Curiosity Killed the Idle Mind

Originally published on September 26, 2018 in the Montrose Daily Press.

There is a stirring of sorts happening 20 miles down the road. As the mines have closed in Delta County, the community has come together. It wasn’t without disagreement, misunderstanding or tension, but they’ve rallied around entrepreneurship specifically focused in the areas of energy and agriculture.

I attended a conference last week hosted by Delta County Economic Development and the ENGAGE Innovation Center (Energy, Agriculture, Growth and Entrepreneurship). Admittedly, most of the terminology and conceptual information was far beyond my current level of understanding. I spent most the day drinking from the fire hose of information, and of that process I left with the following haphazard and random pieces of information:

1. The way we produce and consume energy (electricity, fuel, etc.) has been deemed an antiquated system and the industry is facing massive disruption by energy innovation and technology. People have developed solar and wind energy production into attainable and affordable commodities. Because these alternative energy sources along with things like electric vehicles have become more advanced, the market mix is changing.

Presenter after presenter validated that the use of coal and the cost of operating power plants far exceeds the cost of utilizing renewable sources of energy. As an illustration, one presenter showed a picture of a parade in New York City in the early days of the automobile revolution. There was one motorized vehicle in the picture. The rest were horse and carriage. Those in the carriage industry thought they had time. The believed automobiles were too expensive and unattainable for the common person. Just 13 years later, a photo was taken of the very same parade on the same corner in New York City. There was not a single horse and carriage, but a street full of cars.

The same has been true of computers, cell phones and many other emerging technologies. Innovators in the energy industry are telling us the same is coming in energy production.

As terrifying as this may be for those in the industry, how might it also be an opportunity? What can we make of this by learning from other industries who have faced similar revolutions? I don’t know the answers, but if I learned anything last week it is that the people in Delta County are in the business of finding out.

2. As much as I have tried to pretend the words “bitcoin,” “blockchain,” and “cryptocurrency” are sensationalistic, my old train of thought got a new route. I’ve intentionally avoided learning about these things, however, I was a captive audience at the conference.

According to a blog published by blockgeeks.com, “By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.” Umm, what?

Suffice to say there’s much to be learned and this isn’t something any of us should ignore. My husband spent last week at the National Computer Forensics Institute (ran by the Secret Service). Topic of conversation? Blockchain.

3. A representative from Start-Up Colorado said for every 1-percent increase in entrepreneurship, there is a 2-percent decrease in poverty. Some of my preliminary research has been unable to validate that statistic or understand what unit of measure is being used, but if it is true, what an opportunity we have before us.

I’m probably late to the party, but a statistic like this answers so many questions for the Western Slope. If we continue working at building our entrepreneurship ecosystem into a more robust solution, we can address things like: homelessness, inequitable wages, re-entry into the workforce, economic diversification and more. This may be a “grand vision” way to look at things, but I’d rather be right and have tried than miss out on what could have been.

Curiosity around subject matter outside our typical ring of expertise is crucial for life-long intellectual development. The brain, like a muscle must be worked in a constantly varied setting for optimal performance. Go beyond the quest of simply learning something new. Get curious.

Chelsea Rosty is the director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. She can be reached at crosty@ci.montrose.co.us.