Back in ~2018, I was working for the FreeGenes Project, run by the BioBricks Foundation, which is essentially run by Drew Endy. Drew was a great mentor of mine who invited me to work on the FreeGenes Project straight out of a high school. He was/is a quite eccentric individual whose organizations and work have an quirky property: they are run with a few smart people, quite ineffectively, yet almost always punching far above their weight-class in impact.
And this all worked quite well for one reason. Drew's ideas were powerful. What escaped me then is why ideas can be powerful. I never thought about why the ideals of synthetic biology and democratized biotech were powerful, I just felt and knew that they were.
Those years ago, Drew said something to me that I remember very clearly. He said "Keoni, what we are doing [with FreeGenes] is improbable. If we don't do it, nobody else will. That is why we have to succeed.".
What Drew taught me was that powerful ideas were both positive and improbable. People forced to work will never be as effective as people who dream of what their work will accomplish. And while something being hard is encouraging, truly powerful ideas are not likely to happen. They take hard work, but if the work is not done, it will not happen. Drew's ideas are powerful because they are a vision of a better future that is at our fingertips. Improbability, ironically, gives these ideas meaning.
These ideas tell you that the amazing and beautiful future will not come without you. And usually, that is correct. Individuals matter, and you matter, because the future will not come without you.
Individuals Matter (Dan Luu)
Is there such a thing as good taste? (Paul Graham)