To kick off National Inventor’s Month, this week’s Behind the Breakthrough features super-inventor, hacker, and IV’s resident futurist Pablos Holman. More than a decade ago, Pablos helped create the world’s smallest personal computer – a precursor to modern smartphones and tablets. He maintains a passion for 3D printing, and worked as an advisor to Makerbot.

Behind the Breakthrough: Pablos Holman

Pablos joined IV in 2006, and puts his innovation acumen to good use in invention sessions and on projects including photonic fence technology and the StratoShield in the IV Lab. He focuses on inventing for what will be possible in five to 10 years – what he describes as the sweet spot for impactful invention.

Here are some of his reflections:

On the difficulty of invention

The most challenging aspect of invention is simply the lack of time. I always dream of applying all of my time to the right ideas or inventions. But mystically I have no way of knowing whether an idea or invention is the right thing. Since I am always working on the five-to-ten-year horizon, some of my futuristic ideas can be off the mark – I can be wrong about what will happen in the next decade. All of this means that I can waste far too much time inventing one thing. And that can be nerve-wracking!

On the role of collaboration in invention

Inventing as a group can be extraordinarily productive. My ideas get cross-pollinated with the knowledge and ideas of other inventors, and vice-versa. Sometimes it can take a dozen people to take an initial idea and morph it into a patentable invention. That is always a fascinating process – someone has an outside-the-box idea and we all harshly critique it and then offer constructive suggestions and suddenly it all clicks. I love this form of invention because I always have crazy-sounding initial ideas that sometimes end up having quite a bit of utility.

On advice he would give to young inventors

Any young person with a knack for learning can be an inventor. School and education are important because they teach you to learn. If young people can find a way to get interested in learning and then spend a lot of time doing it efficiently, they can go a very long way. They won’t have to worry about much else because they will be adaptable and always able to learn new things. My best advice is this: find anything that leads to learning and the rest will happen naturally. That is what makes learning and inventing so exciting – it never ends. It’s like getting new superpowers every single day.

To hear more from Pablos, check out his recent Q&A with Popular Science.

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