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Santos-Dumont didn't give a rip about patents. Instead of spending his time and money on protecting his designs, he freely offered his ideas to anyone interested in copying and improving them. He engaged in shareware idea: take this, go forth and prosper. We've seen this approach in software (Linux) and hybrid-electric cars (Hunter and Amory Lovins), and though it rarely leads to great wealth for creators, it dramatically facilitates access and ingenuity.
After years of flying high, Santos-Dumont suffered from ill health and committed suicide in 1932. I guess neither engineering talent nor courageous individualism guarantees a happy ending. The Wrights ran out of passion, and Santos-Dumont lost his mojo. In their own ways, they simply burned out.
It's interesting to think about how we need both plodding perseverance of Wrights and free-thinking generosity of Santos-Dumont in every project we undertake. The greatest invention in world will never capture excitement of population without those who are fearless in their attempts to apply it. Those who create buzz are admittedly standing on shoulders of those who quietly developed technology, but we must have both to bring out eagerness of early adopters and cultural change that hinges upon mainstream acceptance of any new idea.
Bill Gates, that geek extraordinaire, has said: "The Wright brothers created single greatest cultural force since invention of writing. The airplane became first world wide web, bringing people of different languages, ideas and values together."
The next time you're slogging through security, struggling to put your bag in overhead compartment, or grousing about leg room, pause a moment to reflect on enormity of human flight. Recognize it for magnificent achievement that it is, and pay tribute to those who lived and died for its creation. Appreciate risk taking required in last century to get you that window seat.
Please remain seated until aircraft comes to a complete stop, and whisper words of gratitude to Wright brothers for their determination in discovering what it takes to make a safe landing.
You may now move freely about cabin. Please refrain from complaining.
Thank you for flying for us, Wilbur and Orville.
Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse. Her work has inspired thinkers in over 70 countries around the world. Her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, serves up a satisfying blend of clarity, comfort and comic relief. To subscribe, visit http://www.massageyourmind.com.