Loss of ideas weakens nation

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Visit the sites where ideas keep on growing

 Innovation is the pride and lifeblood of our democracy.
 Innovation in technical systems is vital and thriving. Innovation is equally essential in political life, but is lost in the rubble of skeletal debate for voter loyalties.   
 Our nation sorely needs ways to develop ideas in the public forum.
The forum today treats an idea as a political hoax from the disloyal. So they all get axed, lest any idea should spread. The prevalent contempt for ideas shuts out your own fondest idea as surely as it stops all others.
Political innovation molders in the mission of talk wars.
Nothing needs fresh ideas more than the problems that last far longer than reelection cycles. The regulatory process is large among them.
A quip for our time says: “People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.” It brings a good laugh and tells a truth, but does not fix the forum.
As the forum grows ruder, people of different views seek innovative venues that let ideas mingle and grow.
Three examples explain the dynamics.
An early example is TED, which began in 1984. Its watchword is, “Ideas Worth Spreading.” -- TED Google
The three-letter name reveals that TED began with ideas in three fields – technology, entertainment, design. Ideas from there spread to more fields.    
 TED holds annual conferences, to which thousands come to hear ideas well told by speakers such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, coach John Wooden, and British Prime Minister David Cameron. The variety among them tells how ideas spread to fields beyond their origins.
A second example is the Next Big Idea Festival. This invention came to life in 2008 as an annual event in Los Alamos. The busy day in summertime is a merry celebration of ideas for all ages.
Fun and exhibits, indoors and outdoors, are organized by the Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation. The occasion is self-described as, “A Festival of Discovery, Invention, and Innovation.”
 Most of the inventions are techno-tools, such as robotics, fractals, and the means to display data in 3-D. Wondering as you stroll around raises questions that range as far afield as theater craft, school craft, regulatory craft, and political science. Ideas pertain any place people take them.
Ideas are fruits that come from planting ideas. Ideas beget ideas.
A vivid creator said it well, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck.   
A third adventure into ideas is scheduled to begin operation in 2012. The venture is a web site to foster ideas that answer national problems, ideas with a greater reach than reelections.
The invention is funded by a former CEO of health care companies in Minneapolis. Call him Jerry for short.
Jerry’s idea grew from seeing how badly ideas fare in the public forum. He believes, as do I, that habitually axing ideas threatens the continued health of institutions.
His fears for our nation’s well-being set him working to breed a higher regard for ideas. Regard for ideas is the beginning of hybrid ideas, new ideas and better ideas. Jerry’s web site was born.
 The site is designed to incubate ideas that serve four vital needs – government, the economy, education, and health care. Regulation is a factor common to them all.
The web site gathers and spreads idea seeds – essays and serious analyses – in those large areas.
Its aim is to stir political innovation by mixing together fresh thoughts and diverse experience. The web site tries a new approach in a new way.
Such a process is a much better chance for evolving ideas than the hand ax habit.  
John Bartlitt
Los Alamos