just don't let the Sea Witch get her hands on it.

Oct 12, 2008
Oct 12, 2008
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Oct 12, 2008
Congratulations on improving your voice, I hope this time the cure will be lasting.

I love Scott Meyers comic, I read him ever since you pointed him out.
Oct 12, 2008
Creativity isn't in trouble, but innovation sure is. With the bad patent system that allows ownership of everything under the sun, it's impossible to improve on what came before without getting sued,
Oct 11, 2008
Creativity is forgetting where you stole an idea from.
Oct 11, 2008
Congrats on your voice!
Oct 11, 2008
did you ever use your condition to your advantage? ie pretend like your vocal cords were shut when you just didn't feel like talking?
Oct 11, 2008
Scott Glad you got your voice back.

It is always amazing to me when anyone in their self-appointed wisdom place limitation on the human mind, body and spirit. Our species on this spinning globe over the eons of time consistently progress to higher and higher levels of attainment. Be it for evil or for good humanoids grow and develop in every way. Be it survival at the most primitive level of the primeval days of Gork and Bong, or smashing atoms in a 17 mile particle race track.

Wish these eggheads would quit putting artificial and totally arbitrary limitations on us. We will be around long after this planet implodes/explodes tooling around in the universe doing amazing and undreamed of wonders until the end of time.
Oct 11, 2008
Hey Scott, I'm glad to hear about your voice. I hope everything turns out well.
You know I still get comments on being fired for posting the comic. I was fired one year ago, the 30th of this month. Still working where I can walk to work.
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Oct 11, 2008
Sincerely glad to hear your voice issue is improving. Congratulations.
Oct 10, 2008
Thanks for the cheery post. I'm happy that your voice has improved.
Oct 10, 2008
Great news about your voice, Scott! Maybe you'll be less curmudgeonly now, lol!

I read a book a number of years ago that said that the rate of knowledge increase (which correlates to creativity) is accelerating, as is the rate of adoption of new technologies. I recall a few examples. The first is the FAX machine. Guess when it was invented?

Wrong. It was in 1862. Before the telephone. But it didn't come into common usage until the 1980's.

The fluorescent light was invented in. . . 1856, but didn't come into general use until WWII. The digital computer was invented in WWII, and came into commercial use in the late 1950's. Both the invention and adoption of new technologies was, and is, increasing exponentially.

One of the reasons that so much technology has come from the US, or at least the ability to commercialize the inventions of raw science, is that the inventors can profit from their inventions. Take away the profit motive, and you stifle invention. Think about that the next time you ardently yell for a tax increase on the "rich."

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