When he got to college he read the ideas of Buckminster Fuller. Bucky said that he could help humanity by building the what he called “livingry” — the opposite of weaponry.
The boy went to graduate school hoping to find a siblinghood of scientists exploring the universe together. He didn’t.
But he met a girl and raised a family and saved up some money. When his kids were just about independent he decided to try to be like Buckminster Fuller for a while. He would spend a year in service to all humanity by inventing as much livingry as he could.
Because he admired Richard Stallman and Benjamin Franklin he decided he would not apply for patents on any of his inventions, to try to make it clear that the whole world was free to use them. He would be a Public Inventor, inventing for the public and working publicly.
He thought that he would attract and befriend other inventors and that together they would form a league of inventors that would work on great and important problems together and that that would keep him from being too lonely. That didn’t happen in the first year.
But the boy had a lot of fun learning. He learned how to solder together circuits, and a little about electricity and electronics and microprocessors. He learned how to make things with a 3D printer that had never been made before. He published his best 27 ideas from his notebooks of the last 30 years, although very few people seemed to notice. He built a new kind of robot that some scientists had worked on 20 years earlier and made it cheap enough that others could build it too.
At the end of the year he was far from being a great inventor. He thought about how nice it would be to have a job and get paid lots of money and have people act like he was important.
But he kept going because he thought it was better to dare and fail trying to do what he wanted to do when he was a little boy than to succeed at anything else.