Listening to Kevin Kelly (Senior Maverick and co-founder at Wired Magazine, co-foounder of the All Species Foundation and, among many other things, now author of The Inevitable: understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future) on this Tim Ferriss podcast , I liked a lot how he described the process to choose his new project and I wonder how following these priciples could change how we approach research and in particular how we decide on the next research topic to tackle.

He discusses that to work on a topic, the topic has to satisfy three conditions:

  1. He has to be good at the topic
  2. The topic has to be useful to other people
  3. Nobody else can do it nor is doing it

The first two seem reasonable enough though unfortunately we have witnessed many research efforts that skip number 2 already. Still, the most surprising one is number three. On this, he goes on to saying that he spends a lot of time giving away ideas in the hope somebody else is / wants to do that. And if so, he feels relieved and deletes that one topic from the list of potential projects to pursue.

Not how we typically think about our research lines where we mostly go ahead with them despite the huge overlapping with what other teams are doing. This makes perfect sense in some cases but far too often we see two or more teams working on a teeny-tiny topic competing (and thus wasting public resources) to be the first to publish the latest small increment on previous research.

To think about it.