A sobering thought that occurred to me as I walked through the Computer Science Museum:
Behind each innovation on display, behind each unappreciated advance that made them possible, behind each one of the thousands of failures from which the successes emerged were the blood, sweat, and tears of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of individuals.
It was almost uncomfortable looking at some obsolete form of computer memory or a behemoth with less computing power than your phone and realizing that hundreds of man-hours went into this thing that now seems so simple and archaic.
It’s pretty easy for me to just feel depressed by this realization, but I tried to focus on what I could learn from it instead and came to two conclusions that are hopefully useful to you too:
The first conclusion was a very individual one. Since chances are that down the line, my life’s work will end up as an archaic museum display (if I’m lucky) I need to love some aspect of what I do with my life. It doesn’t have to be everything (that’s basically impossible) or even everything in a single activity like work or a hobby. For me, this aspect is the varied opportunities to pull my own random experiences into new and useful places; both at work (‘Hey, I can make this impulse experiment the same way I built part of my amphibious robot!’) and out of it (‘Hey, going into a handstand is just like the start of a cartwheel!’)
The other conclusion zoomed waaaaay out [warning incoming philosophical mushiness!]: the way that humanity wins is through ever more complex networks for information and physical things to flow ever faster, allowing more people to contribute to more things in more ways in a cascade of snowballing awesome.
We stand not just on the shoulders of giants, but also on the mighty pincers of equally important ants.